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Are Older Female Comics the New Hot Ticket?

Female comics who might have been considered over the hill at 50 years old, are now doing over the top box office. No joke. 

Last Saturday night, I went to see the very elegant and funny Jeanne Robertson, from North Carolina, playing the classy Wilshire Ebell Theater in Beverly Hills, California. She is on her sold-out comedy tour across the US.  (Did I mention that she is 67 years old?!)

You might not have heard of this hilarious 6'2', professional speaker turned comedian. She has never been on Leno, Letterman, or Conan. She's never played a comedy club, nor does she have a Hollywood agent, and she's not related to Charlie Sheen.  Keep reading -- and you might learn about how new Internet markets can help older comics.

Jeanne started her career as Miss North Carolina, where she found herself doing 500 speeches a year. She continued performing as a professional speaker with a message about finding the funny in every day life.  And from her height of 6' 2" she has a great view of the comedy that is all around us in a delightful Southern drawl.
Jeanne Robertson
Jeanne Robertson

"A woman in a grocery store said to me, 'You're not over six feet tall.'

I jokingly told her, 'Well actually I'm 5'14'

She said, 'I knew you weren't over six feet tall!'"

Many of her stories include her husband, who she refers to as "Left Brain." A fan uploaded a video of her story of Left Brain trying to understand naked bungee jumping -- and it caught on big.  Within a few months, the YouTube video entitled "Don't Bungee Jump Naked" accumulated over three million hits.

That's when a promoter called Jeanne and organized a first class concert tour based on the cities that had the most YouTube clicks. Now, approaching 70 years old, Jeanne has a huge following of devoted baby boomer groupies flocking to see her live.  Matter of fact, after her show I wanted to say hello ... but I couldn't get to her because she was surrounded by rabid fans trying to get her autograph as if she were Lady Gaga.

Hollywood has been slow to catch on to the money to be made in this untapped market.  After all, in the US, there are more women over 50 years old than any other age group.  Yet, when was the last time you heard a menopause joke on Leno?  

(Ah.... Never?!)

But, here's the good news:  because of this absence on TV, people over 50 are willing to plunk down $35 a ticket to see what we can't see on TV: the stories of our lives.  And in Jeanne Robertson's hands, they are told with the skills of someone who has spent plenty of time honing her craft.

Jeanne Robertson will be performing in Tampa on Friday, November 4th and in Orlando on Saturday, November 5th.  You can get tickets here.  I'll also be doing a teleseminar with Jeanne this October.  Stay tuned!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

What great post, judy. Since I am looking at becoming 69 ( yes never doing it) in october It might be a good time to develop my already hilarious comedy.
I'd love to take the workshop....
You do such a great job- you really know how to work the social media although Tweeting really sucks. ( well, hell, I'm 69).

Gary Rifkin said...

One of my favorite comedians talking about one of my other favorite comedians. AWESOME!

Tashi said...

Rodney Dangerfield started his comic career at 40, and I did my first standup gig at 42. A 98 year old woman in Japan just became the first woman to reach the highest level offered in judo and 61 year old Diana Nyad failed at her attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida but she spent 29 hours straight in the ocean in the attempt! Age is nothing more than a chronological data marker, nothing more. Don't let society or culture make you think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is a huge market for older comedy professionals to saturate a thirsty market. However, the problem with old comics is they bring old material. What's special about Jeanne Robertson is that she pokes sarcastic fun at herself and at her own peculiarities. Being 6' 2" is not something we can relate to, but it is obvious and it's like an elephant demanding we not look at his trunk due to trunk envy issue.

We all suffer from trunk envy, but we don't all talk about it. "Okay, so you have a small trunk. But your real problem is that you're as fat as an elephant!"

I'd love to see more older comics build a greater platform, if only they'd get off their generations. It's not too late. The time is now while you're still alive. You're not funny when you're gone.

Many very talented people now get intimidated by the ubiquity of the Internet, the confusion of marketing, and the overwhelm of technology.

I still stand behind my lifelong belief that if you're funny, if you're willing to work hard, and you're willing to think outside the box before you're in one, you can have a career in entertaining people. Find a niche for your material. Go and demonstrate it. Be proactive. No matter how old you are, people will always be happy to laugh at you.

Now go tell some jokes. Your trunk is blocking my screen.

Michael J. Herman "A New Kind Of Funny"®
www.MichaelJ.Herman.com

Older, but not done yet said...

Great post Judy! I firmly believe that the over 50 demographic still wants to laugh and are bored with the younger comics who are foul-mouthed with little life experience. They are the club demo, and they don't have enough life experience to understand what an older comic has to say. I also believe as you say that the older demo will pay a higher ticket price when they are getting the value for their dollar. My only dilemma is where does a 50+ comic go to hone their act and get practice? What is the way to get out there when you're 50+? I know I don't want to be out late at night because I have to work. Sometimes I think the ideal time to have a show for the 50+ crowd would be on Saturday afternoon. Would love to hear what you or others have to say about getting out there, I'm 55 and the embers of comedy are still burning, but the desire to mix with the kids in the comedy clubs is not. Thanks!

Micheline Birger said...

Ya'know Judy - when you're funny you're funny...when you're hot you're hot...in a culture consumed by ageism I find it refreshing that people who are gut-wrenching funny are revered. Look at Betty White...we must look at ourselves as ageless beings...I think older women are especially funny because they have absorbed so much guff all their lives that they realize their real immortality lies in their humor. Look at the Golden Girls...one of the top-rated sitcoms of all time...did folks see ageism or wisdom in their humor? Older women comics rock. Hands down. They are funny! They are finally free to be me...

Danie & Beth said...

Judy, Jeanne does a bit about a Pashima scarf, when I saw this, I was in tears from laughing. She is a great inspiration! She is a beautiful Southern Belle with something to say. She just proves, age is but a number!

J-Lowe said...

When I was younger I didn't have the guts to get up there and do stand-up, now I am older I do. Well, a good shot of Tequila helps as well. Yes, that's it, I was too young to drink so it stopped me from doing comedy. Just because people are a certain age, it shouldn't stop them from doing something they love. I've been poking fun at life for years now, just didn't do it much out of my circle of friends. Now that the world is so much smaller thanks to all the media we have at our fingertips, it is possible.

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