In 1968, a new sketch comedy show took over television, quickly becoming the most popular program in the country: Rowan&Martin's Laugh-In. The quick-paced show, hosted by comedy duo Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, put the spotlight on several well-known comedians and actors, including Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, and more. Another among the show's regular performers was Jo Anne Worley, who rose to overnight stardom as the result of her zany sketches, memorable one-liners, and larger than life musical numbers. Today Worley is 84, and still seems to be the life of the party! Read on to see the iconic comedian now.
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Worley loved working on "Laugh-In."
Before Worley got her big break on Laugh-In, she had been studying in various playhouses and performing in musical revues. However, it wasn't until joining Laugh-In that she really got to showcase her comedic flair.
She recalls that as an actor on the show, there was always a way to put a personal touch on a skit. "There were excellent writers, lots of excellent writers. The show was totally scripted when we went to the studio to shoot it," she explained in a 2016 interview with Decades. "But, we were encouraged to contribute. We could write a sketch or a blackout and submit it and have it put in the script. Or, say we were on a set, like in a kitchen, and you think of something. You do what the blackout is supposed to be, give it a beat, so they could cut, and then do an alternate ending or punchline. And quite often that would be gold," she added.
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She says fame took her by surprise.
It didn't take long for the show to take off and push Worley into the Hollywood spotlight. The actress says that her overnight success came as quite the shock.
"We were really busy working, so you're not out in the world too much. The first time, I believe it was at the Yellow Submarine premiere, the Beatles movie. A bunch of us went to that. We found we couldn't get across the street," she recalled in her interview with Decades. "We were out in the real world with real people, not around makeup and directors and crew people. We went, 'Whoa.' Certainly you watch the ratings and you know what the numbers are—and it became number one."
Worley never stopped working in Hollywood after "Laugh-In."
After her years on Laugh-In, Worley landed smaller roles on other TV series, appearing on Hawaii Five-0, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bones, Jesse, Wizards of Waverly Place, and more.
She also branched out into voice acting for animated shows and films, including the '80s cartoon The Wuzzles, DuckTales, Beauty and the Beast, Tom&Jerry Kids Show, A Goofy Movie, The Pink Panther, and Kim Possible, to name her most famous performances.
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She still keeps in touch with other comedians and actors from the show.
To this day, Worley says she still keeps in touch with her fellow cast members from Laugh-In. "I'm president of the charity Actors and Others for Animals. We had a fundraiser recently, and Lily Tomlin is on our board," Worley explained. "She was funny as always and presented a couple of awards. Of course, Goldie, bless her heart, has made so many beautiful, talented children. I talk to Ruth Buzzi from time to time, who lives in Texas now. They have a big old ranch there. Strangely enough, a chicken farm!" she said, referencing her most famous recurring joke from Laugh-In.
"[Being on the show] was so wonderful, I thank heaven for Laugh-In. I met a lot of good friends there," she said in a 1983 interview with Night Comfort. Worley added that she has the show's success to thank for the rest of her career as a performer. "What's better than making people laugh!?" she said in a separate 1994 interview. "I love it!"