‘6-foot, 2-inch basketball player in the pageant’

This was another great interview for the SanTan Sun News. Jeanne Robertson had me laughing quite a bit as she told jokes while answering questions. A very sweet lady.

Article published in the SanTan Sun News Dec. 21, 2013 issue

Humorist Jeanne Robertson returns to Chandler Sat., Feb. 1

Jeanne Robertson

Jeanne Robertson

Jeanne Robertson was well on her way to becoming a successful Auburn University student when she won the Miss North Carolina pageant 50 years ago.

Putting her college career on hold, she traveled throughout the state on a speaking tour which offered a glimpse into her future. Robertson, who still lives in the Tar Heel State, learned she was a witty speaker who could make people laugh.

She never looked back.

Now at age 70, the well-known humorist will bring her comedy show to the Chandler Center for the Arts on Sat., Feb. 1.

“I started telling stories about being a 6-foot, 2-inch basketball player in the pageant,” Robertson says. “They like the true things that are funny.”

Her speaking engagements went viral on YouTube. She delved into ticketed events after her material was played on Sirius XM.

“My first reaction was, ‘I don’t think so,’” Robertson says. “My background was just, go to the convention and the people were there. Now you are asking people to buy tickets to come and see me.”

Her first show in Dallas sold out immediately.

“The name does sell tickets,” Robertson says.

As a humorist, she says she tries to weave a little bit of a longer story with a point. She learned that as a speaker.

“When you go into the theater, it’s entertainment—entertainment with a message and a speech,” she explains. “They are coming to be entertained. If you slip in a message they seem to appreciate it.”

Last year, Robertson made 101 appearances, 49 of which were speeches and 51 were ticketed events.

“I’m having a ball. I like what I do so much,” she says, adding that she is not ready to retire. “I’m in demand, so why? (Let’s) see how long I can go.”

Robertson spends between 23 to 25 days a month traveling for 10 months before taking time off between Thanksgiving and New Year to write more material.

“I write material every day,” Robertson explains. “Is it all good? No.”

She culls her material from everyday life and finds humor in everything that surrounds her. With traveling becoming tougher, Robertson still finds humor.

“I not only find the stories for my programs, I really influence myself to keep my sense of humor,” she explains.

Robertson spends time people watching and talking to others. Talking to strangers, she finds, encourages them to tell her funny stories. She also finds herself eavesdropping. Robertson says when she is at the airport and students are stretched on the ground, she fi nds herself scooting closer, so she can catch a particular phrase or funny word to add to her material.

“You can bring your momma or your teenager; it’s appropriate for the family,” Robertson says. “First, I had an older market of people, now because of Sirius XM, junior high and high school students are coming as well.”

Robertson will perform at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler, at 7:30 p.m. Sat., Feb. 1. Prices range from $28 to $38. For information visit, chandlercenter.org


‘Meeting of hearts and minds’

Over the years I have wrote many articles about the circus, but never was I touched as much as I was with this one. Sandra is such a sweet woman and I loved the interview we had. The picture she painted of their life was beautiful . . . this family found their passion, brining joy to other people’s life through the circus.

Article published in the SanTan Sun News Dec. 21, 2013 issue

Witness an Italian tradition under the big top Dec. 25 to Jan. 5

A 170-year-old family circus will head to Chandler to do what it loves most— make people smile and forget about their worries.

“It all started in 1842 in Italy, seven generations ago,” Sandra Zoppé says of her husband Alberto Zoppé’s Italian Family Circus.

The circus’ beginnings are rooted in a romance between a French street clown and a Hungarian ballerina.

“It all started when a French street clown wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, and witnessed a beautiful Hungarian ballerina performing ballet on horseback and he was in awe of her,” Sandra says. “He instantly fell in love.”

Unfortunately for the clown, the ballerina’s father rejected him. However, with his persistence, he won the ballerina’s heart. They wed and moved to Italy. The duo performed with the circus for the first time in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Venice.

“They set up a ring and performed there,” Sandra explains. “They founded the first circus in Italy back then. That was the beginning.”

The circus continued for many years in Italy, even through the wars. Sandra says her husband’s parents had 16 children, all involved in the circus. The area was bombed during the war and, between that and disease, killed many of the kids.

Alberto eventually became one of the most sought-after equestrian artists in Italy.

“He was known as the only person in the world that ever performed a layout,” Sandra says.

Alberto did a somersault off of one galloping horse onto another.

In 1949, Alberto was asked to be in the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth,” as a circus artist. He signed an agreement with Johnny North with Ringling Brothers Circus saying if it supplied an elephant for his circus in Italy, he would take part in the movie. The war took a
toll on the lives of elephants.

“Alberto agreed to come to America and then he was going to return to his show in Italy because it was small and he was the star of the show,” Sandra says.

After the movie was filmed, Alberto decided to remain in America and work for Ringling Brothers Circus.

“He agreed to stay here and be their star,” Sandra says.

The Zoppé Italian Family Circus. (Photo provided by the family)

The Zoppé Italian Family Circus. (Photo provided by the family)

Eventually Alberto left the Ringling Brothers Circus and carried on his family’s circus. Sandra and Alberto met at a variety show, fell in love and married in 1963.

They have three children, Carla, Giovanni and Tosca, all of whom are part of the Zoppé circus.

Carla and her husband have a dog act. Tosca took after her father and became an equestrian artist. Giovanni is an aerial clown who performs comedy acts.

“They are all amazing artists,” Sandra says.

About 32 members of the Zoppé circus travel about 10 months per year. This year, they are returning to Chandler.

“We will open the day after Christmas in Chandler,” Sandra says.

Sandra promises those who attend a show will be amazed.

“We are there to give them our hearts and as we perform we share a meeting of hearts and minds because they give theirs back to us,” she says. “The circus is sweet. It’s not harsh or rude.”

The Zoppé Italian Family Circus is in town from Thu., Dec. 26, to Sun., Jan. 5, at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave. Tickets range from $15 to $38 for its 500-seat tent. A 70-minute Kids’ show will be held at 11 a.m. Fri., Dec. 27, as well as a New Year’s Eve Under the Big Top at 7:30 p.m. Tue., Dec. 31.

“We love what we do because we have one of the greatest jobs on this
Earth,” she says. “That’s to make people happy and make it possible for them to forget all of their problems. They are totally enjoying themselves and their family. There is no greater gift you can give.”