Jo Anne Worley

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Jo Anne Worley
Worley in May 2010
Born (1937-09-06) September 6, 1937 (age 81)
Lowell, Indiana, U.S.
Occupation Actress, comedienne, singer
Years active 1955–present
Spouse(s) Roger Perry (May 11, 1975-2000, Divorced)

Jo Anne Worley (born September 6, 1937) is an American actress. Her work covers television, films, theater, game shows, talk shows, commercials, and cartoons. She is known for her work on the comedy-variety show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.


Worley was born in Lowell, Indiana, the third of five children. In 1937, her father remarried and his second union gave her two half-brothers and two half-sisters.

Always known for her loud voice, Worley once said that when she attended church as a little girl, she never sang the hymns but would only lip-synch them for fear that she would drown out everyone else. Before graduating from high school, she was named School Comedienne.

After graduating from high school in 1955, Worley moved to Blauvelt, New York, where she began her professional career as a member of the Pickwick Players. This led to a drama scholarship to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

After studying at Midwestern for two years, she moved to Los Angeles to study at Los Angeles City College and the Pasadena Playhouse.[1] She was soon given her first musical role in a production of Wonderful Town. In 1961, she received her first major break when she appeared in the musical revue Billy Barnes People in Los Angeles; this production moved to Broadway, where it ran for only six performances. However, the New York Times reviewer wrote: "Jo Anne Worley has an earthy style that suggests she could be a rowdy commedienne."[2][3] In 1964, Worley was selected to appear as a stand-in on the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! One year later, she created her own nightclub act in Greenwich Village, where she was discovered by Merv Griffin in 1966.[1]

Impressed by Worley's talents, Griffin engaged her to be one of his primary guest stars on his show, where she made approximately 40 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show.[1] In 1966, she appeared Off-Broadway in The Mad Show, a musical revue based on Mad Magazine.[4] In 1967, her stint on Griffin's show led to her discovery by George Schlatter, who soon cast her in Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.[1]

In 1970, she left Laugh-In to pursue other projects and has made guest appearances on several television series, including Hot Dog, Love, American Style, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Andy Williams Show, Adam-12, Emergency!, and different game shows such as Super Password, Hollywood Squares, and the many versions of Pyramid. She continued working in various movies, television series, and theatrical performances (original productions and revivals alike) over the years; and she also became known for her work as a voice provider for several cartoons, animated movies, and video games. Her voice work includes Nutcracker Fantasy (1979), the Disney movies Beauty and the Beast (1991), A Goofy Movie (1995), Belle's Magical World (1998), and the voice of the Wardrobe in the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2005). She remains involved with Disney, making cameos in several Disney Channel sitcoms such as Kim Possible playing the role of Bonnie Rockwaller's mother, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Jessie.

She performed in regional theater, such as the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she appeared in Gypsy: A Musical Fable as Rose (1984), Annie Get Your Gun (1982), Hello Dolly! (1980), Anything Goes (1978) and Once Upon a Mattress (1974),[5] She also appeared at the Welk Dinner Theater in San Diego, California in Same Time, Next Year in 1985.,[6] Call Me Madam at the California Music Theatre, Pasadena, California, in 1987,[7] and Nunsense at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, La Mirada, California, in 1991.[8]

In 1989, she returned to Broadway to appear in Prince of Central Park, but the show was canceled after one performance.[9] Worley was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West in a 1999 musical production of The Wizard of Oz, directed and adapted by Robert Johanson, with Mickey Rooney playing the eponymous role. The production had a limited run at the Pantages Theater, Hollywood, California and at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and she also joined the limited US tour.[10][11] Worley played Mrs. Tottendale in the Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone at the Marquis Theatre from July through December 2007.

From January 8 until August 24, 2008, she played the role of Madame Morrible in the Los Angeles production of Wicked.[12]

Jo Anne Worley continues to perform today in New York City and Los Angeles, and she has also given lectures. She is currently President of Actors and Others for Animals, and serves on its board of directors.[13]

Personal life

Worley married actor Roger Perry on May 11, 1975. They divorced in 2000 and had no children.[14]

Television work

Worley signing autographs at a Wicked performance



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Erickson, p. 76
  2. "The Billy Barnes People", 1961, listing, accessed July 21, 2009
  3. Taubman, Howard. "Theatre: Coast Review", The New York Times, June 14, 1961, p. 10
  4. "The Mad Show, 1966, listing", accessed July 21, 2009
  5. Joslyn, Jay. "JoAnne Worley Gets Top Rolling", The Milwaukee Sentinel, June 1, 1984
  6. Braunagel, Don. "Theaters build on big year," The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 10, 1986, p.C-1
  7. "Names in the News", The Associated Press, May 9, 1987
  8. "Jo Anne Worley stars in Nunsense at the La Mirada Theatre," Business Wire, April 24, 1991
  9. Rich, Frank."Review/Theater; The City Is Sweet and Muggers Are Merry,"The New York Times, November 10, 1989
  10. Van Gelder, Lawrence."Theater Review; Not in Kansas Anymore,"The New York Times, May 8, 1999
  11. Jones, Kenneth and Ehren, Christine."'Laugh In' Worley Replaces Montevecchi April 14 in MSG Wizard of Oz Tour,", April 13, 1999
  12. Gans, Andrew."Worley to Join L.A. Wicked Cast; Levy to Succeed Espinosa" at, December 18, 2009
  13. Gans, Andrew."Diva Talk:Chatting with Drowsy Chaperone's Jo Anne Worley Plus the Patti LuPone Gypsy,", July 20, 2007
  14. "Jo Anne Worley Biography,", accessed July 21, 2009

External links