Jackie Joseph

Jackie Joseph as Audrey Fulquard, Little Shop of Horrors
Nothing matters that much
-Jackie Joseph’s personal philosophy

On more than one occasion, I have mentioned that I am a product of 1960’s and ‘70s television. I watched everything!
There were fewer choices and yet more to watch. How I wish I could go back to a time when television’s aim was more focused on entertainment instead of ratings. When you look at today’s “comedies”, they are about putting each other down rather that “situational” humor.
Dan Sherman, Richard Skipper, Lauren Cohn, Jackie Joseph

All the reality shows are based on bringing out the worst in human behavior as opposed to celebrating people.

Two of my favorite shows, one from the ‘60s, the other from the ‘70s both had something in common, one of my favorite comediennes, Jackie Joseph.
 I had the wonderful occasion to go out socially with her last Tuesday night when we went to see one of my favorite entertainers, Betty Buckley…still at Feinstein’s through the end of October.
 Don’t miss her!

My partner, Danny, and I met Jackie and her wonderful cousin, Lauren Cohn, who is now starring in Mamma Mia on Broadway!
Jackie and I sat down on Saturday morning to discuss her ‘body of worth.”
Today, I celebrate Jackie Joseph!
 Jackie Joseph (born Sammie Jacqueline Joseph on November 7) is an American character actress, voice artist, and writer known for portraying the film characters of: Audrey Fulquard in the original The Little Shop of Horrors, Sheila Futterman in both Gremlins films, and the voice of Melody in the animated television series Josie and the Pussycats and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.
She was a regular on The Doris Day Show portraying Doris' friend, Jackie Parker and also famously played the love interest of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show.
Jackie “accidentally” went to City College in Los Angeles.
She had been accepted to a very nice college called Occidental.
She went there and registered and some nice
Sylvia Lewis and Jackie Joseph
lady said, “How are you taking care of tuition?” and Jackie said, “What is that?” She then left Occidental and took a bus to LA City College which was three dollars tuition and joined their acting department.

One of her colleagues was Mark Heron, who would go on to marry Judy Garland for a brief moment. He was a darling wonderful man according to Jackie. James Coburn and Robert Vaughn were also part of the classes. It was a great time to be a student. Jackie could work on the campus and sort of make her living.
Also in that drama department was a great designer called Ray Aghayan He was an Iran native -- who dressed Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross and did the costumes for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics -- he also won the first Emmy Award in his field in 1967.
He also discovered Bob Mackie. He recently passed away at the age of eighty-three. He put Jackie into musicals. She was very shy. She had gone into a summer stock company that she had to pay to be in. She cleaned the toilets and other backstage duties.
One of the things she was required to do was be in the chorus.

They were rehearsing Lady in the Dark, their first musical. They were all singing Girl of the Moment. Ray’s note was for everyone in the chorus to start humming and Jackie Joseph will sing the lyrics! Not knowing that she could say, “Oh, no! I’m afraid”, she had to sing the lyrics and he gave her the lead in Brigadoon. Then she did On The Town and a musical about Henry VIII starring James Coburn.
Because of his beard, he got a TV commercial and started his who career. Jackie was picked to go into a company called The Drunkard in Los Angeles.
They had a musical called The Wayward Way. They got paid forty dollars a week for doing seven shows. She became a working actor and from that got a lot of auditions. She was still going to school.
 She then went up to Sacramento for an Equity job. At that time, she met Joyce Jamison on a train. Through her, she met Billy Barnes. He told her he was doing a show and asked her to come and be in it.
That was her real kick off to an entire career. She started doing television comedies…
She had the taste for acting.
via Photofest
Billy Barnes in 1961.
It all started with children’s theater. She did have a bit of a roller coaster ride trying to decide between a career in acting or journalism.
She chose acting because she thought she was good. And she is. Her entire life she would make her agent crazy because when she was told she got the part, she would say, “You’re kidding!?!?!” Her agent said, “If you ever say that again…”, but that was always Jackie’s automatic reaction.    
Jackie Joseph is truly one of my favorite actresses. When I asked her who she would consider to be one of the greatest people to revolutionize the entertainment industry, she said, for her, it was Billy Barnes.

Billy Barnes (January 27, 1927 – September 25, 2012) was a composer and lyricist from Los Angeles, California. His hit songs include "(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair" recorded by Patti Page and Barbra Streisand (in her album Color Me Barbra), and Something Cool, recorded by jazz vocalist June Christy.Barnes is best known for his theatrical revues, including The Billy Barnes Revue, Billy Barnes' People, Billy Barnes' Party, Billy Barnes' L.A.,and Billy Barnes' Hollywood. Other productions with Barnes' songs include Movie Star, and   (1988). An assertive composer and skillful pianist, Barnes is affectionately known as the "Revue Master of Hollywood."
Barnes started writing musical comedy sketches while still in high school, and continued while at UCLA.

Bruce tickles everyone, Carol tickles Bruce! (L to R): Jackie Joseph, Mark Cirillo, Bruce Vilanch, Carol Channing, Joyce Ammie and Dr. Leo Ward after the electrifying debut of “The First Eighty Years are The Hardest.”
In the industry, all she can think of is Barbra Streisand, who I was lucky enough to see LIVE on Saturday night.

The turning point in Jackie’s life that convinced her to forge ahead occurred when she was a teenager. Her friends were going to an acting class.
Jackie couldn’t afford to go herself.
She could take the streetcar and go with them. There was a lady who was teaching children’s theater. She was also writing a book on improvisation using the children there. She was very nice to Jackie as an observer and asked her to come and play the theater games, too.
She became friendly with Jackie’s mother. Jackie’s mother worked as a bookkeeper for a liquor store.
She would stick a bottle up her coat sleeve every week and give it to Jackie’s teacher. The teacher was Viola Spolin.
    Viola Spolin (November 7, 1906 — November 22, 1994) was an important innovator of the American theater in the 20th century. She created directorial techniques to help actors to be focused in the present moment and to find choices improvisationally, as if in real life. These acting exercises she later called Theater Games and formed the first body of work that enabled other directors and actors to create improvisational theater. Her book, “Improvisation for the Theater,” which published these techniques, includes her philosophy, as well as her teaching and coaching methods and is considered the “bible of improvisational theater.” Spolin’s contributions were seminal to the improvisational theater movement in the U.S. She is considered to be the mother of Improvisational theater.
Little Shop of Horrors

Her work has influenced American theater, television and film by providing new tools and techniques that are now used by actors, directors and writers.
Spolin influenced the first generation of improvisational actors at the Second City in Chicago in the late 1950s, through her son, Paul Sills. He was the founding director of the Compass Players which led to the formation of the Second City.
Working with Viola Spolin was Jackie’s turning point! She changed from a quiet little girl to a performer.

Viola not only gave critiques, she would laugh out loud and make the room shake. Sometimes, she was the only one there laughing. She would say to Jackie, “You are WONDERFUL!”, not just very good.
She was a very big emotional woman. She was not a big woman. Her expression and her energy was so enormous. She made Jackie BELIEVE that she was GOOD.
Jackie became a part of her company. It all began by tagging along with friends.
Jackie is still active in her career. Even if she’s just going on interviews, she calls that “being in show business.” She doesn’t care if she’s picked or not anymore.
 She has had wonderful opportunities. Thank God, she has her insurance and a pension, something she never thought about when she was younger.  She slowed down on her work load in the seventies. She thought it would keep her marriage more steady when she was married to Ken Berry.
 That wasn’t the problem. When Ken felt that Jackie should go back to work, she got a call from The Doris Day Show. They bent over backwards to make it easy for her. She had two young children. She went back to work. 

Who does Jackie rely on when she is in “trouble”? Old girl-friends. Jackie went to school in LA and has friends that have been her friends since age eleven and very young women and they always turn to each other.
Their hearts and souls remain in that schoolgirls friends forever paradigm. 
What would the perfect day for Jackie Joseph be like? She loves a day where she can just go out and garden. Interestingly enough, Patti Cohenour, who I wrote about yesterday, said the same thing. She loves to plant food.

She thinks it is so much fun to see a seed be so smart and turn into a green pepper. That amazes Jackie. She has pots hanging outside with tomatoes, green beans, and chili peppers.
She is a late in life gardener.

The one change that Jackie would like to see in today’s industry is for those new young producers and casting people to have an awareness of the past, and what people have done, and not just what is happening now, the current trend. There are so many rich performers, she doesn’t mean rich financially, that are really good performers who are older. Their skills didn’t fall in the ocean. They are a delight to continue to see working.  She also wishes there were more shows on with plots and dialogue.
She guesses it is just the times. 
The thing that stands out the most for Jackie at this point in her life is that she was proposed to at seventy! 

The advice that Jackie would have for anybody desiring a career in show business is to always have another way of making a living.
Have a skill so that you can be your own patron of the arts. A lot of people don’t have patrons anymore like they used to.
 Jackie’s “last job” even if it is her swan song, she loved it so much. It was doing a sketch with Snoop Dog.
What makes Jackie the happiest? At the risk of sounding like Little Mary Sunshine, another role she played, by the way, is making other people happy.

Sometimes, you can just change the dial and make something happen. It just does something to the brain that is so thrilling that could just make you dance around the house.  Speaking of Little Mary Sunshine, it is her favorite time on the stage beyond the Billy Barnes revues.
It is the most fun show and for Jackie, it was like stepping into a warm ocean. It was there. She didn’t even have to write her back story. She WAS Little Mary Sunshine. It fit her perfectly. Perhaps growing up loving Jeanette MacDonald and Kathryn Grayson had something to do with it.
 It made it so right. She also had a sense of playing her as a real person instead of just a funny person.When Jackie is working on a project, she really doesn’t go to other art forms for inspiration. She believes the project is what it is. She recently worked on a concert version of Into The Woods. She doesn’t
Jackie Joseph - Jonathan Haze - Mel Welles, Little Shop of Horrors
even think, when she is working on a project, as a “process.”

One thing that Viola Spolin taught her, which is now automatic, is creating a life history of the character. How did they get to where they are? Why are they the way they are? Did bullies make them the way they are? All of these little things add up to make the characters a total person.
 After she says this, Jackie asks, “What am I saying? That IS a process!” You flesh out the character even if the script says she is a “sweet old lady.”
Where did this sweet old lady come from? Why isn’t she a sour old lady? It is very nice to become a writer when becoming a character.             

When she is working in the theater, it is a really huge ritual, when she eats, when she eats just a little bit, when she naps, when she should do a little exercise.
 It is a while other universe for people living in the theater. Jackie is very rigid about that. She hasn’t done it for a while. She’s very conscious of her cousin Lauren Cohen is now starring in Mamma Mia, allowing her to do her ritual.
Jackie encourages everyone to get a great education and great skills.
She doesn't feel that you can be a great actor without these.You need a knowledge of history and of the world, also know how to speak English properly.

There is one person that Jackie has never seen perform live that she would love to and that is Barbra Streisand.
Jackie is a huge TV and movie fan of hers and is still hoping to see her perform live.

Jackie would like to remembered as someone who was kind.

Jackie considers herself lucky to be of a generation that saw Alfred Drake and Ethel Merman and Mary Martin. Those names are like a fantasy now. They are wonderful, wonderful people. She also saw John Raitt and was lucky enough to play Ado Annie in a production of Oklahoma! with him, another one of Jackie's favorite parts.
I consider myself lucky to know Jackie!
Thank you Jackie Joseph for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be...my interview with CB Murray on his new show Pearl: Celebrating his aunt, Pearl Bailey!

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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

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  1. Lovely! Jackie Joseph always struck me as a thoroughly charming actor, and what a pleasure it is to find that she's equally charming when she isn't performing.

  2. Fascinating interview, Richard. I always loved Jackie Joseph. Didn't know that she went to LACC where I also went to school!

  3. Richard - Another insightful, moving and thoroughly fascinating peek into the career of someone who has always been a delight in everything she's undertaken. She has a sparkle that is undiminished by the passing of time. Thanks for sharing this.

    Paul E. Brogan

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! Much appreciation from a Jackie-fan in Norway!


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