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JoAnne Liebeler Is Riveted to Comedy

When JoAnne (JoJo) Liebeler began as co-host on “Hometime,” the PBS home improvement show, she didn’t know the difference between a plumb line and plum pudding.

But four years later she is adept at plastering walls, painting, rewiring lamps and using power tools, “which can be scary.”

The only trouble is that the 34-year-old Minneapolis native really wanted to be a comedian.

“I was born too late; I should have been in vaudeville,” says Liebeler, who shares a Hancock Park bungalow with her art director boyfriend Randy Eriksen. “I’m wild and I would rather do Ethel Merman imitations than give a straight delivery of information on miter joints.”

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One glimpse of her zany improvisation at the Up Front Comedy Club in Santa Monica and there’s no doubt she has the soul of a comedian. “Improv fills my heart in a way that nothing else does,” she says.

She does not want to appear ungrateful for the chance she had to appear before a weekly audience of 5 million, but there were limits. She had a nasty run-in with a hammer once that left a thumb black and blue for weeks. And one “miserable” show dealing with ceiling treatments--she worked for hours with her arms over her head and straining her neck but she had to keep looking pert and chipper in front of the camera.

Worse yet, boredom set in. “I could have stayed on forever,” she says. “But ultimately it would have been bad for the show.” So she quit and headed for Hollywood.

Looking back on her stint on “Hometime,” Liebeler cleared up a question that fans have often had: What was the relationship between her and co-host Dean Johnson?

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She says they were supposed to be married, and the show once even had them in bed together.

“Now, how is the audience going to react to my replacement?” quips Liebeler. “Maybe they’re confused and say, ‘Who’s that babe?’ ”


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