AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Our hope is that our guest today will leave you with a big smile on your face and a better outlook on your life, your job, and your existence. To walk us down that road to humor and more uplifted feelings is a return guest to The Means Report – noted author and speaker and Sirius XM star – Jane Jenkins Herlong. She talks bout her brand-new book – “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South”, plus how to use comedy in the middle of adversity. How you can smile through it all.

Brad Means: Welcome back to “The Means Report.” Welcome back to in-person interviews.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, this is great. Thank y’all, always so supportive of my projects. It’s so sweet.

Brad Means: Well, they’re great projects.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Thank you.

Brad Means: And we love them. And we are gonna talk about “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South.” These are great stories in here. Before we do, though, let me just kind of catch up and ask you how you’ve been doing. You’re so out there, and I wasn’t kidding, on stage, on the radio. Have you been able to do any of your normal business for the past two years?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It’s been hard because I feed off of my audience. So there’s no audience except these little teen-icy, little squares, and you don’t even know if they’re listening. So when I do comedy, you’re hoping you’re connecting, but, you know, you just don’t know. So I love energy, but it’s starting to come back. I had a couple speeches last week, and I’ve got some coming up. So I am so grateful people have not forgotten me. That’s what you get afraid of. People gonna remember who I am and what I do?

Brad Means: No, you’re right.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah.

Brad Means: Okay, so go back to those couple times you have been out there post pandemic. I’m not saying the pandemic’s over. I’m just saying post-really-bad-part of the pandemic. Are people, is it harder to make them laugh? Are we more scared to laugh now after all this?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: You get two audiences. I was speaking in Louisiana, and I always go early because I like to catch the feel of the audience. And they were grieving. They had really lost some special people in their industry. So as they came in, and as I watch, instead of the big, “Hey, how are you?” and the big hugs, it was, “Hey.” So all of a sudden I said, you know what? I gotta take this comedy, and I gotta tone it a little down. I’m gonna throw some funny stuff. If they bite, I’m good. And then I’ve been to other events where everybody’s screaming and jumping up and down.

Brad Means: Right, right.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes, people! Yeah, so, it just depends. I think on the platform, you have to be intuitive with your audience. And I think that’s a huge takeaway for anyone who does platform work.

Brad Means: Well, is that a lesson that we can carry into our lives?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes.

Brad Means: To be very careful as you approach people because you don’t know where they are.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And you don’t know if they’ve had some real tragedy and if they’re still going through long haulers or something to that effect, so you real really have to be careful. But I do think we need humor.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: People are hungry for humor and encouragement. I do think that.

Brad Means: Is there a moment when you say a joke, or there’s a point in time during your performance where you kind of break the seal, and that laughter does just start coming out from your audience?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I push it hard.

Brad Means: Yeah, sure.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I love it ’cause I think, okay, they’re ready for this.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: They weren’t ready for that maybe 10 minutes ago, but I got them worked up. Now I’m gonna throw this zinger in. So it’s really fun. Speaking is an art, storytelling. And in the book, I talk about story is how we speak in the South, how we communicate, how we share life lessons. So all my books have takeaways, but that’s on a little sweet tea, little icon thing, a little bag. And so I have these fun little takeaways. Kindle’s been great. They really massaged this book a lot, but that’s what I do when I speak. I call it “Sweet Tea Wisdom, Southern-Fried Humor.” Of course, the book came “Sweet Tea Secrets From the Deep-Fried South.” But I feel like I’m more than just laughs.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I feel like God has blessed me and helped me go through things. And maybe my mess can be somebody else’s. I can help them with my message. Or their mess can be my message to them to help them. And so both of us might have a mess we need to fix. So that’s the way I look at it.

Brad Means: Well, you’ve always struck me as this silver-lining type of human being where you do look for the positives in life. And if you hire Jane to come and speak to your organization, your company, what have you, yeah, you will get those life lessons. You will get the humor mixed in for sure. But go back to the past 24 months. Can you pull positives from what’s happened to this world?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I did, and I bet you did, too.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It depends on the person.

Brad Means: Sure.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Positive people find positive things in negative situations. But if you’ve got a down spirit, ’cause the Bible tells us a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a crushed spirit will dry your bones.

Brad Means: Dry ’em up.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Dry ’em up, and I gotta tell you this. It’s so cool because my speech, I talk about three kinds of people that I like. It’s based on the book. I like people who are seasoned, wise. It’s kind of like tea, seasoned. I like people that are steeped. They know who they are, and they’re not afraid to be the best version of themselves. And I like steamed. Now, that doesn’t mean angry. That means energy, like, I love what I do, and I’m gonna share it. I’m gonna wake up every day and say, “Golly, guess who I get to bless today?” So that’s what I like.

Brad Means: All right, let’s just kind of go into that corporate culture for a moment and talk about the introvert, the person who prefers to sit at their desk in their yoga pants and their hat and be left alone. How do you bring them out, or do you need to, to make them a more valued team member?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I think you have to appreciate people where they are, and I think it’s gradual.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I was just talking to someone yesterday who’s doing these little gift boxes, and I said, “You know, go around and talk to people and see where they are. And if you start and respect where they are, maybe you can pull them out a little bit and help them see things differently.” And I really think that’s a gift people have in connecting with someone who might not be easy to connect with. And sometimes you just have to say, “See you later, pal.”

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah.

Brad Means: And move on.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, ’cause, in the analogy of Jesus, He knocked the dust off His sandals. He didn’t stay there.

Brad Means: No, he knocked the dust off at the city gates.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah.

Brad Means: All right, let me ask you this. You mentioned the little people in the boxes when you’re trying to perform and how virtual performances are so much different, obviously, than stage, than live. Can you offer anything to people who are working remotely to make sure that they are getting the most out of life and that they are being their best self?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh yeah, I have a whole signature speech I call “Don’t Throw Tomatoes At My Field of Dreams.” And it was based on growing up in the low country. and my daddy was a farmer, and he dropped out of school in the 10th grade. And he helped educate his sisters, and they’re all doctors and physicians and wonderful people. But Daddy learned to farm and learned it well. And so I start with that principle ’cause I’m a three person. I like to think in threes and fours. So I tell people I went in the tomato field, worked in the tomato field. I shined the fruit. I didn’t have to do that. That’s extra-mile thinking.

Brad Means: Right.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: So what is your shine? Are you using your shine? You’re using yours.

Brad Means: Thank you, Jane.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: True, you’re taking all your, and your shining is wonderful. And then I think during the pandemic, we had to redefine our shine.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: We had to shine a different way. And then the next thing I would do is I would take the tomatoes, and I would pull out the ones that maybe weren’t perfect. Well, that’s the cull principle. So you get rid of to get better, even though that’s good, but let’s go for really good. So we cull, and that’s what I would do, take the fruit out. Then the last one is the plow principle. I saw Daddy plow up tomatoes that were pretty, but it was not gonna be of value. So with the plow principle is whether you plow up or you plow through. And I think the last two years for me and a lot of folks that I love and respect, it was plow through.

Brad Means: You know, and you’re right. You can plow through whether you’re in a packed office building or whether you’re at your home computer. You can plow through. It’s all inside.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It is.

Brad Means: And what your motivation is. Let me ask you this when it comes to laughter at work. It’s the whole HR thing. It’s the fear of crossing into, crossing past boundaries we shouldn’t. So how do you manage that? Because you are all about having a smile on your face and being positive. How do you do that without going too far? We’re walking on eggshells these days.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I know, and I’ve gone too far. I can tell you, I was speaking up in Minnesota. Note to self when you’re up in Minnesota, don’t throw up some of that Southern stuff people don’t get.

Brad Means: Yeah, did they gasp?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Just two people out of 500.

Brad Means: Okay, fine.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: But you know what? Those two people got a whole bunch of, So I learned. I learned don’t tell that story.

Brad Means: Sure, sure.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I’m a southerner, so I’m gonna stay, and it wasn’t inappropriate. They just made an issue out of it.

Brad Means: Gotcha.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: But I thought it was funny. I’d tell it again.

Brad Means: Well, I wanna talk about your book and how we do speak in stories in the South and how that can translate into a better, healthier, happier life for all of us with Jane Jenkins Herlong. The book is “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Dried South,” and we will break it all down for you when “The Means Report” continues.

Part 2

Brad Means: Welcome back to “The Means Report.” We appreciate you staying with us as we continue to talk to Jane Jenkins Herlong. Her book is called “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South,” “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South.” Google it and get it. And you’ll love it because it’s all about stories of humor and hope. And Jane, my question is where do those stories come from? Is it from your personal life?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes.

Brad Means: Your upbringing?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I want people to remember who we are in this part of the country.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And take pride in that. Recognize that we do have a new South, we do. And the folks that are coming in, respect who we are. Love us, we’ll love you back.

Brad Means: What’s different about us? What’s something that might catch a newcomer’s eye when they walk into the South for the first time?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, everybody thinks that grits, you know.

Brad Means: We all eat grits.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh yeah, and not Yankee, You know what Yankee grits? Cream of Wheat.

Brad Means: Cream of wheat, okay.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yankee grits.

Brad Means: Okay, right, that’s all-

Jane Jenkins Herlong: That’s very important to know.

Brad Means: Well, and I know you’re big on using stories, and you mentioned in our first segment how Southerners use stories. We speak in story.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: We do.

Brad Means: What do you mean by that? Are we not as direct as we should be? We have to make it long and flowery and cite anecdotes?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes, we will love that. You know, it was so funny ’cause in one of my shows, I took the Andy of Mayberry song and put words to it, my friend did. We kind of wrote it together.

Brad Means: You mean like ?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah. ♪ Grab a seat ♪ ♪ Plan to sit a while ♪ ♪ It’s my pleasure to make you smile ♪ ♪ Secret sips from a tall sweet tea ♪ ♪ Southern-Fried by me ♪ Now that’s cute.

Brad Means: Jane, that’s awesome.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I know.

Brad Means: No, that’s great.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Margaret Turk and I kind of put our heads together ’cause we do “Sweet Tea Tunes Theater Shows.”

Brad Means: Right, y’all are on stage,

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And that has been a blast.

Brad Means: People love it.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: When people pay to come and see you, and you see no seats in the theater, you just pinch pinch.

Brad Means: Yeah, it’s huge.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah. It’s just, it’s unbelievable. And Jeanne Robertson was my mentor. She was incredibly funny. So, yes, I use all these little low-country stories. So like my mother, she had to tell me about the birds and the bees. She did a really bad job, okay.

Brad Means: She did?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah, but then she used the pressure cooker to tell me about it.

Brad Means: The actual pressure cooker-

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Uh-huh-

Brad Means: In your kitchen?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Like, in the South, you have to know about the birds and the bees and how to use a pressure cooker. That’s huge. So that chapter’s called “Why Aunt Binny Had a Dead Chicken on Her Ceiling.”

Brad Means: No!

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah.

Brad Means: And we can only imagine how it got there.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, you know, just the pressure cooker.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: So how my mother used the birds and the bees and the pressure cooker-

Brad Means: I don’t know, I think that’s pretty effective.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, it’s just got crazy stuff. I’ve got the story of Southern women and how we meet, just like cute Mary, beautiful Mary that I just met.

Brad Means: Right, we had our reporter, Mary Caulkins, come out and help us get all mic’d up.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Were best friends in about 30 seconds.

Brad Means: At most.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: We knew everybody.

Brad Means: Yeah, you did.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah.

Brad Means: But that’s the kind of connection you can make instantly. You say in this part of the country, there’s one degree of separation, right?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Mm-hm.

Brad Means: From a stranger you might meet when you walk out of this studio. You say you seek to preserve Southern values. What are those? What’s a Southern value? Putting your napkin in your lap? What is it?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes, I mean, I talk about the Southern manners and the young man that goes up North and says, “Yes, ma’am” and almost got fired. Then he ends up marrying the CEO, the woman’s daughter, and they live in Charleston. Isn’t that cool? But my big takeaway, Brad, to be honest, is the Gullah culture ’cause I dedicated that book to a woman that helped us in our home for 50 years. Her name was Ruth Blodge, and we called her Tootsie.

Brad Means: Ruth?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Uh-huh, and I loved her. And she was my other mother. And I spoke at her funeral. She was everything to me. She was my “I Love Lucy” buddy. I couldn’t tell time, but I could see 10 o’clock. And that’s a lot of where my comedy came from, was just sitting with Tootsie and watching “I Love Lucy.”

Brad Means: Was she funny?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh!

Brad Means: Would she make you laugh?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I dedicated the book in Gullah to her ’cause she’d say, “Don’t let nobody take the sweet that God done give out your heart.” And that was her Gullah way. In the book, I say I could still hear her voice when I sit under those beautiful oak trees on the property. And I can hear her say, “Don’t let nobody hurt my baby girl. You gonna be all right.” And so I have the Gullah stories in there, and I’ll tell you, my agent said, “Uh-uh, you need to take those out.” I said, “Uh-uh, no, no, no.” And it was when all the country was in a little bit of an uproar, was a big uproar.

Brad Means: Sure.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I said, “That’s not the way I was raised.” That’s not my world. My daddy taught me to love everybody, and he employed all kinds of people on the farm. And Daddy paid for healthcare, built houses. So I didn’t agree with that. And I said, “I want people to know my world was love and acceptance, and it still is.”

Brad Means: You encourage your readers and your audience to surround themselves with people who want you to succeed. How do you do that? Because you know what, I don’t need to tell you this, there are a lot of people who celebrate other’s failures and quietly root for them to fall. So how do you find a group of people that’ll help you do your best?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I think-

Brad Means: That’s hard.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: As we get older, I think we are quickened to those who are for us and those who are against us. And my mother used to say, “Don’t run from those people.” And I’d think, “No, I’m gonna sprint.” I’m not let anybody take away what Tootsie told me, the goodness that God puts in our hearts. And I’m gonna completely stay away. The pandemic was challenging. I don’t know if you did this, but I took a bold step. I isolated the energy vampires, people and stuff. And I realized I need to get rid of this. This is hard enough to keep your head above the water, and people that I grew up with, best friends. And sadly, I had my dearest friend died of alcoholism. And she sort of threw me out of her life, but I needed to protect myself, too. I couldn’t help her. There comes a time when you can’t help people. And you’ve got to, I say, the Titanic is sinking, get in a lifeboat.

Brad Means: I’m so sorry about your sweet friend.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, she was amazing, but the grip of alcohol, and it’s a disease.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And I miss her like crazy, but I miss the person that she used to be more than anything.

Brad Means: So how do we do that day to day? When we turn off the TV, after this interview, do you start unfriending people? Do you start not returning phone calls to those folks you’re trying to weed out?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yes.

Brad Means: Yeah? So that’s the way to go about it?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Pray. Pray for ’em. Pray for yourself. Use wisdom. Protect your heart. Protect your mind. Protect your future. You can still love people, but you don’t have to like ’em.

Brad Means: Your new book also talks about fitting into the covered-dish church culture. The covered=dish church culture, just reading those words made me go back to the country side of my family, my mother’s folks, and how there were many covered-dish church suppers. That’s tough to walk into that culture for the uninitiated. What did you mean by that when you were talking about that culture, and how do you fit into it?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: I never did.

Brad Means: It’s tough.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It’s tough. I mean-

Brad Means: It’s very judgey.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh my gosh, if you get there, and your casserole is put way in the back of the kitchen, you know something’s not right.

Brad Means: Right.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Yeah, I used to make my children go and just take a spoonful and pretend it was good, then throw it in the trash if it wasn’t. And normally it wasn’t, but my initials were JH. My mother-in-law’s were Jewel Herlong, Josie Herlong. They were incredible cooks. So I put JH on my little Pyrex, and people thought it was them. So I got away with it for a while while they were alive.

Brad Means: Yeah. Well, Jane, what is some advice, though, especially for women, when it comes to walking into new situations, new towns, maybe they’ve just gotten to Augusta, trying to establish themselves, get into a friend group, and be comfortable? How do you break through those walls when you weren’t born and raised here?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, that’s what the book’s about.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: They gotta buy the book, and it’ll help ’em.

Brad Means: Well, it will.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It’ll help ’em fit right in and know our nuances and know to embrace people and just know your spot. And people love and accept you when you love and accept them. And it’s a funny look at the way we are in the South as well, but I think you have to be brave, and I wrote about that. I have a chapter in there, my favorite, is when a woman, a Southern woman, woman’s up. And you can be feminine, but you can be resolved to certain principles and stick to ’em, and you can be, And my grandmother, I saw her almost kill somebody. It was really interesting.

Brad Means: What’d they do to her?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: They’re trying to break in her house. I mean, I heard, “Get off my porch,” and I heard the . And I thought there’s a man in the house. And then that sweet little grand-mama voice came back: “Darling, y’all all right?”

Brad Means: Wow.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: So you could be both.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: You can be both, and you have to be willing to adapt to the situation you’re in and be strong. God help the women that aren’t toughened up on their journey through life, I’m just saying.

Brad Means: I was listening to you sing a moment ago, and everything was perfectly on pitch. And it was just, it was beautiful little song you sang.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, thank you.

Brad Means: But it’s because you’re no stranger to singing, to performing. Your pageant life helped you with that, former Miss South Carolina. Why are people drawn to pageants? And I know you talk about this in the book. Why do we love those kinds of competitions? I do. I’ve MC’d a ton of them. What is it about that, you think?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: It’s self-improvement. Women can find all these great avenues anymore for self-improvement. My choice was pageantry because it was everything I thought I would become but I wasn’t. So I have a speech called “You Can’t Put High Heels on a Holstein Cow.”

Brad Means: Yeah.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: And it’s about principles we learn from the pageant world, and it’s communication. Well, that’s interview. It’s fitness. That’s swimsuit. A branding statement, that’s evening gown. Talent, everybody should find their talent and give their talent, exploit their talent, so they can help other people. That’s our journey, to serve.

Brad Means: It is terrifying up on that stage.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Terrifying.

Brad Means: The same kind of stage fright maybe you once felt in the early days is sometimes the kind of anxiety that overtakes people just when they walk in their office door or their home or the grocery store. How do you find calm in the middle of such chaos sometimes?

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Well, I’ll tell you what I did to get used to that kind of stuff. This is just, might not be the answer, but my professor, when I was in graduate school, he said, “What’s your worst phase of competition?” I said, “Swimsuit.” He said, “Wear it underneath your clothes.” So it was like my first, I was the very first person to wear full-body Spanx, I’m telling you. So to answer your question, put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. And it might not happen immediately, but it will be a gradual move. And then, I mean, just like my husband was reading a book. It’s called “Atomic Habits.” And it said, okay, this guy said, “I had to go to the gym.” He went to the gym, but he turned around and left. He’s just walked in and walked back. Then he stayed five minutes. Then he stayed 10. Then he got on this, These things, change happens gradually-

Brad Means: It does.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: If it’s gonna stick. So be uncomfortable.

Brad Means: Probably my last question. You talk about change, gradual or otherwise. Have you had a chance to, after you’ve visited corporations, after you’ve been on stage, after people have brought you in, to check back in with them and see-

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, yeah.

Brad Means: Oh my gosh. Things are changing. Things are happier.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, sure. I have a newsletter, and if anybody wants to sign up, they can just go to on my website and find it. But I love to keep up with the people that I share, and my newsletter, people want to be on it ’cause it’s funny. And so they’ll come in and email me back and say, “Oh, I love that story. Thank you so much. You made me think. You helped me with this.” And I tell ya, that is the biggest gift right there.

Brad Means: Thank you for giving that gift-

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Oh, thank you.

Brad Means: To so many people and for coming here, as we try to get rid of this pandemic and talk in person. It’s been a joy for me.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Ah, me too. Bless you.

Brad Means: Absolutely.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Thank you so much.

Brad Means: You too, Jane. Jane Jenkins Herlong, get her book, “Sweet Tea Secrets from the Deep-Fried South.” You will love it. It will change your life. A lot of smiles in the newsroom when she came in just now.

Jane Jenkins Herlong: Thank you.