The comedy legend once described his staff writer of more than 15 years as someone who “finds fun in the familiar, the mirth in the mundane, the belly laughs in the bellyaches of everyday living.”
In addition to Hope, Bolton has written for such performers as Phyllis Diller, Wayne Newton, Mark Lowry, Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey.
Her finely-honed sense of humor is also on display in some of the 50-plus books that she has authored.
Bolton’s gems include “Didn’t My Skin Used to Fit” on the topic of growing older and “It Gets Better as the Years Drag On” for married couples.
On Thursday, she will be at Westside Baptist Church in Jasper for “Mopping with Your Pearls On,” an inspirational humor show with Walker County native Edie Hand.
The setting should feel like a homecoming for Bolton, who started her comedy writing career as a church secretary.
“I did a lot of Friar’s Club-type roasts on the pastor and different people in the church. I enjoyed doing that, and it seemed to go over very well with the congregation and the pastor,” Bolton said.
Soon, Bolton was receiving invitations to roast the clergy in other churches. Several people suggested that she should be writing for television.
Bolton went down to her local library one day and paid 25 cents for 20 minutes of typing time on a couple of spec scripts for “Mama’s Family.”
The show’s creative consultant took them to the producer, who said that he would call her in for a pitch session the following season.
Then “Mama’s Family” was canceled.
Fate had a better job in mind for Bolton — as the first female on Hope’s writing staff.
The same person who recommended her for “Mama’s Family” also worked for Hope and passed her name along to him.
Hope was in his early 80s at the time and still going strong with four or five TV specials a year and hundreds of personal appearances.
As a member of his final staff, Bolton got to know a man who was as funny in the 1980s and ’90s as when he became a star in the ’30s.
His dog Snowjob once bit Bolton on the foot when she was at Hope’s house dropping off material.
Hope sent her a telegram after the incident that read “Dear Martha, please come back soon. I’m ready for another hors d’oeuvre. Love, Snowjob.”
One of Bolton’s favorite stories about Hope concerns one of his infamous late-night phone calls to one of his writers.
Hope asked the man’s wife if he was home. She looked over at her husband, sleeping peacefully in the bed beside her. Rather than wake him up, she said, “No, he told me that he was going to be with you tonight.”
There was a pause and then Bob said, “Oh yeah, here he comes now.”
Bolton added that the trick to writing for well-known entertainers like Hope and Diller is to get inside their head to be able to craft jokes in their voice.
“You can’t just write a general joke for anyone to do because most comedians have spent years developing their persona and that voice. When you write for them, you have to make it seamless,” Bolton said.
Bolton is capable of writing much more than comedy sketches and one-liners.
She has worked on books, newspaper columns, greeting cards, plays and musicals. She currently has several movie scripts that she hopes will become bigger projects.
Bolton said she feels lucky to have worked with so many successful people, especially one funny man who taught her so much about comedy and life.
“The best training ground for writing comedy was the College of Bob Hope,” she said.
Tickets for “Mopping with Your Pearls On” are $18 per person for a table of seven or $25 for an individual.
They are available at Westside Baptist Church, The Lily Pond, Girlie Things Boutique, Young Jewelers, The Secret Place, Woni’s Bookshelf and Debra Stanford Majestic Salon.