By Jason Tanamor
If you like the comedy stylings of Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, and Larry the Cable Guy, you might be a redneck. And that’s OK, because according to Bill Engvall, he covers material that everyone can relate to. “I do stuff that grown ups, teens, any age group can get into. People always ask me what rating my show is and I tell them it’s PG-13,” Engvall said.
The material, geared mostly toward hard-working, blue collar people, has been highlighted in the popular Blue Collar Comedy Tour and now the TV series, “Blue Collar TV.” But that doesn’t mean it’s strictly for one demographic. “We can get any demographic. We have fans of all races. The only time I would say an audience didn’t ‘get it’ was in Boston, but in the end they loved us,” said Engvall. “Foxworthy always says there are rednecks 20 minutes outside any big city.”
Engvall, who started his stand-up career in Dallas, Texas, at the Dallas Comedy Corner, knew he wanted to be a comedian since his days in grade school, third grade to be exact. “We were doing the play Clementine, which for those of you may not know was a western. I had always wanted to be a cowboy but because my voice was still too high, combined with the fact that I was a bit scrawny, I was forced to play the role of Clementine,” said Engvall. “Yes, in third grade I was wearing a dress and singing the theme song. So, it was either become a cast member of “La Cage” as a female impersonator or become a comic. Obviously, I chose the latter, much to the delight of my parents.”
And much to the delight of his fans, Engvall is still entertaining audiences across the country. However, if it wasn’t for the Blue Collar Tour, much of his audience would have never known who he was. “Jeff (Foxworthy) and I have known each other for years, we have the same manager. We were joking about our careers and how we were going to ‘go out’ doing car shows,” said Engvall. “Then we started thinking about it, we do each other’s audiences, so our manager suggested getting two more guys together. I knew Ron White from open mikes back when I was doing clubs. Jeff knew Larry (the Cable Guy) from doing stand-up. I’ve never met Larry but I had heard of him.”
Now, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which was originally supposed to have ten dates, has expanded into a gajillion year tour. And thank goodness for that, because Engvall, at one time, believed he reached his pinnacle in comedy. “Once, back in ‘95, I was as high as I could get in the club circuit. Then I signed with Jeff’s manager, saw what he was doing and did much of the same. Then I released an album and everything took off. I still can’t believe it. Now I’m doing TV,” said Engvall.
Although TV is nice for Engvall, it’s not what he’s been striving for. “I like doing TV because I’m home. But I love doing stand-up, the response is instant, you know if you’re funny or not,” Engvall said. “When I first started, I didn’t know I could make a living doing stand-up. I used to emcee in Dallas, back when Seinfeld and Shandling were doing what I’m doing now. I learned from them, things started clicking and then I got on the Tonight Show and Letterman. Before, stand-up was just a cool hobby, I dropped out of college, something I regret. Even though I probably wouldn’t have used my diploma I still wished I had gotten it.”
Not bad for a man who, before stand-up, wasn’t really doing anything. “I was spinning records in night clubs, pretty much bouncing around between what I call 20-year-old something jobs,” Engvall said.
Having achieved all this success, the greatest reward for Engvall is knowing he worked his tail off entertaining people. “I want people to say, ‘He made me laugh. He was a nice guy and we had fun.’ Whenever my name comes up I want it to bring a smile to a person’ face,” Engvall said.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor