Thursday, August 05, 2004

Interview: Bill Engvall

Even if you're not familiar with Bill Engvall, you may think of him every time someone asks a stupid question. If you've ever heard the phrase "Here's your sign," you've heard Engvall's most famous joke.

"That was amazing," Engvall said of the success of his "here's your sign" jokes. "It literally became the `Where's the beef?' of the '90s. It's a neat thing to think that you added a little piece to Americana."

Even Engvall himself isn't immune to the catchphrase, as he relates on his album "Dorkfish." In one of the jokes, he says he came out of the mall to see the guy parked next to him with a coat hanger in his window.

"I couldn't stop myself," Engvall says. "I said, `Did you lock your keys in your car?' He goes, `No, just washed it, gonna hang it up to dry. Here's your sign.'"

In addition to his latest album "Here's Your Sign … Reloaded," released late last year, and his new DVD "Here's Your Sign Live," released this week, Engvall is excited about a new project with fellow "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" members Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. It's called "Blue Collar TV," and it debuted last week on the WB. The show, which airs on Thursday nights, is by the producers of "Mad TV," and Engvall thinks fans will be pleasantly surprised.

"They really tapped into who we were and who our audience was," he said. "I compare it a lot to the old `Carol Burnett Show.' There are a couple of sketches, and then at the end we come out and do some stuff together, kind of like we did on the `Blue Collar' movie."

"Blue Collar" alum Ron White will also make a few guest appearances on the show.

Engvall and Foxworthy have both done TV before, but their counterparts, White and Larry, are a little rougher around the collar. Is TV really ready for those guys?

"That's a good question," Engvall said. "Larry - I'd love to tell you that's just a character, but it ain't."

Like it or not, Engvall is now connected with the three other guys through the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour," and its sequel which was just filmed last week. Fortunately for him, he enjoys it.

"The four of us together are just a blast," he said. "You couldn't ask for anything better. It's four friends working together. How much better does it get than that?"

Engvall was once well on his way to becoming a teacher when he and a friend went to a new comedy club that had just opened in Dallas.

"A buddy of mine and I went up there to watch amateur night one night," he said. "I ended up going up there, and the next thing I knew, I was doing this for a living."

Engvall said being funny was a necessity for a kid whose family moved around a lot.

"I've always had the ability to make people laugh," he said. "We moved around quite a bit, and that was the way you made friends quick. You could either make them laugh or you end up hanging out by yourself. It helped me out a lot in life as far as being able to move into new situations and excel in those situations."

Though, like his "Blue Collar" counterparts, he's known as a country comedian, Engvall has actually lived in the city for a while now. Though, he said, if you walked into his Los Angeles home, you wouldn't know you were in the city.

"I've still got my country roots," he said. "That's the way I want to keep it."

Though he lives in the city, he's never bought into the Hollywood star attitude.

"Noooo," he said. "As soon as you do, you're dead. It just doesn't fit me, and I don't think it ever will."

One thing the four "Blue Collar" comedians share is that they're close with their fans - sometimes too close.

"People will walk up to you and tell you crazy things," he said. "You look at them like, why are you telling me this. I don't want to know that."

Still, Engvall said he is appreciative of the people who buy his albums and come to his shows, and he often hangs around after the show to sign autographs.

"They've supported me at this level for 10 years," he said. "I've got the best fans in the world."

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