Known for his stage act, television series, specials and talk shows, movies and especially for his very successful comedy albums, comedian Bill Engvall is a native Texan who was born in Galveston, graduated from Richardson High School and attended Southwestern University in Georgetown before heading to Los Angeles to get his start as a standup comedian.
In 2000 as one of four funnymen on the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour,” Engvall reached iconic status with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White; eventually the tour became a movie, which was followed by six more tours, three more movies and the show “Blue Collar on TV” on the WB Network.
During a recent phone conversation from his summer residence in Park City, Utah (He also has a ranch near San Antonio), Engvall talked about what to expect in his show at the Texan.
“I need to explain something to some of the folks in the area who have never been to one of my shows,” he said. “You’re not going to hear any political material. You’re not going to hear any religious stuff. It’s clean. It’s relatable, and I’ve figured out through my time on this planet that that’s what people want.
“When people ask me to describe my show, I say, ‘Don’t even think that you’re going to see a comedian. I just want you to think that we’re just sitting around your living room, and I’m the funny guy doing the talking. It’s like a 90-minute conversation that weaves in and out of different subjects. I know that I’ve written a good joke when a husband or a wife kind of elbow each other like ‘Oh yeah, that’s happened to us.’”
Engvall remains impressed by what he has heard about Greenville’s unique Texan Theater.
“What a great date night!” he said. “It’s a good way for a guy to get in good with his wife or his girlfriend. Go out to the Texan for a four course meal, complimentary parking, gratuities taken care of, and you’ve got a meet and greet. And you’re going to have a lot of laughs. If you want to make some brownie points, come on out.”
For more than 30 years, Engvall has been making audiences laugh with his distinctive and hilarious brand of situational comedy. In 1992, he was recognized as “Best Male Standup” on the American Comedy Awards. After appearing on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” in 1996, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers Records to make a comedy album.
His debut album was called “Here’s Your Sign.” Engvall’s act often includes the catchphrase “Here’s Your Sign,” which refers to his (joking) premise that stupid people should have to wear warning signs which state “I’m stupid.” For instance, you have a moving truck in the driveway and many large boxes on the porch. Your neighbor inquires ‘You moving?” “No “ Engvall replies, “We just like to box everything up a couple of times a year and then put it all back.” He then grins and proffers, “Here’s your sign.”
The “Here’s Your Sign” CD went platinum and was followed by other chart-topping albums including “Dorkfish,” “Now That’s Awesome,” and “Here’s Your Christmas Album.”
“When my first album went platinum, they wanted to give me a platinum CD,” he said. “But I told them that I wanted a platinum record. I grew up with records, listening to Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby and all of them. But you know, even when I was listening to those records, I had no idea that that’s what I would be doing for the rest of my life.”
One of the comedian’s uproarious routines involves his plan to ride a bareback bronc against his wife’s objections. While not exactly a bronc buster, it is true that Engvall does have some experience as a.cowboy.
“I used to be a team roper way back when,” he said. “I’m older now so I don’t do much anymore, but we still keep our horses. My wife Gail and I will go riding in the mountains. I don’t think there’s a better time than being on the back of a horse and riding through beautiful country.”
Engvall goes out on tour after summer ends when the kids are back in school. After his upcoming performance at the Texan, he will leave to go to L.A. to shoot another episode of Tim Allen’s comedy series “Last Man Standing.”
“I play Father Paul on the show,” he said. “I’m nondenominational, but I do wear a collar as Father Paul. Not many people know that in real life I am an ordained minister. I plan to finish my degree at Southwestern University in religious studies and then attend a seminary sometime in the future. I figure it’s an easy transition from being a comedian to being a pastor because you’re used to talking to folks. Both comedians and clergy tell us things we really don’t need to hear! I think God has got a sense of humor; just look around at folks.
“I was raised Methodist. An old joke at my church says that if you’re Methodist or Presbyterian, all you need is a covered dish to get into Heaven. I have given several sermons, performed a wedding and I’m going to do a christening. I don’t know if it’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life, but I figure I’ll just let my life play out and until then, I’ll keep doing my standup making people laugh.
“There’s an old Texas saying, ‘You dance with the one who brung you,’” he said. “That’s comedy. Comedy is my mistress, and Gail’s fine with that.”
Engvall will appear onstage at the Texan Theater in downtown Greenville for two performances at 3:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available through ETIX or at 903-259-6360.