For 25 years, Bill Engvall dreamt of being a successful stand-up comic.
Now that he is one, he can't undo it.
"Y'know what?" he asks from the phone in his Los Angeles home. "Be careful what you wish for."
He kids, of course. After all, that's his gig.
The truth is, Engvall couldn't be happier. He used to toil away in stand-up obscurity and small sitcom roles. (He played Bill on "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" and Buck on the short-lived Delta Burke laugh-fest, "Delta.")
But no more. Now, Engvall's on top. He can thank Foxworthy for that. In addition to casting Engvall on his sitcom, Foxworthy was the brains behind the Blue Collar Comedy Tour gravy train that pulled together himself, Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy for three wildly successful Blue Collar DVD smashes.
In 2007, expect to see more of the Blue Collar guys especially Engvall. He'll be promoting a new comedy DVD (15 Degrees Off Cool, which will be released in February), a new book (Just a Guy, due out in May), a new movie (Delta Farce with Larry the Cable Guy, slated to hit theaters in May) and, if the pilot episode shot last month is well-received by the bigwigs at the TBS network, a sitcom in the fall.
While the status of the pilot (which is set in the Denver suburb of Louisville) remains unclear, fans can be certain of one thing: Despite the packed schedule, Engvall promises that he'll keep doing stand-up.
"I was raised with the phrase that you dance with who brung you," Engvall says.
This weekend's upcoming Air Force Academy show is one Engvall says he has looked forward to since last year when, after a show in Las Vegas, a group of pilots asked if he'd be interested in flying with the Thunderbirds. Engvall eagerly accepted the invite and, upon arriving at the Air Force base, found a jet emblazoned with his name on the side.
"It was one of the biggest honors of my life," Engvall says. "It really makes you proud to be an American."
Fitting that he would say that. Engvall's act is the very essence of middle American. He's an average guy when he stands before a crowd, a Southern boy who acts accordingly. Actually, his persona isn't all that different from his friend Foxworthy's.
And, like Foxworthy, Engvall, too, has a catchphrase. Where Foxworthy made his name doing "You might be a redneck ..." jokes, Engvall's career was similarly catapulted with a simple saying: "Here's your sign."
The line has roots in an earlier act, in which Engvall came back to wanting to slap stupid people. It was when his wife objected, claiming Engvall didn't look like the type to dole out that sort of physical abuse, that the bit changed. Engvall now passes out signs for people to wear around their neck, announcing their intellectual incompetence.
Surely, fans can expect to hear that gem a few times this weekend. Because, when you're a famous comedian, there is one problem: having famous bits.
"People still want to hear it," Engvall says. But he adds that for him, it never gets old. "It's just a total honor for me that it was good enough for them to memorize it."
Air Force Academy's Arnold Hall Theater, 2302 Cadet Drive
Saturday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35 and $50; visit ticketmaster.com or call 333-4497.