By Bobbie Katz
Bill Engvall brings gems of humor to Treasure Island
Bill Engvall remembers the first time that he ever played Las Vegas. “I got less billing than the Roast Beef Buffet,” he quips.
It may have taken a few years but these days Engvall is getting right to the meat of the situation. On Friday, March 8, the comic, who was the first headliner to ever appear in the showroom at Treasure Island (T.I.), will return to the property. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg lettuce when it comes to his having a full career plate.
After more than 25 years of plugging away at his comedy, Engvall has experienced his comeuppance over the last 12 years or so. He is well-known to fans of The Bill Engvall Show, his family-themed sitcom that aired on TBS, which debuted on July 17, 2009 with the second highest ratings in cable history and ran until September 5, 2009. Engvall has also starred in movies, including The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, The Movie, Delta Farce, with Larry the Cable Guy and D.J. Qualls, and Bait Shop with Billy Ray Cyrus. He wrote and produced the latter with his management and Parallel Pictures.
Along with that, Engvall’s comedy CDs, Here’s Your Sign (1996), Dorkfish (1998) and 15° Off Cool (2007) all ranked No. 1 on Billboard's Comedy Chart, with the former earning platinum status and reaching the Top 50 on Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart. He will be releasing his new Whirled DVD and album called Them Idiots on March 13, 2012, with a special airing of it on CMT on March 10th. Still, with it all, Engvall says that he truly loves live performance and the immediate gratification it provides.
“I love making people laugh,” says Engvall. “Because of the four-year Blue Collar Tour that I did with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White, I was perceived to be a country or redneck comedian. But my humor is across the board – it’s very Cosby-esque in the sense that I tell stories and talk about subjects like being married for 25 years. I put my own twist on things you see in everyday life. My show appeals to people from 12 to 88.
“I perform in jeans and a nice shirt,” he continues. “I’m never going to be perceived as hip and edgy. I’m a clean and middle-of-the-road guy. But I like being a middle-of-the-road comedian because those are the ones that work longer. I do humor like the clean- clothes dirty-clothes game. For example, ‘My wife always asks me if my clothes are clean. I used to say yes, but then I’d have to hang them up. Or I’ll joke about the fact that I’m 55 and I’ll tell the audience that one of the side effects is that I now make noises getting INTO bed.”
Stating that his comedy is based on observation, Engvall says that one of the most important things is talking about things that everyone can relate to. The other important thing to him is keeping his humor on a clean level.
“I try to make people feel like I am there sitting in their living rooms and I’m the guy doing the talking,” he reveals. “I’m very casual and laid back and my act is like a long conversation in which I wind in and out of different subjects for an hour and a half.”
While Engvall notes that he always has an outline in his head of where the show is supposed to go, he admits that the beauty of live performance is that he can go where it takes him and that he never knows where it’s going to go.
“It’s like you’re driving down the freeway,” he explains, “and you get off at an exit for no reason. You’re going to get back on eventually – you just have to stay with me. It’s like my wife said when she was interviewed – ‘Ninety-five percent of the time, Bill leads a completely normal life. The other five percent, he’ll get random thoughts that other people don’t and he’ll interject them into conversation. You know you’ll get back to the conversation; you just have to stay with him.’
To illustrate his random thought process, Engvall tells a story about buzzards, those carnivorous big birds that circle overhead when an animal is dying so that they can be the first to feed on the remains. “The other day I was driving and saw a dead buzzard on the side of the road,” he laughs, “I remember thinking, I wonder what eats that!”
Engvall says that he stays away from political and religious humor and topics that might be offensive to his audiences. The object is for everyone to have a great time. By the same token, he says that it’s hard to find things that appeal to the masses and that comedy is a lot harder than people give credit for.
“Comedy is weird,” he states, “For example, there might be a girl or guy who is funny at the office. Try taking that in front of 2,000 people who don’t know you if you want to find out if you’re a comedian. Try doing it at midnight in a nightclub on a Saturday night. If you can make people laugh, then you’ve earned your chops.”
Interestingly, the comedian acknowledges that he is as relaxed offstage as he is onstage and that he is pretty much the same person. About his wife, with whom he has two children, 23 and 18, he says that without her, there is no him, and that she keeps him in line when he gets “goofy.” He debunks the theory that it’s hard to maintain a relationship when one of the partners is in show business, citing that people create their own world. He says that he still drives a ’77 Volkswagen bus and that he’s just an average guy who is getting a chance to live his dream.”
“My glass is completely full,” enthuses Engvall, who also has made numerous comedy albums. “Overall I’m a happy guy who is a homebody and sensitive and loves to laugh. I love outdoor activities like fishing, hunting and skiing. My wife and kids keep me grounded. They’re real life and I know that one day all this will go away and I’m going to have to be a normal Joe again. I also give credit to my parents and grandparents for raising me with family values.”
“I would someday like to do a western, though,” he sums up. “I love acting and I grew up watching movies like Rio Bravo, Sons of Katie Elder and High Noon. I’d like to do a dramatic role, something people don’t expect from me.”
Just another item to add to Engvall’s buffet of talents.
By Bobbie Katz
This article appears by courtesy of Vegas Insider Daily.com.