Whether the topic is children, family, animals, or his trademark “Here’s Your Sign” bit, everyone can relate to Bill Engvall’s comedy. “I’ve been real lucky in a sense that my style of humor hits a lot of people. I don’t have to adjust it to a certain group, because it is so middle of the road and widely accepted across America. A guy in Boston has kids, and his kids act the same as a guy in Knoxville’s do,” explains Engvall.
Bill Engvall’s comedy comes from real life, which is why it hits home, but as he explains, reality can be unpredictable. “Because all of my comedy is so much real life, I kind of have to experience it, which is great, because when I get it, everybody can appreciate it. But, there are times that I go through, when nothing funny is going on. Nothing bad is going on, but nothing real funny. It is kind of a double-edged sword, that you try to keep everything going and hopefully you will come up with some material.”
Engvall, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children, often works his family into his routine. Bill said, “Now that my daughter is getting older, she is becoming more and more material, because our ways are starting to go separate. She is getting her own taste in music now. That is cool and I’m happy with that, but I tell ya, a kid gets a hold of a CD and they’ll play it till you just want to kill yourself. I’ve heard these Hanson kids so much, I’m about to ‘Mmmm-Bopp’ that CD into the garbage disposal.”
But, don’t think that just because you aren’t related to Bill that you won’t wind up in his routine. Bill warns,”That is the great thing about “Here’s Your Sign”, no one is immune from it. In fact, I did one the other day. I walked out of the mall, and the guy parked right next to me was standing there with a coat hanger in his car window. I couldn’t stop myself. I said, ‘You lock your keys in your car?’ He turned around and said, ‘No, I just washed it, and I’m gonna hang it up to dry.’ I said, ‘Ok.’
Where did his infamous line come from? Bill explains, “I used to say, ‘people should be slapped,’ and my wife said ‘You know that is kind of harsh?’ So one week, I was working at a club and came up with this sign bit and people seemed to like it. In fact, it got so popular that I started selling signs that said “I’m Stupid” for a dollar a piece or two for five bucks at the shows.”
When you talk to Bill Engvall, it is easy to hear how much he loves his family. He and wife Gail have been married for 15 years. He boasts, “In LA, that is a record we hold. We met in college, but didn’t like each other. Mainly because she had a broken leg, and I had had too much to drink and rollerskated up to her and said, ‘Let’s go skating.’ She looked at me like, ‘Hello, can you not see the cast on my leg? You looser!’
“About two years later, I did my first night of stand-up at a club, and she just happened to be in the audience. She came back to the bar and we exchanged phone numbers. In fact, we still have the little drink minimum cards that we exchanged numbers on. We have been in love ever since.”
When did he actually pop the question? Laughingly, he recalls, “I asked her twice. I asked her once six months after we had been dating and she said, ‘No.’ I mean I got down on one knee — I did the whole thing. I’m gonna tell you one thing, there is no longer ride than getting up off that knee when you ask someone to get married and they say ‘No not right now.’ You got to get up and say, ‘Aaaah, so wanna go to a movie or something.’ About a year later, I asked her again and she said yes.”
It was at this point in his life, that he realized he wanted to be a comic. He had been working in a comedy club in Dallas as an emcee for several years bringing up the acts. In the beginning, it was just a job for him that meant he didn’t have to have a day job. “Even though I had not realized it yet, Gail knew. After about five years into it, I thought hey, I’m not too bad at this, maybe I ought to think about doing this for a living.”
After a few years of honing his chops, he and his wife headed off to Los Angeles. Once in the city of Angels, he made several appearances on The Tonight Show, appeared on a Showtime special with Rosie O’Donnell, hosted A&E’s Evening At The Improv and in 1992, he was awarded the American Comedy Award for Best Male Stand-Up Comedian. Guest appearances on Designing Women and Golden Palace helped land him the role of Buck Overton on the sitcom Delta starring Delta Burke. After Delta, he went on to portray Bill Pelton on The Jeff Foxworthy Show.
Despite his success in episodic TV, Bill Engvall still prefers performing live. Bill explains, “I love being on TV because it lets me be at home, but I like stand-up because I’m in control. With TV, you have 20 people trying to make a decision, and it gets kind of confusing there.”
Bill is touring right now, and you can see his dates on his artist page. In December, he will be performing in Las Vegas at Bally’s, and he will also appear on Prime Time Country when they broadcast live from the Hilton. “I’ll be headlining Bally’s which is very cool for me. (His first time) I’ve worked there with Jeff one time as the opening act, but to go back as the headliner is very cool,” said Bill.
“I love Vegas like twice a year. I love every bit of the gaudiness, the lights, and the ‘hey come-on, come-on’. I love all that for about five days, then I’ve had enough. If I have to hear one more machine going ‘ching, ching, ching, ching,’ I’ll loose my mind. Someone’s gonna have to die,” he jokes in a menacing ‘make my day’ kind of voice.
But before he heads to Nevada to make someone’s day, he’s Nashville bound to make Gary Chapman’s day by guest hosting Prime Time Country November 10 and 11. He’s a little nervous about filling Gary’s shoes, but excited just the same.
He explains, “Hosting the Prime Time Country thing is big. I was originally up for the host of the show. They went with Gary Chapman, who I think is doing a wonderful job. Gary is one of the sweetest nicest guys in the world! For me to get a chance to guest host is very cool. I’m really looking forward to it! It is going to be fun! The first night we are going to have Roger Miller’s son, Dean, Mila Mason, and a guy who has been touring with me, a comedian named Mark Cordes. The second night is Neal McCoy, Jo Dee Messina, and Henry Cho.
“They are going to be great shows. I’m trying to come up with some ‘Here’s Your Sign’ stuff for Thanksgiving, so I may throw them out there.
It will be my first time hosting, so I’m a little nervous. I want to do a good job. I’m a little nervous about it. It is easier when you are just a guest, because all you have to do is answer questions. I don’t wanna ask stupid questions like, ‘So, how’d ya’ get here?’ It should be a lot of fun.”
In addition to hosting PTC, Bill will also be hosting an upcoming special on TNN called American Originals, a humorous and heartwarming look at what’s unique and original about the people in our great country. “I think that is going to be a neat show. One of the things that attracted me to the show is that it is real stuff. It is things that people actually do for real. It is right down my alley. You have guys making castles out of hub-caps, or bowling with turkeys. I can’t wait for it. I think the TNN viewers are really going to enjoy the show,” he exclaims.
Engvall is also working on his second record, tentatively set for release next summer, and filming commercials for a jelly company, (“believe it or not,” he jokes). In the future, he would love to have his own show either on TNN or a network. Who would Bill envision as the ultimate cast for The Bill Engvall Show? He answers immediately, “Elle Macpherson,” then laughs, “I don’t know. I would want a show where I could be me and we could be edgy. I wouldn’t want a kiddy show. It would be set in the South.” A family sort of show? “No, it would be more like Friends,” he laughs again.
“I’d love to do movies. There is so much that I want to do. Movies, theater, I’m pretty much open to anything,” said Bill.
He smiles, “Life is just wonderful right now! I’m really enjoying this little ride that we’re on. The next big thing for me will be to get to move home to Texas. I want to move back, when I can just kick back for awhile.”