Stand-up comedian, actor and television personality Jeff Foxworthy will be headed to Caesars Windsor for his only Canadian date of 2020 on January 26.
As one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country, Jeff Foxworthy is the largest selling comedy-recording artist in history, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and best-selling author of more than 26 books. Widely known for his redneck jokes, his act also explores the humour in everyday family interactions and human nature.
Jeff Foxworthy is one of the judges on the new NBC comedy competition show Bring The Funny, and was one of summer’s hit shows. He has his own comedy channel Jeff and Larry’s Comedy Roundup on SIRIUSXM, which showcases the best in great American comedy. He has a comedy special We’ve Been Thinking which is currently available on Netflix and most recently released a game called “Relative Insanity” which uses bits of his material for lots of game time fun.
When an interview opportunity with the King of Redneck Jokes comes up, you have to dive into the psyche that makes his backyard humour so exciting.
When and how did your obsession with redneck jokes come about?
It was funny because early in my career, the advice I was getting was that I needed to take voice lessons. And I mean obviously I’ve got this country voice, but I grew up as a kid that was outdoors. I grew up hunting and fishing and on a farm, and so I always wore blue jeans. I always wore cowboy boots. I was driving a pickup truck all over the United States doing gigs, and it was good natured, but that’s what they called me. It was always like, “Ah, Foxworthy, you’re just a redneck from Georgia.” But I noticed as I started going places, “This isn’t just a Southern thing. This is 10 minutes outside of any city thing.”
And one night I was, right outside Detroit, doing a show in a comedy club. And after the show, we’re sitting around the barn, somebody made the comment, “Ah, Foxworthy, you’re just redneck.”
Well, the club we were playing in was attached to a bowling alley that had valet parking. And I said, “Okay, if you don’t think you have rednecks in Michigan, go look out the window. People are valet parking at the bowling alley.” And I went back to the hotel that night and I thought, “I know what I am, but apparently a lot of people don’t realize what they are and know.” I wasn’t smart enough to think, “Hey, this was going to turn into a hook or into books or calendars.”
I was just trying to write stand up. I wrote 10 Ways to Tell and I went back the next night and I did them. And not only were people laughing on half of them, they’re pointing at each other.
And so that’s what stand-up is all about, is making that connection. It’s like, all right, what do you and me have in common? And so I wrote 10 and I thought, “Hey, if I write 10, can I write 50?” And I ended up writing like 300, and I thought, “Well, this would be a cute book.” I got turned down by the first 14 publishers I sent it to, and the 15th one said, “Yeah, I think this will work.”
And I said, “Well, how many do you think will sell?”
And they said, “I bet we sell 5,000 of them.”
And I think we sold four and a half million of them. I just had no idea it was going to be that far reaching. I started doing the page-a-day calendars in 1990 and it’s been in the top three selling calendars for… Well, we’re about to hit 2020, so that’s 30 years. Now from writing the first 10, I bet I’ve written 8,000 of them. It’s crazy.
Is there a magic formula that makes it a good redneck joke?
It’s very funny because I think of myself as a standup. I’m a storyteller, but redneck jokes are obviously just one liners. Most of them are inspired by seeing something. A few nights ago, I’m on the interstate, I’m in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the person in front of me, their bumper is like half hanging out, hanging off the car. And I’m looking, I’m going, “What the heck have they done?” Somebody’s taking their belt off and they’ve got it wrapped around, holding the drooping part of the bumper on the car. I pull my phone out and take a picture, and I get home and I write, “If you’ve ever held your bumper on your car with your belt, you might be a redneck.” I mean, so they’re inspired by true things. You don’t have to make them up.
I think everybody loves a good redneck joke, but has the comedy ever gone too far?
I don’t think so, and I think it’s because I’m not laughing at somebody, I’m laughing with somebody. I’ve never had one person come up to me and say, “Hey, I’m offended by this.” I have had them come up where they’ve had the book and they’ve had the ones that they’ve done checked off in the book. And, I could go through them and go, “That’s my uncle Bob. That’s my sister, that’s my brother. That’s my dad.” I mean, so again, I’m not laughing at somebody, I’m guilty of half of this stuff myself.
The world lately, it seems to be very kind of touchy compared to when you first started. Are there redneck jokes marked as safe from all the social media craziness?
That’s a great point on your part. And it’s funny because I can’t remember. I haven’t done a redneck joke on stage in several years now. Most of my stuff I think is relationships. It’s men and women and being a dad. I used to say, if you listen to a CD I did or if you watch a special idea, it was always a snapshot of what was going on in my life that year. And so I started off talking about dating, then I talked about being a newlywed, then I talked about being a new dad. And it’s funny, things have changed. In, 1990 I could have done a bit about, “Hey, men do this and women do this, and men do this and women do this.” Now, somebody’s going to get offended by that. Now I say, “I do this and my wife does this.”
I wrote a joke yesterday, and my wife has always been the first line of defense, I walked in and I said, “Hey, is this funny?” And I told her the thing and she said, “It’s funny, but you probably can’t do it now. Somebody will be offended.”
I thought, it’s almost like trying to write with one hand behind your back. People have kind of forgotten how to laugh at themselves, which is part of the problem is we take ourselves way too seriously. I mean, we kind of live in a world where everybody is screaming for tolerance and diversity. But the minute somebody doesn’t think like you or vote like you, you crucify them, which is neither tolerant nor diverse. And it’s okay if we’re not all alike. In fact, it’s a lot more interesting that way. We need to get back to that.
I do have to wonder if I’m in a redneck joke right now because I’m talking to the world’s premier redneck comedian.
Maybe. I’m working on a bunch of new material for a new special in that I’m doing 2020 and I’m going around town doing a bunch of new material. And I had a guy come up Tuesday night after the show and he said, “Dude.” He said, “Me and my buddy drove by your house the other night and I was kind of disappointed you didn’t live in a trailer.”
I was like, “Well, isn’t the idea after 30 something years of busting your hump to maybe buy a house that’s not on wheels?” I started there. I mean, hopefully at some point I’ve graduated.
But I mean, he was kind of sad. He was like, “Oh, we were hoping you lived in a trailer.”
“I’m sorry. I have lived in a bunch of them.”
Have your kids got a funny bone as well?
My youngest one might be the funniest person I’ve ever known in my life, but she would never get on stage. She’s way too shy to get on stage. I do believe you’re either born funny or you’re not. She has been making us laugh since she was two years old. She’s just funny. But I talk to my mother and my mother’s like, “That’s you. That’s exactly what you did. You crossed every line, every boundary. You embarrassed us in public. But yes, that’s you. You were funny.”
I want to know which form of comedy is your favourite? Is it TV, movies, radio, book or live events?
I think I’m a bit of an anomaly. Most people get into standup because standup is a great springboard to get into TV or movies. And then once they get into TV or movies, they never go back and do standup. And while I’ve gotten to do a lot of TV and movies, without a doubt, standup is still my favorite. It wouldn’t even be close. If you said, “Hey, you got to pick one and you can never do another one.” It would be stand-up. I just still love the live show.
The traveling, the getting there gets a little harder the older you get, but that time when the lights go down and you walk on stage… I just like the live thing. I like looking in people’s faces. To me, to say something and you watch somebody laugh and then turn around and point at somebody else on their row. There’s just nothing like it. And there’s a few… Seinfeld’s like that, Leno’s like that. It’s adrenaline and you just get addicted to it. It’s like Leno always says, “We’re making people laugh. What else do you want to do?”
You’re coming to Windsor, Ontario this month, and I’m sure Canada is a great source for some redneck jokes, especially in the winter.
My definition, it’s a glorious absence of sophistication, and you certainly have people that fit into that profile. I love Canadian comedy audiences because you guys aren’t as uptight as American audiences. You’re a little more chill, and so you laugh a little more readily. I always get excited when I know that I’m going to Canada. I just have always loved doing shows there. I was talking to somebody not long ago about the Just For Laughs Festival and I’m like, “Yeah man, that thing is just insane.” I mean, I wish we had something like that in the US that celebrated comedy.
I know the Bible is an important part of your life. Are you a regular church guy?
I am. I’m on the weekends a lot, so it depends on what time I get home. It’s usually in the middle of the night, but I’ll watch it. I do a Bible study with homeless guys in downtown Atlanta every week. I mean, it’s just this idea that we’ve got a little out that’d be thankful for. And there’s got to be a reason that we’re here, and I don’t think it’s to yell and scream at each other. I think it’s to be kind and love on each other. I don’t stand on soapboxes and preach at people, but it’s the way I live my life, just hopefully by being kind and helpful to somebody that needs a little loving.
Would the Bible be one of those taboo subjects you’d never touch on?
I wouldn’t make fun of it, but, yeah, I remember years ago talking to Bill Hicks about it. He’s like, “So how did we go from Jesus on the cross to celebrating that by a rabbit bringing chocolate eggs to your house?”
And I’m like, “Yah, that’s kind of a big leap right there.” I mean, there’s interesting things about it, but everything I talk about… And I was very lucky as a comic because early on I found out what worked for me and that was, I just figured, “Hey, if I thought something or my wife said something or my family did something, I’m going to trust other people are thinking and saying and doing the same thing.”
Like one of the bits that I’m working on now is my father-in-law always harps about on how much better things were in the good old days. And I humor them and think, I think you’re remembering it a little too fondly. But then the comedian in me goes, “All right, let’s go look at this. How did they go to the bathroom in the good old days? How do we go now? How did they communicate with each other?” And then before I know it, I’m sitting there playing with it and I look down and go, “Dadgummit, I’ve got a 15-20 minute bid on the good old days.”
I love the game show that you hosted called the American Bible Challenge. I wish that never went away.
Me too. We were surprised because that was like the number one show on the Game Show Network. And the thing about it was, I think that it showed that you could have fun with this stuff and it could still be relevant. When they approached me and said, “Would you do a game show about the Bible?”
I said no at first. And I went away and thought about it and I went back and I said, “I’ll do it. But the people that win, they can’t keep the money. They got to take the money and do something kind for somebody else.” Because that’s biblical, you know? And “If we do it that way, if somebody went and helped somebody else, I’ll do the show.”
I really enjoyed it. I was shocked that it didn’t come back. But that’s been my life in TV is every time I think a show is going to keep going, it gets canceled. And every time I think it’s going to get canceled, they bring it back again. I know nothing about television.
Your humor is very simple but it’s very, very intelligent at the same time. Do you do a lot of research into it before you make it part of what you do?
My wife posted a picture for my Instagram a few months ago and it was me sitting at the kitchen table and I had stuff written on note cards, in notebooks, I had my laptop open. I had printed it out sheets where I’d cross stuff out and she said, “Here’s the side of this that nobody ever sees but me, is you sitting here trying to develop this and trimming all the fat and making sure that your facts are right.” I have a passion for it. And when you have a passion for it, you want to do it right. You don’t want to just go out there and half ass it. You want it to be good because people are paying money to hear you and you kind of owe them that.
Do you ever go back and look through some of those books from earlier in your career and think, “Hey, what was I doing here?”
Oh yeah, I have every notebook. I mean, I’ve just got piles and piles of notebooks. There’s times that I’ll go back and just be flipping through one and go, “Oh my gosh, that’s funny. Why didn’t I ever do that?” I mean, I’ve actually gone back and seen things and went, “I’m going to try this now.” And it may have been something that I didn’t know how to make funny at that point in my life, but since then I’ve learned how to make it funny.