Friday August 3, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Nobody is more surprised at how far Bill Engvall's star has risen than Bill Engvall.

He still considers himself just a normal kid from Galveston with a sense of humor.

But his sense of humor eventually became part of the biggest comedy show of all time -- the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Shows on the tour were chronically sold out. It drew 18,000 to one show in Nashville, one of the biggest-ever live stand-up comedy performances. Oh, and Blue Collar Comedy was also a television show and generated two movies.

And his signature joke, the "Here's Your Sign" routine, has grown into a cultural icon.

But when he started doing stand-up on a lark in Dallas in the early 1980s, he told the Berkshire Eagle during a phone interview from his home in Utah, "nobody had any idea it would turn into this."

Engvall brings his solo stand-up comedy show to the Colonial Theatre for a double-header -- one show at 7:30 p.m. and another at 9:30 p.m. -- on Saturday.

The Blue Collar Comedy tour, Engvall noted, "was just the perfect mix of guys, a perfect storm. I had some of the most fun of my life with that."

Starring in the show with him were fellow comics Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White. And as the popularity of the show grew, the four friends became more surprised at the reaction.

"It was intense," Engvall said.


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"There were Blue Collar Comedy dolls, for God's sake."

Through it all, he seems to keep busy.

Aside from hauling his solo stand-up show around the country for more than 30 years -- he said he still books 60 to 80 a year -- Engvall found the time to appear in several movies and television specials, starred in two television series, has released several records and written several books, including his 2007 autobiography, "Bill Engvall -- Just a Normal Guy."

Back in the ‘80s, when he first started touring comedy clubs along with dozens of other young comics from around the country, it was sort of a rough routine. The pay was mediocre, he lived in hotel rooms and was passing through a different town every week.

"At the time we were like road warriors," Engvall said. "Staying in hotels and traveling every week -- it's hard."

Back then, when his kids were toddlers, his jokes revolved around raising children and young parenthood. Today, his material has veered into the neighborhood of getting older, what life is like with the kids grown and out of the house, and getting to know his wife again.

Engvall recalls he was a little jarred when he turned 55 last week and realized he qualifies for a senior discount in some places.

"But I was still fine with it until I found out I now qualify for the senior open at our country club," he said.

And throughout his career, he has been able to address adult themes, but in a way that doesn't involve ‘blue' language, or terminology some might find offensive.

"I learned a long time ago you can talk about anything you want, you just don't have to be graphic about it," Engvall said. "So you're not gonna have to explain something to your kids after my show."

Something else he's noticed -- his audiences have started growing younger because their parents had shared their enjoyment of Engvall's humor.

"We're seeing teens and young parents now, along with folks closer to my age," Engvall noted.

And after 31 years on the road, this veteran "road warrior" still happily carries the load.

"I still love it," he said, "When you're on stage, there is nothing better. Nothing."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford