INTERVIEW — Here’s Your Sign: Bill Engvall Gives His Two Cents on Stand-Up in Las Vegas
“I just hate stupid people. They should have to wear signs that just say, ‘I’m stupid.’”
So begins the signature bit of comedian and actor Bill Engvall, whose coined phrase, “Here’s your sign,” has been adopted by pop culture as an effective euphemism — a humorous way of saying the stupid should display conspicuous warning labels.
It’s that kind of easy-going humor that helped propel the affable and down-to-earth Engvall to stardom, having made himself a household name with his debut comedy album, Here’s Your Sign, which would hold the #1 position on the Billboard Comedy Chart for 15 straight weeks and become certified platinum.
It was a success that would not only be repeated — subsequent comedy albums would also debut at #1 on Billboard’s Comedy Chart — but expanded upon, with Engvall going on to become one of the members of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, a troupe that featured Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White.
The four good ole boys launched a comedy franchise that would include Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie, two sequels, CD albums, books, a Sirius Satellite Radio channel and a sketch comedy television series, Blue Collar TV.
Engvall would re-team with Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy for a spiritual sequel, Them Idiots Whirled Tour, a televised CMT special and album that would also see the #1 position on the Billboard Comedy Charts.
Engvall previously starred in and executive produced The Bill Engvall Show, the TBS sitcom that ran for 30 episodes across three seasons. (The show helped launch the career of future Academy Award winner and The Hunger Games and X-Men star Jennifer Lawrence).
Further television appearances include a starring role in the animated Bounty Hunters and guest spots on Family Guy and Last Man Standing, with Engvall serving as host on Country Fried Home Videos and later Lingo.
Last summer, Engvall launched his “My 2 Cents” podcast, with new episodes available every Wednesday. November saw the debut of Engvall’s most recent film, Wish for Christmas, as well as the release of his latest comedy special Just Sell Him For Parts to digital streaming service VUDU.
The Grammy nominated, multi-platinum selling recording artist is among the most recognizable names in stand-up comedy, and March will mark Engvall’s seventh time headlining the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Cam Bonomolo: Before you found your calling in stand-up comedy, you were working as a DJ and planned to become a teacher. What was it that made you try stand-up, and when did you know it was time to relocate to California?
Bill Engvall: When I was in college, I went with all good intentions, but I discovered women and beer and studies went out the window. So I moved back to Dallas, and they opened up a comedy club, and I went up one night basically on a dare, and I just sort of went with it. Worked that club for about two years honing my craft, and then we figured if we’re gonna do this, the place to be is L.A. So we loaded up a U-Haul and drove from Texas to L.A., and that was 35 years ago.
CB: You’ve released nearly a dozen comedy albums. What’s the key to never running out of material?
BE: Well, it’s getting harder and harder. [Laughs] When you first start, you got a well worth, a whole deep well of material and you’re just throwing it everywhere. And now after this long, you know, it’s getting a little tougher to come up with stuff because it has to meet certain criteria that I have. It has to be clean, it has to be funny, and it has to be relatable.
CB: How would you describe your stand-up act to people who are somehow unfamiliar with you as an entertainer?
BE: That’s a great question. I would say it’s like a 90 minute conversation. We just weave in and out of different subjects. I always tell people, I don’t want them to think they’re going to see a stand up comedian, but more it’s like we’re just kind of sitting around your breakfast table and I’m the funny guy doing the talking.
CB: You’ve performed both solo and as part of a troupe — what’s the biggest advantage in performing solo, and what’s the biggest advantage in performing with a group?
BE: Well, I guess performing solo, it’s because you get to stretch it out, you know, you get to do the full 90 minutes. The plus side with the group is that you have people to hang out with when you’re on the road. It can get pretty lonely out there.
CB: Besides performing, what’s your favorite thing to do when you come to Vegas?
BE: I love to play golf, if the weather’s nice. [Laughs] They’ve got some great golf courses there.
CB: This is your seventh year as a headliner at Treasure Island — do you prefer having a “home” theater in Las Vegas versus performing at a different casino/hotel each time you’re in Vegas?
BE: No, I like having a home theater, just because you get to know the people there and it’s always nice to see familiar faces when you come in. If you’ve got a new one every time you don’t understand how everything works. Yeah, TI has been great to me.
CB: As a veteran comedian and entertainer, what advice do you have for comics who want to be the next Bill Engvall?
BE: Listen, I think a huge part of my success is that I work clean. I always tell young comedians when I talk to them and they ask, I say, “You can talk about whatever you want, just do it in a clean way.” And my second piece of advice would be, the audience doesn’t really care what your political belief is so keep it at home — don’t put it on stage.
CB: Through your stand up comedy, especially with your participation in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and the subsequent Them Idiots Whirled Tour, audiences recognize you as a blue collar, down-to-earth guy. With all your success in the entertainment industry, what keeps you grounded?
BE: My family, my wife. Whenever I’m not on the road we try to maintain a very normal lifestyle, because this is all gonna go away, the showbiz life, at some point. And when it does you gotta be able to look in the mirror, and I feel like we’re at that point.
CB: Last summer you launched a podcast, “Bill Engvall’s My Two Cents.” How did the podcast come about? Was it born out of your experience hosting SiriusXM’s “Off the Cuff”?
BE: You know, the podcast is really fun for me, because — it probably kind of is like Off the Cuff — but when I do my show at TI, I’ve got an outline of what I want to do. But with my podcast I can talk about whatever I want. I can change subjects in the middle of a podcast. It’s been really fun, it’s been very well received. You can get it on PodcastOne or you can go to my website, BillEngvall.com, and download it.
CB: You’ve acted in film and television, headlined worldwide comedy tours, hosted a game show, performed hit singles and released hit comedy albums — with Here’s Your Sign going platinum and Dorkfish going gold. After accomplishing so much, what do you hope to do next?
BE: You know, I don’t know. I’d love to get another shot at television, do another sitcom, do more movies. We’ve been really lucky so far and you never really know what’s next.
CB: It was great talking with you, Bill. Good luck with the show!
BE: Thanks bud!
Bill Engvall performs March 10th at Treasure Island. Tickets start at only $59.95* (book early to Save 20%), and are on sale now at the TI Box Office. Premium seating is available for only $74.95*. This adult only show is for ages 16 and older. Tickets ar on-sale now at the TI Box Office, or to charge by phone with a major credit card, call the TI Box Office toll free at 1-866-712-9308 or direct 1-702-894-7722.