Comedian, television and radio personality, and author, Jeff Foxworthy entered the world of comedy on his own terms and wrote his own set of rules. In a business where brash humor sells, Foxworthy’s brand not only makes you laugh right out of your seat but it has heart. It’s because of his ability to relate to his audience, that he is the best-selling comedy recording artist of all time.
Diana Falzone: You’ve accomplished more than some people do in several lives. Were you always an over-achiever?
Jeff Foxworthy: I don't know. I always believed in setting the bar high. When I started comedy everybody said that it would take ten years on the road to be good enough to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I set my goal to do it in five years. I missed it by one month! I think if you don't push yourself you never find out what your limits are. I have accomplished a lot of things just because I had the courage to hold my nose and jump.
Falzone: When did you first realize you had a knack for comedy?
Foxworthy: At an early age. I attended six different elementary schools, so I was always the new kid. I learned it was easy to make new friends if you could make people laugh. I spent a lot of my allowance on comedy records. I would memorize them and then go to school and do them. The best note I ever got backstage was from my high school principal. it said, "I cannot believe I am shelling out money to listen to the same kind of stuff I used to put a stop to!" I framed it and put it in my office.
Falzone: Did your parents encourage you or advise you to get a “real job?”
Foxworthy: Well I had a good job. I worked for IBM. I carried a tool bag and fixed mainframe computers. I quit that job to try comedy. My mother asked, "Are you on drugs?! What is wrong with you? We can get you help! Five years later I am on The Tonight Show and she actually had the gall to say, "You know, you wasted all those years at IBM."
Falzone: How did you manage to keep your comedy act clean in a business where comics are usually brash and crude?
Foxworthy: It's all a personal choice. Bill Cosby was my favorite comedian when I was a kid and he could be funny without being dirty. Jay Leno said to me in the first year I was on the road, "If you work clean, you will always work." What he meant was that you wouldn't have to change your act to do television or a show for a convention or corporation. He was right. There are very few comics that can do big corporate gigs.
Falzone: Does it ever get old when people come up and say, “You might be a redneck?’
Foxworthy: Well, it's better than them coming up and saying, "Hey man, your pants are unzipped." Seriously I'm just glad they remembered something. Though these days I get a lot of, "I'm not smarter than a 5th grader!" To which I reply, "Neither am I! If they didn't give me the answers that would be the shortest show on television."
Falzone: How did you come to form the highly successful Blue Collar Comedy Tour?
Foxworthy: The week the Kings of Comedy Tour came out I was reading an article about it and it said that it was a show for the urban, hip audience. I called Bill Engvall and said, "This is leaving a lot of people out! I know a few million people that aren't urban or hip." So we gathered up Larry the Cable guy and Ron White and started planning shows. I don't think any of us had any idea how big it would become. We were just having fun.
Falzone: Why did you get involved with the USO?
Foxworthy: I have been to enough Military bases and hospitals to get a real glimpse of the courage, sacrifice and dedication it takes to serve one's country. I figured if they were willing to put their lives on the line so we could live free it only made sense to give back when I had a chance. It's an honor really.
Falzone: Do you have any advice for soldiers that want to try their hand at comedy?
Foxworthy: It is probably a little like combat. When it goes bad, it goes bad in a hurry. I think comedy is based out of pain and struggle so career as a soldier might actually be a great starting point. Laughter is the release valve that keeps the boiler from exploding.
Falzone: You and wife have been married since 1985, what is the secret to wedded bliss?
Foxworthy: Learning to say, "Yes dear, you're right dear."