Foxworthy takes the grandstand stage at The Great Frederick Fair at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19. Tickets are $53 reserved grandstand and $58 reserved track.
I recently talked by phone with Foxworthy, who is also the host of Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” from his home outside Atlanta on a day of media interviews for him.
Rednecks, he says, are everywhere and people everywhere are proud to call themselves rednecks. Foxworthy defines a redneck as someone who has “a glorious absence of sophistication, full time or part time. If you’re not, then there’s someone in your family or your friends who is,” he said.
His humor goes well beyond redneck jokes to explore the humor in everyday family interactions and human nature. “If it’s something my wife says or something my family does, if we’re doing it we’re not the only ones,” he said. “That worked for me.”
It sure has! He is the author of 26 books, including children’s books and multiple volumes of the “Redneck Dictionary,” and a series of annual redneck day-by-day calendars. Last year, he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame for his comedy records (he’s the largest-selling comedy-recording artist in history, a title his wife tells him he is likely to never lose since no one buys recordings anymore, he said).
He reunited with Bill Engvall (“Here’s your sign!”) and Larry (“Git ‘r Done!) the Cable Guy for the recent “Them Idiots Whirled Tour.” His current tour is with Larry and is called “We’ve Been Thinkin’ Tour.” The two buddies are also hosts of the SiriusXM Radio comedy channel “Jeff and Larry’s Comedy Roundup,” where the two yuk it up together and interview other comedians. Foxworthy said he is not only a comedian but is a fan of comedy.
“It’s us and a bunch of comedians doing standup,” he said. “Larry and I are doing the entertainment news you don’t hear every day, which means Larry is making it up. I do the redneck horoscope. It’s like a playground for us.”
Each host has a home studio so when they get an idea for the show, they make a phone call and schedule a taping time. “That means I never have to watch Larry eat, and that’s a blessing!” he said. “We’re buddies. We make each other laugh.”
There are schools for music and acting but no schools for comedy, he said. “Though we each have our own style, every comedian understands the trials another comedian is going through.”
As a kid, his comedy heroes included Flip Wilson, Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart.
For the show, “we spent an hour on the phone with Bob Newhart. I said to him you can get a laugh without saying anything! You just sit there and do that look,” which Newhart said is a schtick he “stole” from comedian Jack Benny.
Being the funny kid in school got Foxworthy more trips to the principal’s office than laughs, so being a comedian wasn’t even on his career radar. He worked for IBM, where his co-workers thought he was a hoot and entered him in a contest for working comedians at a local comedy club.
“I don’t know how to do (a comedy club routine)!” he told them. So he watched one show at the club, competed the next week and won. “Soon as I did that I knew comedy is what I wanted to do.”
Foxworthy, who just turned 58, has two daughters ages 23 and 21. The eldest is working on her master’s degree, his youngest is a little bit of a comedic impersonations, which, he says, is something he doesn’t do because, as he tells his daughter, “that can get you into trouble at school.”
One question he always likes to ask other comedians is if they think you can learn to be funny or you’re born funny. “I tend to think you’re born funny,” he said, explaining that his youngest daughter has been making he and his wife laugh since she was 2.
“I always felt I was lucky as a comedian because I found early on what worked for me,” Foxworthy said.
Foxworthy also hosted there seasons of “The American Bible Challenge,” among other shows, and for years has hosted a Bible study for homeless men, so keeping the comedy clean is important to him.
“It’s kind of a bizarre assumption that people want to hear (comedy laced with obscenities). You don’t understand,” he said in explanation, “people don’t talk that way. My family doesn’t talk that way. My friends don’t talk that way.”
Though politics are not part of his comedy, he did support candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections. Political humor, he said, always offends some of the audience.
“It’s way too early but it’s still kind of fascinating to watch,” he said of the current presidential race. “I do find politics interesting and relevant. Comics are usually pretty well informed people, it’s our job.”
He finds the Donald Trump bid “different. If you were a politician and said the things he does, you’d be gone,” Foxworthy said. “The things he is doing and saying, you should out of the race and the fact there’s Ben Carson who is diametrically opposite … it’s a little like a train wreck and you just can’t not watch.”
Foxworthy said if the comedy thing hadn’t worked out, he could have been a talk show host. “I love people and ask a lot of questions,” he said. But, then, his girls were little and a talk show host really doesn’t have a persona life, he said, so he didn’t pursue that route.
When he’s not performing comedy, Foxworthy is an avid hunter and angler. “Like most people who do those things I grew up in a family that introduced me to them,” he said. “I didn’t start to bow hunt until I was 50. My only regret is that I didn’t try it in my 20s. I love the challenge of it. Most of the time I’m not successful.” His contract used to have clause that said he would be off the entire month of November to pursue hunting. He has a website, foxworthyoutdoors.com, and a line of items that include grit chips (country-fried corn chips) and jerky.
Foxworthy also has a farm in Georgia, and that’s where he likes to spend time, even it’s just getting on the tractor and riding and working on the farm. “That’s kind of my escape.”
You can read more of my interview with Jeff Foxworthy in the Sept. 17 edition of 72 Hours, inside The Frederick News-Post.