Blue Collar comedian, Dancing With the Stars contestant Bill Engvall comes to Strathmore -- Gazette.Net


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Bill Engvall is a man of many talents. He’s a successful comedian, a loving husband and a doting father. Engvall, however, is not known for his dancing prowess.

So why did the 56-year-old entertainer decide to join a TV show such as “Dancing With the Stars?”

Bill Engvall

When: 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda

Tickets: $28-$68

For information: 301-581-5200; strathmore.org

“I don’t know,” Engvall said. “You know what, I joke about it but I do know. When they called and asked me I actually said, ‘Let me think about it for a day.’ I thought, you know, this is something that I’ve never done before and I probably won’t have a shot to do this again. I always like to try things that I haven’t tried before to prove to myself that I could do it.”

Engvall is still dancing on the show, but he’ll take time away from the dance floor to bring his standup routine to Strathmore for two shows on Sunday.

“I don’t know how long this will last,” Engvall said. “If I get bumped on the first night of elimination, I was proud of what we did. I don’t think anybody expected anything out of us.”

Engvall avoided elimination the first night — former NFL wideout Keyshawn Johnson was kicked off the show — but he’s under no illusions about his time on the show and knows he’ll eventually be done.

“[I don’t worry about it] because I know my life’s not going to change,” Engvall said. “... If I do get bumped, what’s the downside for me? I get to continue doing what I was doing, which is a great career doing standup and acting.

“If I get to keep going, it’s a great weight-loss program!”

Engvall is quick to point out he’s not doing the show for the money or the silver disco ball trophy the winner of “Dancing With the Stars” receives.

“It was just something I wanted to see if I could do,” Engvall said. “And obviously, for my partner Emma [Slater], I’d like for us to go as far as we can. I understand, though, that this is a tough crowd this year. There are three or four celebrities on this show who have danced professionally. I’m under no pretense that I’m one of these great dancers. I think I did a very reputable job — I didn’t embarrass myself. I’m probably the least known of anyone in this group.”

While it’s true this year’s “Dancing With the Stars” group is filled with celebrities such as Elizabeth Berkley (“Saved By The Bell,” “Showgirls”), Valerie Harper (“Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Amber Riley (“Glee”) and even Bill Nye (yep, they even got the Science Guy), Engvall’s status as a star was never in question.

Best known for his work partnering with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White, Engvall spent six years touring as part of the Blue Collar Comedy gang. The group was responsible for several DVDs, a television show on Comedy Central and a satellite radio show. The group reached out to millions and sold out auditoriums everywhere they went.

Be that as it may, the guys are all doing their own things now. Foxworthy has hosted several TV shows, Larry the Cable Guy does commercials and was the voice of Mater in Disney/Pixar’s “Cars,” and White is a New York Times best seller and created his own record label.

Engvall admits the chances of the guys doing a Blue Collar tour again is slim to none.

“I think [it’s over] and I say that in a positive way,” Engvall said. “We went out on top. You don’t want to go back out — and I think that’s where some artists make the mistake — you don’t want to go to a city that you sold 8,000 tickets and all of a sudden you’re selling 2,000 or 1,000. Unfortunately with comedy, nobody assumes you’ve written anything new, so it’d be like ‘Oh, we saw him last time. We probably won’t see him again.’ Why even put yourself in that position?

“It was a wonderful run while it lasted. It is literally the reason why if I wanted to retire tomorrow I could. I made great friendships with the guys — we were already friends, but we became just like brothers. Everybody’s got their own project now and they’re doing stuff. Listen, if they decided they wanted to get back in, would I be in? You betcha. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.”

Before the Blue Collar tour, Engvall reached celebrity status as a comedian with his “Here’s Your Sign” routine. Much like Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck If …” bit, Engvall made it easy to laugh at the stupidity of others. Still, he doesn’t get bothered by fans who constantly say to him, “Here’s your sign!”

“The honest answer is no,” Engvall said when asked if he grew tired of it. “You know why? That’s what got me … to come into Maryland and do a show. It takes two seconds out of my life. I don’t say this as an artist [being interviewed], it’s that I’ve never understood why people get in this business and turn into jackasses. I don’t get it. I always say if you want people to stop acting that way, stop asking them for their autograph. Stop buying their records. Stop going to their movies. I guarantee you they’ll change. When they go, “What’s wrong? Why aren’t people going to my movies?” Well, it’s because you’re a jackass, man.

“This isn’t going to go on forever. I’m under no guise that this will last. It’s already lasted 25 years longer than I thought it would. When it does [end], I don’t want to leave this business with people saying, “Man, he was a jerk!” I want them to say, ‘You know, he was always nice to me. He always signed something for me. Or if I wanted to say hi or take a picture, he did it.’ That’s the legacy I want to leave behind.”

Until that day comes, though, Engvall still has comedy and he’s still dancing with an incredibly attractive partner. Luckily for Engvall, his wife Gail doesn’t mind.

“Gail and I have been married for 30 years,” Engvall said. “She also knows that I’ve got 32 years on Emma. It’s not even sexual. It’s like dancing with my daughter. I would be like that creepy guy where you’d go, ‘Oh my god!’ I love Gail — she’s been with me from Day 1 of this career and I’m sure not going to throw all this away just because of one little cute girl that I dance with.”

Engvall does have some words of advice to younger guys out there: If you think girls won’t go out with you because you dance — here’s your sign.

“I was telling my kids the other day, if I knew then what I know now, I’d be in a dance class every day,” Engvall said. “Girls love guys who can dance. I was always the guy who was like, ‘Oh, guy dancing, that’s sissy, whatever.’ I’m going to tell you right now — guys that can dance see girls you and I don’t see. I tell every young guy out there to get in a dance class.

“It’ll get you further than a six-pack of beer.”

wfranklin@gazette.net