By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Thursday, August 25, 2016
Alpharetta’s Jeff Foxworthy is a great stand-up comic but he is also a smart businessman who has been able to leverage his humor on multiple platforms beyond the live stage. Over the years, he has sold tens of millions of albums, CDs, “You Know You’re a Redneck” calendars, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” DVDs and books.
He and his pal Larry the Cable Guy recently launched a comedy channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio. And now he’s adding a Netflix special to his massive resume with Larry the Cable Guy called “We’ve Been Thinking.”
“I keep finding ways not to go away,” Foxworthy cracked in a recent interview.
He said Netflix approached him and Larry to tape a special.
Already, the two long-time friends had been collaborating on comedy pieces for Sirius/XM (“We spur new ideas from each other,” Foxworthy said) and their agent suggested they tour together. But Foxworthy said they chose to do smaller theaters rather than arenas. “Theaters are better comedy wise,” he said. “Arenas may be better financially but it’s not nearly as much fun.”
For the special, each comic does an individual set followed by a Q&A with both of them together on stools. “I was scared doing a Q&A but it’s worked out great,” he said. People would ask about Larry’s Prilosec ads and whether a full Blue Collar Comedy Tour would ever happen. (Foxworthy said it probably won’t since Ron White‘s more R-rated material doesn’t complement their more PG-oriented jokes). They’d ask them to do old bits.
“I often can’t remember,” he said, “so Larry would help me out. It’s like we know each other’s material better than our own!”
His modesty and gratitude about his skills and good fortune makes Foxworthy especially endearing: “We can still sell out places. Every night we get a standing ovation. I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!”
The Netflix special is not the entire concert, which was shot at the classic Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Foxworthy said he forced himself to watch himself and suggested edits. But he didn’t bother seeing the final cut.
“I can’t stand watching myself!” he said. “I’ve always been that way. When I taped ‘The Tonight Show,’ that night when I would come out, I’d walk out of the room. My wife would say, ‘Come watch! It’s funny!’ I’d say, ‘No. I can’t!’ ”
Rather than watch himself to learn whether something is funny, he merely learned on stage doing sets in small clubs. “I’m not an ego maniac,” he said. “The audience knows better than I do. Sometimes something I think is hilarious gets crickets. Then something I think isn’t all that great works great.”
He is scheduled to be on “The Tonight Show” on August 26 and host Jimmy Fallon asked him to do a few minutes of stand up. Although he has appeared many times on the show, he said he hasn’t done traditional jokes like that in 15 years. He said doing such a short set is a challenge. “I don’t even feel like I’m warmed up in five minutes.”
The last time he did Fallon, they dug up a photo of him circa the late 1980s with Johnny Carson laughing at something he said.
Foxworthy has kept it on his kitchen counter since he got it. “That’s a treasure,” he said. “I made him laugh! He’s like Caesar. You live or die. If you live, he waves you over and you get to sit on the couch. Or you walk back through the curtains with your head between your legs.”
He said he never knows who he might sit next to when he’s visiting the “Tonight Show.” One time many years ago, he said he was paired with Jamie Lee Curtis, who spent his entire interview with her legs draped over his knees. Though his wife didn’t appreciate it, his guy friends were impressed.
This time, he hears he’ll be playing beer pong with Fallon and Jessica Alba.
He also related the story about how he got his first book deal relating to his “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes. He said 14 publishers rejected him until Atlanta’s Longstreet Press gave him a chance. When they offered him $1,500 upfront, he misunderstood. At first, he thought they wanted him to shell out $1,500. The publisher told him if it sells 5,000 copies, it would be considered a success.
Instead, it sold four million copies. He remembered they had 28 printings in the first two years. That led to several other similar books over the next decade.
His CD sales are similar: tens of millions, the most of any comedian in history. Since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, he owns two of the top 3 best-selling comedy albums of that era.
And you might think he’s a redneck because his favorite activity to relax is watching “Duck Dynasty” reruns or fishing on a lake. Nope. He likes to go to his property south of Atlanta near Callaway Gardens, jump on a tractor and plow the fields. He recently spent 11 hours doing just that.
Sure, the tractor has air conditioning and a radio, but it’s a tractor nonetheless. “That’s my escape,” he said. “I actually feel like I accomplish something when I’m on a tractor.” His wife Pamela laughs, he said. She’d say “You hire someone to cut the grass in our little yard. But you go on a tractor and mow hayfields for hours and hours.” “It’s not the same thing,” he said. “I actually have fantasies of taking my plow and mowing the grass on the median on the highway.”
Foxworthy grows corn, soybeans and alfalafa. He hires folks to harvest and sell them. He doesn’t brand his veggies and sell them at a premium. But you can always buy a T-shirt:
Sample joke from the special: “Wal-Mart after midnight makes ‘The Walking Dead’ look like ‘America’s Next Top Model.’ ”
“Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy: We’ve Been Thinking,” available 3:01 a.m. EST, Friday, August 26, Netflix