Now we all know that when we hear a comedian say “I got a million of ’em, folks,” he probably doesn’t.
But Bill Engvall comes closer than most comics when claiming a huge backlog of jokes.
His “here’s your sign” routine has been so popular for the last two decades that he’s penned at least 300 of them, just to keep up with demand.
“I’ve got them written down somewhere, but I’m not sure I can find them all. There’s got to be 300 or so,” said Engvall. “Almost 90 percent of them are true, too. Either I heard it or somebody sent it to me.”
The “here’s your sign” routine is based on the idea that we all ask and hear stupid questions all day long. Engvall’s premise is that when somebody asks such a question, they should get a sign to wear that warns people they may ask a stupid question at any given moment.
For example, Engvall has a joke about a tractor-trailer truck stuck under a highway overpass, with the top of the truck wedged against the structure. Another driver stops and yells to the truck driver, “Did you get your truck stuck?”
“No,” answers the driver. “I was just delivering this overpass, and I ran out of gas.”
And then Engvall adds the tag: “Here’s your sign.”
Engvall, 56, became famous as part of the wave of “blue collar” comics that began with Jeff Foxworthy in the 1990s and includes Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White. He’ll be performing with Larry on Saturday at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor.
But Engvall’s comedy is not “redneck” humor like Foxworthy’s or character-driven like Larry’s. Engvall is more of a down-home, Texas-born version of Jerry Seinfeld. His humor is based on a skillful retelling of everyday observations.
While Seinfeld’s observations largely come from happenings in major cities, Engvall’s observations live out in the American Heartland.
“I think the biggest thing about blue-collar comedy is we’re all regular guys — at least, in our minds we’re regular guys,” said Engvall, who grew up in Texas and now lives in Los Angeles. “When you see us sitting up on stage together, we’re just guys having the times of our lives.”
Engvall never thought about being a performer while growing up — he wanted to be a baseball player. In fact, in recent years he’s written a blog for the L.A. Angels. But he knew his baseball ability wouldn’t take him very far, so he went to college to become a teacher.
“Teachers are entertainers in their own right,” said Engvall. “If you think about the teachers who made learning fun, those are the ones whose names you can remember.”
But in college, Engvall discovered “beer and girls” and didn’t do well academically. He was working in a Dallas nightclub when he decided to try some stand-up comedy at an open mic night. That decision eventually turned into a career that has lasted some 30 years.
In the early ’90s, Engvall started to become known nationally and landed a role on the ABC sitcom “Delta,” starring Delta Burke. Then he appeared with his friend Foxworthy on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” on NBC.
He began touring with the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” in 2000, which led to the WB network TV show “Blue Collar TV.” Then Engvall got his own sitcom, “The Bill Engvall Show,” which aired on TBS from 2007 to 2009.
Still, with all his success, Engvall says if he were given a choice between two more good years as a comic or one as a professional baseball player, he’d probably choose baseball.
“Or maybe golf, because I know I’m never gonna hit a 95 mile-per-hour fastball,” he said.
Maybe not — but as a comedian, he’s proven great at throwing curveballs.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: