The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 18, 2014

Sign of success: Catchphrase triggered a high climb for comedian Bill Engvall

JOPLIN, Mo. — Born on July 27, Bill Engvall's sign is Leo. But a catchphrase based on a different kind of sign turned out to be a go sign for his career. The comedian has risen from stand-up comedy to starring in and producing his own sitcom and being featured on "Dancing with the Stars."

He'll bring his brand of savvy country comedy to Downstream Casino on Saturday night.

Engvall got his big break in comedy in 1992 when, after winning Best Male Stand-up Comic at the American Comedy Awards, he landed a role in the ABC sitcom "Delta," starring Delta Burke. That show lasted only one season, so Engvall returned to the road.

He was also featured on comedy specials alongside Rosie O'Donnell and made appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night with David Letterman."

In 1996, he was cast on an NBC show starring his friend, Jeff Foxworthy. That positioned him for his first album release, based on a comedy routine about how stupid people should wear signs. That bit started the catchphrase, "Here's your sign."

The album went platinum and held Billboard's No. 1 spot for comedy for 15 straight weeks, according to a bio on Engvall's website. A single based on the catchphrase, which featured Travis Tritt, helped fuel album sales.

Engvall, Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy reached new heights in 2000 with the start of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which spawned three concert films and a sketch comedy show on the WB Network. The specials redefined a new kind of country comic Ñ instead of playing and overacting stereotypes, Engvall stuck with identifiable, everyday situations and commentaries.

The presentation identifies more with storytellers such as Bill Cosby, he said.

"I think he is the reason I try to do my show the way I do," Engvall told Mary Ellen Fillo with the Hartford Courant. "The show is about stuff we have all done and basically about life. I am not the guy wearing overalls and chewing a piece of grass. I am a husband and a father, and there's funny in all of that."

Engvall has released nine comedy albums in his career and has been featured in several specials on Comedy Central, including 2009's "Aged and Confused."

In addition, he starred in and executive produced a self-titled sitcom for TBS, voiced a character on the animated show "Bounty Hunters" on CMT, narrated a documentary about Darrell Waltrip for Speed Channel and has been featured in movies alongside Billy Ray Cyrus, Christina Ricci and Dean Cain. He also reunited with Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy for a CMT special in 2012.

Last year, he was one of the featured stars on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." With partner Emma Slater, he finished as a finalist.

Want to go?

Bill Engvall will perform two shows Saturday at Downstream Casino.  Showtimes are at 5 and 8 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $75.

Details: 918-919-6000.

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