|Bill Engvall is happy to have his own sitcom after leaving his buddies on ''Blue Collar.''|
To you, "The Bill Engvall Show" may be just another family sitcom. To Bill Engvall, it means the world. Sure, Engvall has seen unprecedented success as part of the "Blue Collar Comedy" tours and DVDs with Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, and Larry the Cable Guy. Fans spout his catchphrase, "Here's your sign," from his gold- and platinum-selling albums, and his punch lines about stupid people (a gas-station-attendant asks if he has a flat, and Engvall replies, "Nope, I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on me"). But times weren't always so good. He nearly quit comedy in the early '90s and admits he didn't enjoy the "Blue Collar" tours as much as he should have because he was too competitive with the other comedians. Getting ready to tape the third season of his sitcom, he finally feels he can stand on his own. We spoke with him by phone last week.
Q. Was it hard putting together "The Bill Engvall Show" when the family sitcom is kind of extinct?
A. You know what was hardest for me? . . . This was the first big thing I'd done outside "Blue Collar" that was on my own, that wasn't with the guys. And that was a big deal to me, because I always thought "Blue Collar" was great, that's one of the greatest things I've ever been a part of. But "Blue Collar" was like being married to a rich girl. It was wonderful, but after a while, you want to show people you can earn a living on your own.
Q. Did you ever feel you were painting yourself into a corner, creatively?
A. "Blue Collar" you worry a little bit about. But if you think about it, of the four, I was the least, for lack of a better term, "rednecky." Larry was the caricature, Jeff was the redneck guy. And Ron . . . had his own swaggering, drinking, party guy character. So I really was just "Bill." Listen, that was the beauty of "Blue Collar," was that it pulled people from all walks of life in. We had doctors, lawyers, plumbers, sheet rock hangers. . . . I remember we were going into Boston and everybody was kind of worrying about it and that show sold out.
Q. What do you consider your first breakthrough?
A. When I got on "Star Search" and lost in the first round.
NICK A. ZAINO III