Bill Engvall brings the laughs at stand-up shows in Victoria

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.

Bill Engvall

Bill Engvall

Galveston native Bill Engvall is returning to the Lone Star state for one show and, hopefully, a visit to his ranch in Seguin.

The laid-back comedian will be at the Victoria Fine Arts Center for two shows Thursday before jetting off to Michigan and Florida for the first of many busy weekends to come. While his day was beginning in sunny Los Angeles, he talked to Get Out about his upcoming tour and a few other things he's been spending his time on.

You've been in the comedy scene for quite some time now. What was your first experience like?

I did my first comedy show in college, and it was more of a spoof kind of thing. But the first comedy club I went up to was in Dallas, and we went to just watch an amateur night. After a few rounds of liquor went through us, my friends talked me into getting on stage. I got up there and did some jokes about the Valley, local jokes that people would know, and I was hooked. I thought this was the coolest thing ever.

When your career evolved to include acting, was that a surprise to you?

I had always wanted to be an actor, I didn't think that comedy would get me there. When I was a little kid, my dad used to take me to the drive-ins, and we'd watch John Wayne movies.

I always wanted to be an actor, but when you live in a little Texas town, you don't tell your dad you want to be an actor - not back in the '50s or '60s. Plus, I was just an idiot. I just thought that if you want to be an actor you just called yourself an actor. I didn't know you had to go to class and do this and learn.

When we first moved to L.A., I got my first audition. It was horrible. My wife talked me into going to acting classes, and that was originally what I wanted to do. When all that started happening, I got really jazzed and really dove head first into it.

Who were your role models growing up?

I had big role models - Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, George Carlin. And you know, the thing with comedy was that you didn't want to imitate them because then they'll say well, we've already got a Bob Newhart.

But I would say it was mostly Cosby and Newhart. I looked at them and thought, they've worked a long time - and Bill is still working - and I said, what was the common denominator, and it was that they were clean and relatable. That's what I try to tell young comedians. I got passed over for a lot of HBO one-night stands because they said I wasn't edgy enough, but here we are talking, and I've been doing it for over 35 years now.

I think the audience appreciates a cleaner show. I'm not saying I'm "Disney On Ice." I'm not saying that at all. But if I say to my audience that my wife and I were getting a little romantic, I don't have to go over the graphic details, which some comics do.

Give your audience credit - they're smarter than you think. I love a good dirty joke just as much as the next person, but I don't want to sit there with my wife or my girlfriend for an hour and a half going, "Did you need to explain that to me?"

Is there much of a difference between your stand-up work and your acting on screen?

There is a huge difference - you have to listen. You have to listen to what the other actor is saying, and you have to take words that are not yours and make them sound like you and make them sound conversational. With stand up, you're doing all the talking. I think that's why you don't see a lot of comedians become really good actors because they don't know how to listen.

What's been your favorite role to play so far?

I think it would be the role I played on "Leverage" because it was a dramatic role. It was something people weren't used to seeing me do. Everyone is used to seeing me be the comedy dad or the jokester, so when I got to play the bad guy, it was really fun for me. I worked very hard at it.

Any other roles like this coming up?

I would love to have another dramatic role coming up, and we're writing one right now to sell to TNT, but it's still in the infancy stages.

What other projects have you been working on?

Jeff (Foxworthy) and Larry (the Cable Guy) and I have an animated show coming up this summer on CMT called "Bounty Hunters." I just shot a pilot that I was hoping was going to go, but now it doesn't look like it's going to. ... It was a really great cast and a really fun show. But other than that, just kinda hanging out and waiting for stuff. There's talks about another game show, and I guess as long as people are talking about you, I guess it's good. But I still love my stand-up.

What's it like being the voice of an animated show?

It's called "Bounty Hunters," and we basically play three bounty hunters, and Lisa Lampanelli is our boss. We're just kinda bumbling idiots but somehow get the job done, and it's been really fun doing a cartoon. I had done a couple of voice-overs for "Family Guy" and "American Dad," but when you're doing a full episode, it really is a lot more fun. I think it'll air late July, but I am sure there will a bunch of ads on CMT about it.

I read somewhere about plans for building a Blue Collar Country theme park. Tell me a little bit about it. Fact of fiction?

Oh, yeah. That's just one of those things. Basically, what it is: There are those people where that's what they do - they build these things. It's not like a Six Flags or anything like that, but it would be like a convention area with hotels, restaurants, shops and stuff like that. They wanted us to put our names on it, but it's not like we're throwing our money in it. They're just wanting our names on it. Everyone has gotten a hold of that and just ran like crazy.

We'll see if it even works out. It's a pretty big venture.

What will the show at the Victoria Fine Arts Center be like?

This show I'm bringing to Victoria has a lot to do with me getting older and the issues that come with that, and I'm not handling it that very well. The idea that I carded the other day just to see if I could get a discount was a little depressing. And when I speak to young ladies ... there was a young lady one time, she came up to me, and she was giddy, and I thought, "Oh, this is really cool." And she goes, "My dad loves you." And then I'm like, "Oh."

We'll do some "Here's Your Sign" stuff and talk a little about what my wife has got going on, and it's really a fun show. I am really enjoying this one.

Are you excited to be back in Texas? Is there anything you're really looking forward to while you're here?

Coming to Victoria, that's going to be just a blast. It's always fun for me to come home to Texas, too. I was going to try and get to my ranch in Seguin. It's about an hour from there, but I don't know if I'll be able to or not. I gotta tell you, it's weird being from Texas - it's not weird, its really cool. The fact that I've made it to this celebrity level, if you will, and being from Texas - that means a lot to me. There's just a handful of people who are from Texas that people know about, and it's nice to be one of those.

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