After the family sitcom The Bill Engvall Show premiered on cable’s TBS in July 2007, the network and the comedy’s cast and crew were no doubt thrilled about the popularity it quickly gained. The series is heading our way again this summer for a highly anticipated second season that starts on June 12, just a few weeks after the DVD set for the first season is released on May 20.
Comedy Centric recently received the opportunity to interview series star Bill Engvall, whom most fans probably know best through his standup comedy work and membership in the famed Blue Collar Comedy group. As the following Q&A reveals, the comedian-actor is understandably proud of his current TV show, especially its appeal to different age groups.
Read on to learn what’s happening with Engvall and his self-titled series, which also stars Nancy Travis (Becker, Almost Perfect), Jennifer Lawrence, Graham Patrick Martin, and Skyler Gisondo as his TV family, in addition to Steve Hytner (Roswell, Seinfeld) and Tim Meadows (Saturday Night Live) as his friends. There’s also an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip for the sitcom at the end.
You’re coming up now to Season Two of The Bill Engvall Show, which you co-created. How has the show evolved since it started?
Bill Engvall: Well, I think it’s longer and more refined. I think if you have a show for a while, it grows to be more in tune with what you want to do. We’ve taped three episodes so far, and they’ve been great.
There has been a bigger leap in focusing on family. Everyone, Nancy and the kids, have been growing into their roles. Everyone came back on set and got back into things instantly. It was very natural.
The new showrunner, Mark Crooners, he just “gets it.” When I get the scripts each Friday, I just laugh out loud reading them.
What is it like working with veteran actress Nancy Travis?
Bill Engvall: Oh, my God. It’s just a dream. We could not have found a better person. She gets the show, is a mom herself, and is just a phenomenal actress. I once told her, “You make me better than myself.”
Why did you want to do a relatively tame, family-oriented series like The Bill Engvall Show?
Bill Engvall: When I grew up watching TV, it was shows like Dick Van Dyke and The Brady Bunch, and then later when I was older, The Cosby Show. These shows are funny without the edgy language or weird storylines. I wanted to bring that back. I wanted families to watch it, and parents to let their kids watch the show without worrying.
I felt this need to get this family unit back together. With all the video games and computer stuff, a family gets a little splintered. If for thirty minutes they can watch the show together as a family, then I’ve done my job.
You’re no stranger to scripted TV shows, including sitcoms. How does it feel to be the headliner of a series, though — to have your name in large, brightly lit letters up on the marquee, so to speak?
Bill Engvall: Every day coming to work is a treat. I don’t live close to the studio, so it’s a long drive to the studio, but the traffic doesn’t bother me. I drive up, see my name is on the door and on the chairs…
I want to make this the most fun show to be a part of. Guest stars have come up to me to say how fun it was to work on the show. Some people work so long to get where they are, so I just don’t understand why, after they get to where they wanted, they are a jerk about it. [Amen to that!]
What is the main difference between working on a family-oriented TV series like The Bill Engvall Show and collaborating with your Blue Collar Comedy colleagues?
Bill Engvall: That’s a good question. I don’t think there’s much of a difference, really. Jeff Foxworthy and I made a strong stand with the show to be family-friendly. You know, kids, from a business perspective, they become fans for life.
But there’s nothing like being on stage and seeing families in the audience laughing together, and a little kid kicking his leg hysterically. I wanted to bring that to the show.
I’ve noticed that you have a *very* nicely designed new personal website (billengvall.com) — which includes a blog! How much direct influence have you had there, and what plans do you have for your blog?
Bill Engvall: Well, first off, thanks for such a nice compliment. I want to be more involved in the site. You know, for the blog, sometimes I’m driving and I come up with a bit that maybe wouldn’t work well in standup, but I could put it on the blog. I’d also like to be able to update fans about the show, for it to be a website that parents are ok to send their kids to.
Can fans expect something new Blue Collar Comedy-related in the near future?
Bill Engvall: Well, the tour is done, and it was a blast. I don’t think we will be touring anymore. But some day we’ll do a reunion tour. It was just too much fun, so we’ll go back some day.
Do you have any feature films or other entertainment projects in the works?
Bill Engvall: Yes, I actually just finished filming Bait Shop, a script I co-wrote a few years ago with Bear Aderhold (Delta Farce). It’s a movie about a bait shop owner who must compete in the annual Bass Tournament or lose his shop.
I’m in the movie with Billy Ray Cyrus, [whose] character Hot Rod is a lot like Bill Murray [who played Ernie McCracken] in Kingpin. He’s a real big-headed, seedy guy. It’s also a family-rated comedy.
Do you know when the movie will come out?
Bill Engvall: I think sometime in late summer, but it will go straight to DVD. I don’t think theaters.
Great. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me! Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Bill Engvall: No, it was great talking with you, too. Thanks for helping me spread the word about family-centric comedy.
Bill Engvall is incredibly down-to-earth, and he seems like an entertainer his fans would really enjoy hanging out with. Thanks to Arieanna Schweber and Molly Birckhead at Warner Bros. for making this interview possible.
The Bill Engvall Show Behind-the-Scenes Clip
The Bill Engvall Show Behind-the-Scenes Clip