Friday, July 12, 2013

5Qs on Friday: Jeff Foxworthy

Jeff Foxworthy Joins Voices with Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall

For a guy who once seemed destined to be "the comic who told redneck jokes," Jeff Foxworthy sure is on fire two decades after bursting onto the Hollywood scene.

The Georgia-based comedian and all-around nice guy is host of GSN's recently renewed game show The American Bible Challenge. He just wrapped the first season of CBS's The American Baking Competition and he's the voice of Handy Smurf in The Smurfs 2, which opens later this month.

As if that weren't enough, Jeff and his Blue Collar buddies Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall are executive producers and stars of CMT's first-ever animated series, Bounty Hunters (Saturday, 10pm).

Jeff spoke with TVFirstLook about Bounty Hunters, being the adult in the room and hoping with the rest of us for Baking season two.

TVFirstLook: OK, the first episode of Bounty Hunters is really funny. How'd you get involved with this show?

Jeff Foxworthy: CMT came to me and asked if I'd be interested in doing an animated show with Bill and Larry. My first thought was, Larry's movies. I thought, "Oh, no." The best line from Larry's Comedy Central roast was when Gary Busey said, "The only way Larry's DVDs fly off the shelf is if a tornado hits a Walmart."

But what made the Blue Collar tour work is that we like each other. We're friends. When CMT sent me the scripts, I thought, "Wow, they captured our voices and personalities."

I'd always say on the Blue Collar tour that I'm the dad. Any time that I'm the most responsible adult in a room, that should be a red flag. Larry is just Larry. There is no filter on what he says. Larry and I have always called Bill the golden retriever of comedy. He is the most excitable of all of us, but he also gets his feelings hurt the easiest.

The fact that [on the show] Lisa Lampanelli doles out our assignments and has a big crush on Bill makes me laugh. In real life that would make Bill so uncomfortable.

TVFirstLook: What's it like to voice an animated character?

Jeff: It's like doing radio. When you do standup, you have the advantage of nuance. You can do a pause or raise an eyebrow. In voiceover, you have to work harder to make that come through.

It never dawned on me that I have a recognizable voice. To me, it's just my voice. But out in life, if I have a hat on or something, all I have to do is ask a question and people turn around and say, "Oh."

The way we do this show is we're not in the same studio. Bill is in California. Larry is in Nebraska and I'm in Georgia. We just know each other so well that I just voice their characters when I do it. I know these guys so well. We have been laughing at each other for almost 30 years.

TVFirstLook: Well, that's amazing because the show came together really well. What did you think when you first saw it?

Jeff: I was pleasantly surprised. I don't like watching myself. I don't think a lot of people do. But I watched it and told my wife, "That's funny. They pulled it off."

TVFirstLook: OK, switching gears. You're on fire. How do you do it all?

Jeff: I am so lucky. I love what I do. A lot of people get into standup as a stepping stone to acting. There's nothing wrong with that. But for me, my only goal was to get on Johnny Carson.

I never thought about these other possibilities. After the Blue Collar tour, I did the sitcom, which was probably the least enjoyable thing I did over the years. I had to play me the way someone else thought of me.

Then, I did Blue Collar TV, which was fun because that was sketch. Then Mark Burnett called and asked if I wanted to host a game show (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?). I had never thought of that as a possibility. But then I realized I could still be funny. I liked doing it.

Out of that came The American Bible Challenge and The American Baking Competition. I had a ball doing that. Life's good.

TVFirstLook: OK, last thing. Will there be more seasons of Bible and Baking?

Jeff: Bible Challenge announced this week that we'll start another season this fall.

Baking just had its finale. It's one of those shows that, week after week, people became addicted to it. When CBS originally called me about hosting it, I laughed. I don't know anything about baking.

But they asked me to watch the British version and my wife said, "I'd watch this every week." I think that's what happened with the American version. People became invested in the show and the contestants.

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