Interview with a Redneck: Jeff Foxworthy

Foxworthy speaks with Connect about his new book, comedy tour, family life, 'Shark Tank' and aliens.

By Heatheraine Trim


    Are you smarter than a fifth grade comedian/game show host/kid’s book writer? Jeff Foxworthy has been entertaining us since the early nineties and is renowned for his “You might be a redneck” jokes. He has hosted a successful game show, started his second comedy tour, written several books and recently has released his third … yes, count ‘em … third children’s book called, "Hide!!!"
    We spoke with Foxworthy last week about his new book and a bunch of other crazy things while he was at his Atlanta home. Here’s what he had to say:

Connect Statesboro: You’ve written plenty of books from cookbooks to redoing your trailer. What got you started with writing children’s books?
Jeff Foxworthy:
Probably like everyone on the planet, I always felt like I had a children’s book in me. When my girls were little, I would always make up silly little rhymes. Then when I started hosting “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” suddenly every kid knew who I was. My daughters said, “If you were ever going to write a kids book, now’s the time.”

CS: Where’d you come up with the idea for your new children’s book: "Hide!!!"
JF:
Even in this age of technology, I’ve never met a kid that didn’t like hide-and-seek. I decided to do a story about a giant neighborhood game of hide-and-seek, but the reader has to find the kid who was hiding. And the illustrator suggested we take it a step further and hide other things within the picture to find.

CS: Did you intend it to be a redneck neighborhood with all the stuff in the yards?
JF:
Here’s the challenge with this one, I couldn’t have the children hiding where I did when I was a child — on the roof or under the car. Because then if someone reads it, then does it, they could fall off the roof and break their neck! So then it became a challenge.

CS: Will there be a redneck-vampire book?
JF:
{Laughs} I haven’t really thought about that! But the idea of it is making me laugh, and I’m writing that down right now!

CS: Are your girls involved in your writing?
JF:
When "Hide!!!" was finished I read it with my youngest, and we made a contest of finding the things in the pictures. She said, “This is the best one yet.”

CS: What’s life like with daughters?
JF:
They’re teenagers now. My youngest is a sophomore in high school and my oldest is a Freshman in college. So it’s pretty much my job to embarrass them. My youngest has informed me that I was no longer allowed to sing along to the radio in the car if she had friends with her. I picked her up at school one day, and she had two or three friends in the back and I wasn’t singing, but I must have been bobbing my head or drumming on the dash. I look over and she’s giving me the look. So when we got in the neighborhood at the stop sign, I actually put the car in park and got out and danced in the intersection. I said, “If you give me the look. I will take your level of embarrassment up three notches.”

CS: What’s up with the new comedy tour?
JF:
Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy and I hadn’t been on stage in three years together and we were missing it. Ron didn’t want to do it. Ron’s like, “It’s too hard to write clean material.” But Bill, Larry and I wrote all new material. We can’t call it "Blue Collar" because Ron’s not there, so we’re calling it "Them Idiots." Come and see "Them Idiots!"
    My fear always was, with comedy, I didn’t want to stay at the dance too long. I didn’t want to be that old guy that people are going, “Oh, remember when he used to be funny.” So after 26 years it’s nice to be out there doing new stuff, people are still showing up and they’re still laughing.

CS: You’re joining ABC’s entrepreneurial show, Shark Tank?
JF:
Yes, I feel like that bit on Sesame Street, “one of these things, is not like the other.” Mark Burnett, the producer of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” also produces “Shark Tank,” said “You would be a fun addition to this because you’re more of a nice guy and more lighthearted.” I’ve already filmed a few and it was fun. That’s what the world runs on is ideas — and to see people who have a great idea but don’t have the capital to see it through or don’t have the connections.

CS: Are you one of the "Sharks" in on the bidding?
JF:
Yes, I’m one of the sharks. The others are all giving them these intimidating faces and I’m just sitting there smiling. There was a couple I was interested in and then a few that were just ridiculous but that makes for good television. Like when we get someone on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” who is dumber than a bag of hammers, then that’s good TV too.

CS: Is it true you were trying to buy land near Statesboro, a few years ago on the Ogeechee River?
JF:
I have a farm around Calloway Garden, about an hour south of the [Atlanta] airport. That’s the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life. That’s kind of my escape, to run down and get on a tractor. In fact, last year Mark Burnett called me while I was out mowing a field. So when I answered the phone, it was so loud, I was yelling, “Hold on, I’m on the tractor, hold on!” I finally got it turned off and he goes, “This redneck stuff really isn’t a joke, is it?” He said, “In all my years in Hollywood, I’ve never had someone yelling, ‘Hold on I’m on the tractor!’ ”

CS: What’s your favorite part of being an entertainer?
JF:
I’ve been chairman of the Duke Children’s Hospital’s fund raising for 14 years and been involved with Camp Sunshine (the camp for the kids with cancer) for 20 years. I think it’s being able to walk into somebody’s hospital room and make their day. It never occurred to me all the years of doing stand-up that there was a benefit to it, outside of the moment that I was doing it.

CS: Aliens arrive and the president asks you to tell them one joke, what would it be?
JF:
If the UFO hotline limits you to one call per day, you might be a redneck.
    One of the things I don’t know was why only rednecks see UFOs. I think it’s because if they are aliens and don’t want people to know they’re visiting, who better to reveal yourself to than rednecks, because we have no credibility with the media.
    People might believe a scientist that says, “They appear to be bipods from a nitrogen and hydrogen-based environment, whose primary respiratory organs were located within their moist translucent skin.”
    As opposed to Cletus in his overalls going, “It looked like a giant booger with real skinny legs!”

ABOUT THE BOOK:


"Hide!!!" by Jeff Foxworthy is a fun little story about a neighborhood game of hide-and-seek, with a twist of finding items hidden in the illustrations. I gave it to my five children to read and decide if it’s “cool” or not.

On each page there is a clever rhyme about a child hiding, you must find the child on the page and a few other things like: one raccoon, two spoons, etc. Eventually, all of my children were fighting over who would find the next item — which means it was a hit.

The illustrations are engaging, colorful scenes from a redneck neighborhood complete with broken down trucks, laundry on the line, un-mowed grass and more.

Intended for ages 4-8, Foxworthy said that at a dinner party, he caught his guests having a great time searching for the items hidden on the pages. "Hide!!!" is an interactive book that children and parents both will surely enjoy.







Check out my review of his book as published in MOMENTS magazine Dec 1, 2010.