Harris: Joining us now is our old pal, comedian Jeff Foxworthy. In all the years we’ve known Jeff and had him guest on our show, he’s gone from being a stand-up comic to a million-selling author to the star of his own TV series on ABC. Now, good morning, Mister TV Star!
Foxworthy: I think you have the wrong number.
Harris: So, now that you’ve got your own show, what are you doing with all those TV dollars you’re making?
Foxworthy: God, like a month ago I traded in my car and got a pickup truck and my wife is like, “you finally get your own TV show, you can have any kind of car you want and you get a darned truck.” And I said, “I know, that’s what I wanted.” But the thing about it is, my brother and I have the same kind of truck now. Course, his doesn’t stand out in Georgia. Mine stands out, out here.
Foxworthy: Can’t get parts for it, but it stands out.
Harris: You don’t see a lot of trucks on lawns up on blocks out in LA, I’m guessing.
Foxworthy: The must put ’em in the backyard. You don’t see hardly any in the front yard.
Harris: Since you’re making TV money have you been treating the family nicely? Have you taken them on any big trips or anything?
Foxworthy: Well, you know what? We were just in Dallas, Texas. I was doing some shows there two weekends ago and for the first time ever taking the family on the road. We didn’t go stay in the hotel. My in-laws have just moved there and so we went and stayed with them. Which on life’s list of experiences ranks right below sitting in a tub full of scissors.
Foxworthy: Well for one thing, they’re retired, and I have this job late at night, and these people, it’s all they can do to stay awake through Wheel of Fortune. You feel like a hellraiser ’cause you’re watching ER. But then my father-in-law gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning, every morning and watches the Discovery Channel. I don’t know why there’s this big rush to do this.
Harris: Well, first thing in the morning, he’s gotta be close to nature, I guess.
Foxworthy: He watches at a volume that will rattle change on the dresser. And you’re lying in bed, it’s pitch black dark, the sun hasn’t thought about coming up, and all you can hear is “like other predators of the jungle, the jaguar subdues its victims by slowly choking the life from its neck.” And you’re lying in bed going “you know what, that ain’t a bad idea…” It’s a weird sensation to be mad and learning at the same time.
Harris: You don’t need that.
Harris: How do your kids get along with your in-laws?
Foxworthy: Oh, they’re doing great. I think they’ve started to realize that between my family and my wife’s, genetically, there is no hope for themselves. It’s hard to think of yourself as a loser at two years old. But you know, talking about kids, people told my wife “you’re going to learn more from your kids then they’ll learn from you.” I think for one thing, kids are a lot smarter now then we ever were.
Harris: What do you mean?
Foxworthy: Well, kids now, they turn five years old and they’ve got a computer. We turned five, got that little wooden paddle with a rubber band on it and the red ball on the end of it. Was that a brain builder or what? One, two, three, four… You’d play with it about three times, the rubber band would break, the ball would fly across the room, break something, and you’d get a spanking with the paddle. No wonder we turned out like this.
Harris: But don’t you realize Jeff, that was your first physics lesson! You were learning about inertia, momentum, and discipline.
Foxworthy: I wasn’t paying attention, what was wrong with me?
Harris: And how old is your oldest now?
Foxworthy: She is four years old. And I’ve learned a lot from her, like I’ve learned little girls love dolls. They just don’t love doll clothes.
Harris: What do you mean?
Foxworthy: We’ve got four thousand dolls and ain’t one of them got a stitch of clothes on. I walk in her room the other night and there’s six naked Barbies lying on the floor. I started having fantasies being G.I. Joe on a three day pass, “Hello ladies…”
Harris: So what’s the story with the TV show these days?
Foxworthy: Well, we finished taping for the first year and now we’re waiting on them to make up their minds on what they’re going to do. and so I’m just trying to keep myself busy.
Harris: Have you tried to kiss up to them [ABC] and say “you know that slot after Home Improvement looks kind of empty…”?
Foxworthy: You send little subtle notes there. “If nobody wants to live right after Tim [Allen] on Tuesdays, that would be nice, instead of that wonderful Saturday night at 8 o’clock you gave us.” Saturday night at 8. All twelve of the people watching did seem to enjoy the show.
Harris: “We would make the sacrifice.” That’s how you gotta build it up. “We don’t want to but we would make the sacrifice for the network…that’s how much we care.”
Foxworthy: I would do that. I would give myself for the good of the team and go on right after Home Improvement. We’re waiting on that and I’ve got two books coming out in the next week or so.
Harris: Two more books?
Foxworthy: But different books.
Harris: Well of course they’re different books, Jeff, I didn’t think you were re-releasing your old books.
Foxworthy: Yeah, right, it’s the same book we released three years ago.
Harris: We just put a new cover on it…
Foxworthy: But as my dad put it, “You finally wrote a book for the library instead of the back of the toilet.” I actually have a hard cover book coming out.
Foxworthy: It’s Hyperion…the same people who did the Tim Allen book last year. And this one’s called: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem. And it’s kind of autobiographical. I went in and tried to tell stuff I haven’t told before. And the other one is called: Those People and it’s…all these years on the road, when you get to your third millionth frequent flyer mile I think something snaps in your brain. But all these years I’ve sat in airports and kind of drawn people and put like Far Side captions on them. So this book is just a collection of my drawings and I never really showed them to anybody but my wife and she always laughed at them and a year or so ago I was having lunch with a publisher and I reached in my bag to pull something out and he’s like “what’s that?” And I said oh, that’s one of my sketch books. And he flipped over it, so that’s what this book is.
Harris: And what kind of people are you running in to in airports? I mean, what kind of characters?
Foxworthy: People that make you feel better about your own family. It can be an airport, it can be a mall, the best is the state fair. I think if you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, “You know, we’re alright. We are dang near royalty!” I mean have you ever seen people so ugly that you have to get someone else to verify it?
Harris: What do you mean?
Foxworthy: When you’re like “Come here, get out of line, you’ve got to see this man. No, get out of line, it’s worth it. Over by the cotton candy. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look. IS THAT THE HAIRIEST BACK YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Looks like bigfoot in a tank top. Oh, God! It’s a woman! Oh, and she’s got kids! Somebody slept with that WOMAN!!! Oh no! It’s Aunt Betty!!
Harris: Oh NO! Oh, man. And are people still coming up to you with redneck stuff? What are the latest ones you’ve been hit with?
Foxworthy: If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say “Kool Whip” on the side, you might be a redneck. If your working television sits on top of your non-working television, you might be a redneck.
Harris: Wait a second, Jeff! That’s me, I’ve been there!
Foxworthy: That’s what makes them funny.
Foxworthy: If you’ve ever used a toilet brush for a back scratcher. I had a lady tell me this in Dallas, and I said, you know what makes that funny to me, is I know that you didn’t make this up. I know you walked in the bathroom and saw your husband and went, “What are you doing?” And he’s like, “Nothin’.”
Harris: Gimme another one.
Foxworthy: If you’ve ever slow danced in a Waffle House…
Foxworthy: SAW IT.
Harris: You saw it?
Foxworthy: Saw it. You know how like one in the morning, you ever eaten in a Waffle House? You have the people waiting for a booth to open — and if you’re waiting in line at a Waffle House you’ve had a toddy or two — and the jukebox was playing and I guess this couple got bored and they started slow dancing and I said, “Hand me a napkin, I’m writing that down.”
Harris: I love it.
Foxworthy: If your neighbors think you’re a detective because a cop always brings you home, you might be a redneck. And probably my favorite one in the last month…If you understood everything Jodie Foster said in the movie Nell, you might be a redneck.
Harris: Oh that’s a classic. Well, Jeff, it’s always great to talk to you, and congratulations on all your success!
Foxworthy: Oh, thank you, Paul!
Harris: I hope ABC is smart enough to give you another year on the tube, but if not…
Foxworthy: If not, we’ll just keep doing this other stupid stuff we’re doing, if not life is good.
Harris: It’s working, great. Always good to talk to you Jeff…
Foxworthy: You too, see you this weekend! Thank you so much.
[Note: About two weeks after this interview, “The Jeff Foxworthy Show” got picked up for a second season — not by ABC, but by NBC, where it aired for another season before being cancelled.]
Copyright 1996, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Joe Camarda.