There is no off switch with Bill Engvall. Whether it’s at the mall, on a plane, on the golf course or at the supermarket, the veteran comedian can find humor—and plenty of it—anywhere. And, of course, that includes Las Vegas, the only city in America where guys stand on the sidewalk with fliers that offer to send girls direct to your room. “The hooker card thing,” Engvall says. “I never understood the kids handing out these cards, and people throwing them on the ground creating litter. And I wonder how many people actually call those girls.”
Engvall, 54, has been on the stand-up circuit for more than three decades, but his career really took off in the early 2000s when he joined forces with fellow rural comics Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White to form the Blue Collar Comedy troupe. And even though, like many of his contemporaries, Engvall has found success across multiple media platforms—CDs, television, movies, books—he’s most at home onstage in front of an audience. “I’ve been doing this 30 years and never dreamed that it would last this long,” says Engvall, who performs at Treasure Island on March 9. “I’m still so amazed people will pay money to hear what I talk about.”
When did you know stand-up comedy could be a career?
I don’t know that it has [laughs]. It was probably after Here’s Your Sign [his platinum-selling comedy album] came out in 1996. Then I started thinking, “Oooh, I better take this a lot more seriously,” which is weird when you think about taking comedy seriously.
You make fun of married life in your act. What’s the one husbandly duty you absolutely hate?
Paying bills. When I was in college I’d just write out a check and be done. Now, I have to do it a certain way. There are folders I have to use, I have to attach receipts—ugh! That, and going clothes shopping with my wife. That’s like a prison sentence.
What’s the one show in town you want to see?
Garth Brooks. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. I’ve seen the Cirque shows, and they are great, but I would love to just sit and listen to Garth’s story.
Favorite Vegas icon: Elvis or Sinatra?
Elvis, because the day I was born “Teddy Bear” was the No. 1 song. Plus, Elvis really influenced my life as far as being a performer. In his early days, and pretty much up until he died, he left nothing on the stage. He gave it [his] all, every show. When he would finish a show he was drenched in sweat. Now obviously I am not drenched in sweat after every comedy show, but I learned that no matter what the size of the audience you give it your all and leave nothing in the bag. I want the audience drained from laughter after I’m done.
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t a comedian?
Probably teaching school. What I would love to be doing is playing professional baseball, but that’s the reality and fantasy side of it. But teaching is probably where I would be, because I feel that teachers are entertainers in their own right. If you had a teacher that made school fun, I know for a fact that you can remember their names all the way back to kindergarten. I know that I can.
I would also like to be a professional golfer. There is nothing more fun than walking in between the ropes at a tournament. There is something very zen about golf. There you are on a beautiful tract of land with mowed fairways and smooth greens. Even when I am having a bad round I try and take a second and just look around. It’s really amazing.
Who’s in your dream foursome?
Peter Jacobsen, Bubba Watson and Tom Watson. A little old, a little new and a little funny … just like a marriage.
What’s the one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?
That I love heavy metal. My wife goes crazy. She tells me to turn it down all the time. Also that I am a closet rocker. I have had the chance to play guitar with Austin Law [the band that plays at Gilley’s at Treasure Island], Chris Isaak and Trace Adkins. I now know why guitar players always get the hot women. It’s a complete drug being on that stage and playing guitar.