How Hard Are You Ready to Laugh?
By Sue Gruman Kraft
Comedian Bill Engvall will be performing at the Shooting Star Casino on Friday, September 27. His 8 p.m. performance is nearly sold out.
With 40 years in comedy, Bill Engvall still enjoys being on stage. “I still love it,” Engvall commented during a recent interview for the Mahnomen Pioneer. “When I see a husband and wife sitting together, and one elbows the other, and says ‘that’s you,’” that makes it enjoyable for him, he said.
“I just like to enjoy people, and I like making them laugh,” Engvall told the Pioneer. “Come on out, relax, have a good time, and let’s have some laughs together.”
Engvall said that he receives e-mails from people saying how much they had laughed and that they had a great time at his show. Laughter can be a blessing, Engvall stated.
“I’ve been so blessed to have so many great moments in my career,” Engvall stated. “Back in the club days, I did my show. A club owner sent me a letter a lady had written.” The Lady came to the comedy club that night to cheer herself up because she had just been told she had cancer. She wrote to tell Bill that he cures cancer. “She went back to the doctor the next day, and they told her she had been misdiagnosed.”
“There is so much negativity in the world,” stated Engvall. “When people leave my show, I want them to have a better feeling than when they got there,” he stated.
How did Bill Engvall get into comedy? Bill said it was all accidental. He was working as a disc jockey at a Texas nightclub. He went to an amateur night at a local comedy club and gave it a try.
The lady who managed the club asked him to be the house emcee, which meant picking up incoming acts at the airport, emcee the show, and drive them back to the airport. He was able to meet a lot of talented comedians that way.
He married to his wife Mary in1982, and she has had to be very understanding. They had a daughter born in 1986 and a son born in 1991. He mentions his family often in his routines. Touring meant being away from his family.
“It’s tough, especially when my kids were little. I missed a lot,” Engvall stated. “I have a great family that supports me in what I do.” He was gone a lot. Even now, he performs between 60 and 80 shows per year.
He and his wife have been married for 37 years. “I’m a great husband. I go on the road, I get a check, I drop it off, and I leave again.”
In 1990, Bill moved to California to dedicate himself full-time to his comedy.
He called “Here’s Your Sign” a gift from God. He used to sell signs at his show, that said “I’m stupid.” one for $2 or two for $5. “I couldn’t believe how many took the $5 special.”
His album “Here’s Your Sign” was released in 1995 with Warner Bros. Records. It went platinum. In October 1998, he released an album “Dorkfish,” also with Warner Bros. Records, and that went Gold. Additional albums were released through the years. And people kept on laughing.
Where does Bill get his material? “Having done this for so long, I am subconsciously always on the lookout,” Bill stated. He talked about going on a White Water Rafting Trip with some buddies, a number of drunk obnoxious 50 year olds, in a raft, just looking to get into trouble.
Something like that provides him with a lot of material. He takes the actual events that he experiences, and looks for what makes them funny. “I go back to the relatability of events,” Engvall stated, something that people can have in common.
When asked whether or not people realize that his adventures and trips with them will end up in his comedy routines, he answered, “If they don’t know that, they’re stupid.”
“The older I get, the more weddings my wife drags me to,” Bill stated. Some of these events take place in very interesting locations. “If you don’t want a wedding in a church, have it someplace like Buffalo Wild Wings, or at a topless bar,” Engvall suggested. “What I try to find is material where people can say “Oh my God, that happened to me.”
Engvall said he follows a solid rule: No politics and no religion. He keeps it light and makes you laugh, he said.
A recent experience was getting the opportunity to take a ride with one of the famous Thunderbirds. Yes, we are talking about the planes. Trust me, it will make you laugh. When he learned about the local Mahnomen-Waubun Thunderbirds, and how they won a state championship during the first year Mahnomen and Waubun combined for football, the team gained a new fan.
At age 62, Bill doesn’t know what the future will bring. “I’ve been so blessed to achieve what I have.” His first grandbaby is due in November. That changes his perspective a bit. Now he can start with the grandparent jokes.
“It’s lasted 39 years longer than I thought it would,” Engvall stated. He said he doesn’t want to get to the point where going up on stage isn’t fun anymore. “If it stops being fun, then I will stop,” he said.
“I want to experience life,” Engvall stated. “As long as I can keep coming up with ideas, then it’s good.” He does try to keep some of the old material in the act, but the audience wants to hear new stuff. He includes something about “Here’s Your Sign.” And he has to say something about his wife. “I know I shouldn’t say something, but I do – and I’m in trouble!”