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Exclusive interview with Bill Engvall who is not retiring, but rewiring with Blue Collar Auction

bill engvall
Bill Engvall is not retiring, but reshaping his career, and is now producing a new TV series. Pic credit: Bill Engvall

Going once, going twice — comedian, actor, author, and now producer Bill Engvall is not going away at all, except for the standup gig and hotel grind that was a large part of his past career.

Not to mention, Engvall is also a Grammy-nominated and multi-platinum selling recording artist and is best known for his Here’s Your Sign catchphrase and comedy routine.

Engvall is signing off from standup and launching the farewell tour Here’s Your Sign, It’s Finally Time tour later this summer and into next year. He is happy to see fans on the road one more time, but this grandfather is tweaking his career path to more interactive television projects, where he mixes it up with his fans in a different way.

Circle TV brings Blue Collar Auction to the small screen, a hybrid of auction houses-meets-picking shows where treasures go up for purchase and Engvall moderates the action.

Engvall’s last tour winds up this fall in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Indiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Idaho.

Blue Collar history

Blue Collar Comedy group was a 1980s comedy tour de force as Engvall joined pals Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, and Ron White. The tour was so successful there were concert films, recordings, and other ancillary things. Engvall also starred in The WB sketch comedy show Blue Collar TV and several solo comedy specials for Comedy Central.

In 2012, Engvall joined Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy in Them Idiots Whirled Tour, and his special Just Sell Him For Parts streamed on Vudu. But, of course, most fans know his three-season TBS sitcom The Bill Engvall Show and his role as Rev. Paul on Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. Engvall even hoofed it up for ABC’s Dancing with The Stars.

In the recording arts, Engvall’s first album went certified platinum. Here’s Your Sign was released in 1996, where it hit No. 1 on the Billboard comedy chart for 15 straight weeks. In 1998, Dorkfish followed and was #1 on Billboard’s comedy chart.

Blue Collar Auction

Blue Collar Auction will feature one-of-a-kind memorabilia, ranging from a Mandolin from Rolling Stones legend Bill Wyman to a ’69 Pontiac GTO driven by Lady Gaga. Each week, remote bidders from across the country will try to outbid one another in the hopes of taking home the treasure.

Engvall is the host, and the show booked NASCAR Legend Kyle Petty, the original Gas Monkey Richard Rawlings of Fast N’ Loud, and actor Lorenzo Lamas of Renegade and Falcon Crest fame. “This is a fun series that you can watch with the whole family on Friday nights,” said Engvall in a press release to Monsters & Critics.

Airing on Circle Network, the award-winning music and lifestyle network dedicated to celebrating everything country, the series is co-produced with executive producers Bill Engvall, Jenny Riker, JP Williams of Parallel Entertainment, Hans Schiff, and John Stevens of Venture 10, as well as showrunner Charles Steinfeld. The project is represented by CAA and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein and Lezcano.

Exclusive interview with Bill Engvall

Monsters & Critics: I heard you said sayonara to California?

Bill Engvall: Yes, after 30 years of California life, we moved to, of all places, Utah, which was never on my radar. It’s nice to have a place where you have seasons.

M&C: A lot of people took your news that you were retiring from your standups career as you were retiring. Like they didn’t listen to the whole sentence. So a lot of people were freaking out that you were walking away, but that’s so far from the truth.

Bill Engvall: You hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, people don’t listen to the whole conversation. As you said, all I’m doing is stepping away from touring. I’m going to focus on film and television and whatever else is coming my way.

But, when I started in this business 42 years ago, I always knew that this day would come. People see you on stage, and they go, ‘Oh, what a great life, you have 3,000 new best friends, and you’re on stage telling jokes,’ and that’s true. But what they don’t see is the 22 and a half hours that you’re stuck in a Holiday Inn. And, now that I’m a granddad, I want to spend more time with my wife, grandkids, and my kids, that stuff that I couldn’t do when I was touring heavily.

I’ll tell you a funny thing, I think people need to understand too, is that this was not an overnight decision. This is something that’s been in the making for a long time, just because the road was starting to get to me. And I always said, I never wanted to be that act that just walked through a show. I don’t think it’s fair to the fans. You have to be able to look in the mirror, say, ‘Okay, it was a great run. And let’s see what the next chapter holds.’

M&C: You are a content creator now for television or film. Would you please tell me all about the new Blue Collar Auction?

Bill Engvall: Blue Collar Auction is a bit of ‘American Pickers meets Barrett-Jackson [auction house]. When the show was pitched to me, one of the things that stood out to me that I loved was that you don’t have to be a million or a billionaire to bid on stuff. We sell everything from cars and trucks to, uh, we sold, auctioned off a dress that Mae West wore in one of her movies.

There are collectibles. There are antiques. And, I love the fact that I think the work, while it is an option, I’m not the guy going, ‘Hey, give me five, give me five.’ My job is to host a show and interview the sellers. So, we have the sellers with us on set, and they, while they’re telling about what they are auctioning off, there was a video board of potential bidders that bid while we’re talking.

So basically, what happens at the end of about three minutes, four minutes, we close out the auction, and whoever has the highest bid wins it. One of my problems with shows like Storage Wars or even Antique Roadshow is that they say, ‘Well, this is worth $45,000.’ Well, what did it sell for? That’s what it’s worth.

And on our show, bidders determined what the price of a specific item was. We had Lorenzo Lamas on from Renegade, and he auctioned off his Harley, and he wanted to get, I think, $40,000 for it. He ended up getting $45,000.

Then, on the other hand, a guy that brings in something cool. We had a retro piece from the sixties or seventies. It was a complete entertainment center with a turntable, an eight-track player, a bar, everything, and just an extraordinary item. The guy said he wanted $5,000 for it and he got $2,500.

The beauty of this show is all we do is facilitate putting buyer and seller together. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I wanted to auction off Bill Engvall memorabilia. And I said I’d like to get a thousand dollars for it, and it gets $500.

Well, when we put the bidder and the buyer together, the seller and the buyer together, and the guy says, ‘Hey, I bought that for 500 bucks. So I go, ‘Yeah, I can’t really sell it for that.’ And they deal with it on their own. So we’re out of it at that point.

I think it’s going to be a show that people will watch just because it is literally for the everyday man or woman. Here’s stuff for $200 or stuff for $50,000, and my dream for the show is to make it a live show, where we would, like, come to a theater in Idaho. And we do the show there where you have actual live bidders in the audience because that’s where the energy comes from.

M&C: So this show was pre-recorded. How did you alert people that there was an auction going on? How did that work out?

Bill Engvall: I think the way they do it is that there’s going to be a Blue Collar Auction website where you can bid on items on the website, or it will also contain information that answers the questions like, ‘Hey, I want to be on the show. This [item] is what I’ve got to sell.’ And then the executive producers will probably reach out to them.

M&C: What was the one item that came up for auction in your premiere that you struggled not to buy?

Bill Engvall: There was a GTO, which I love, and that’s the other problem. I can’t bid on stuff, which kills me because there were two things that I wanted. If I’d been able to bid on them, I would have. One was a 1950 Shasta camper trailer that was in prime condition.

Then there was the Honda 70 trail bike, the same motorcycle that I had when I was a kid. And I wanted to bid on that, but we get cool stuff. And then we get some stuff, and you go, ‘What?’

Like, a guy brought in a piece of Burlwood carved into a pipe holder. He carved a little hole in the wood to keep your tobacco inside. And, it was interesting, but when I asked, ‘What do you want to get for it?’ he said, ‘I’d like to get $2,000.’

And I said to him, ‘Well, I’d like my wife to dress up in leather and walk me around the neighborhood on a dog leash, but that’s probably not going to happen.’

M&C: What is inside the Engvall home that you would love to put up for auction?

Bill Engvall: Oh, wow. Good question. Probably one of my platinum records. I think someone would buy that. Very cool. Or maybe some fancy chopsticks that I never really understood how to eat with properly. I give it a shot, but I ended up going with the old standby fork.

M&C: A lot of your fans want to know, even though the Blue Collar tour is a thing of the past, are there any anecdotes, or do any of them visit you in Utah?

Bill Engvall: Not so much physically, but we stay in touch, whether a phone or text or whatever. But that was such a wonderful time. Try to imagine you being on the road with three of your friends, they’re throwing stupid money at you, and you’re selling out arenas. I mean, for a standup, that’s Shangri-La.

M&C: There was a comedian on tour canceling dates, where he is asking that people that come to his shows present proof of vaccination. Are you making any stipulations like that on your tour?

Bill Engvall: No, I’m not. Listen, I have my beliefs. I’ve been vaccinated, I wear a mask, and I think it’s people’s personal choice. I hope that common sense prevails. But, unfortunately, it hasn’t yet. So I look at it this way: that my job is to make you laugh and feel good.

And one reason, and one of the elements of my decision to step back from the road, is the fact that the world’s just a different place now. And I don’t see it changing. I think this will be the new normal for a long time, and people have just got to figure it out.

But I will tell you this: if you want to get the bejesus scared out of you, watch a Netflix show called Sweet Tooth from 2019, and it is literally about a pandemic that hits the world, and the internet crashes, people start splintering off. I see that the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated, you hear arguments start.

And then [I saw] a thing on Instagram the other day about a woman in a [grocery] store who was walking around, coughing on people. What is with that?

M&C: It’s like we’re living in the films The Purge and Idiocracy at the same time.

Bill Engvall: Yes. And the thing is like, I don’t want to devote energy to that. I would, instead, if I had my dreams, do a few Hallmark movies. I did a couple of faith-based films. I love acting, but I’m going to be 65, and I don’t regret one moment of this journey. It has been the most wonderful live tour that’s gone on since 1980. And if you’d have told me back then that I’d still be doing it now … I saw this lasting about a year, and then I’d have to get a real job.

M&C: I feel sorry for the comics coming up. I’m sure you do too. It’s like you said, it’s a different landscape.

Bill Engvall: I told my friend the other day that just as we were talking about just this thing, that if I started today, I don’t think I’d make it. When I started in [1980], comedy was at its peak, and [comedy] clubs were sold out, and people weren’t so uber-sensitive about everything you say.

I always tell people, ‘Look, I’m just here to make you laugh. I’m not here to make a political statement.’ So I guess either A) we’ll figure it out or B) whatever’s next on this planet will take over.

M&C: Your comedy always resonated across age groups, and it was a feel-good experience.

Bill Engvall: Everybody’s got their own choice, and I’m proud of the fact that hopefully, what people will remember about my standup was that it was clean and relatable. And you didn’t have to worry about coming to the show.

Blue Collar Auction premieres Friday on Circle TV.

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