Bill Engvall was happy doing stand-up comedy, with little or no desire to do anything else for a living.
Then he moved from Dallas to Los Angeles to pursue television opportunities in stand-up. That move led to him auditioning for TV sitcoms.
“I thought, ‘I could do that,’” the blue-collar comic said in a phone interview to promote his performance Saturday at the Pershing Center with friend Dan Whitney, better known as Larry the Cable Guy. “I guess I could do both of them.”
And both he did, which led to the door opening to more opportunities.
Today, Engvall’s resume includes movies, books, TV shows, CDs and hosting a game show. He’s even narrated a documentary for the Speed Channel on NASCAR legend Darrel Waltrip.
“I look at it like Legos,” he said. “I started with one and the next thing I knew I had built a little house. Then I built a little farm, then a fort. I just kept adding pieces on.”
His career mirrors Whitney’s, and that of Jeff Foxworthy, another blue-collar comic who’s done more than just stand-up comedy. Whitney, for example, currently has a TV show on the History Channel and is a pitch man for Prilosec, among other things. Foxworthy is known for hosting the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”
Engvall said he still enjoys stand-up the best, because he’s in control.
“I’m the boss,” he said. “When you’re doing sitcoms and movies, it’s all fun, but you have a host of people telling you what they think is funny. With stand-up, I like being in charge.”
On Saturday, Engvall will open for Whitney in Whitney’s backyard -- he makes Nebraska his home for part of the year. The show will feature a contrast in styles. While Larry the Cable Guy likes to pepper fans with jokes, Engvall is more of a storyteller.
Engvall said he patterns himself after comic greats Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby.
“My dad had their records, and I would listen to them,” Engvall said. “I thought, ‘What was the common denominator here?’ And it was that they were clean. And they talked about stuff that everybody could relate to.
“I’ve been passed up for a lot of stuff because they said I wasn’t urban enough or edgy enough,” he added. “What I found over the years is I worked longer than any of those other guys did. I’ve been doing this for almost 32 years now.”
And he plans to keep doing it for many more.
“There’s a common phrase in the Midwest and Texas: You dance with who brung you,” Engvall said. “That’s how I feel about stand-up. She brought me here, so I’m never going to abandon her … Maybe someday I’ll get tired of it. Or it stops being fun. And then maybe, I’ll quit. But until then, hell, I’m going to keep doing it.”