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Arts & Entertainment

Engvall draws Blue Collar' laughter

| Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006

One quarter of "the Redneck Rat Pack" crashes the Cultural District on Sunday.

Bill Engvall, a member of the phenomenally successful Blue Collar Comedy Tour, brings his Texas twang and trailer-park humor to the bejeweled Benedum Center.

He was forced to cancel a solo appearance in Pittsburgh last year when it appeared that local stagehands might go on strike.

As for the Rat Pack reference, Engvall denies that he's the Dean Martin to Jeff Foxworthy's flannel-shirted version of Frank Sinatra.

"I always refer to myself as the Pete Best of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour," Engvall says, calling from his home in California. "People go, 'Oh yes, there's Larry (the Cable Guy), there's Jeff, there's Ron (White) and there's that other guy.'"

Born in Galveston, Texas, Engvall dreamed of being in the movies or becoming a teacher but ended up in Dallas working as disc jockey. He discovered comedy when he took a chance at an open-mic night. Then began the long tour of duty in clubs.

"I remember playing the Old Funny Bone on Saw Mill (Run Blvd.). It was back when the steel mills were starting to shut down and man, it was rugged. ... The emcee said, 'Time for your headliner. He loves the Cowboys, hates the Steelers. Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Engvall!'"

He struck paydirt with his "Here's Your Sign!" routine, which also was the title of his 1996 debut CD. Engvall began telling audiences that stupid people should have to wear a sign advertising this fact so that nobody would depend on them for important information. Engvall turned the slogan into a put-down of people who asked stupid questions. For example:

"A couple of months ago I went fishing with a buddy of mine. We pulled his boat into the dock, I lifted up this big ol' stringer of bass. This idiot on the dock goes, 'Hey, y'all catch all them fish?'

'Nope. Talked 'em into giving up. Here's your sign.'"

He parlayed his trademark bit into a video where he collaborated with country-music star Travis Tritt, as well as a book and DVD.

No one-trick pony, he says he'll be doing new material at the Benedum.

"I think that catchphrase is something they can hang their hat on," he says.

Engvall, who says he can't figure out how or why his Swedish ancestors ended up in Texas, now tours from his home base, where he lives with his wife, Gail, and two children.

"I've been touring for 25 years. It's not like a band where they tour for six months. We tour all year long. It's weekend stuff."

Projects include a starring role in "Delta Farce," a comedy set for release in 2007. It co-stars Larry the Cable Guy, Keith David, DJ Qualls and Marisol Nichols.

"It's a military comedy about three guys who are in the state military reserves. I shouldn't even say 'reserves' because these guys aren't even soldiers. Somehow, through military red tape, they get called up to Iraq. They dump us in Mexico. We think it's Iraq," he says.

"I've always respected our military, but I've got the most ultimate respect for those guys and girls now. We were running around the desert in military gear for five and six minutes at a time I'm saying, 'I'm about to die here.' I can't image what those boys and girls are going through in Iraq. Nobody ever goes up to those guys and says, 'Cut! They put cinnamon cookies out.' " Additional Information:

Bill Engvall

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $32.25

Where: Benedum Center, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666

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