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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Engvall longs for simpler times

Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles, Oct. 20, 2000

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES, CA - Bill Engvall began his show by recounting a recent cross-country road trip he'd taken with his family and used this analogy as a way of leading the audience trough the many ups and downs of trying to be a good family man in this new millennium.

Engvall is a kind of an everyman: One who looks at this ever-changing world through the mindset of having been raised with '50's values. Simple things, such as why a guy can't get a plain cup of coffee at Starbucks or how modern day parents must speak in psycho-babble to their kids, just drive him nuts.

Unlike the redneck references that comprise much of Jeff Foxworthy's act, Engvall appeals to country music fans because of his kindly Southern hospitality. Rather than spitting out barbed sarcastic witticisms, Engvall tells stories that are many times directed at his very own foibles.

Engvall's daughter, who is 14, and his son, who is 8, inspired many of his stories. Any dad can relate to how he struggled to explain what a topless bar was to his son, or how he cringed when his daughter asked him to bring home some Barenaked Ladies (a CD by the group, that is).

Like an old episode of the Andy Griffith show, Engvall longs for simpler times when the difference between right and wrong were clearer, and everybody at least appeared to share the same moral values. But even though he packed his act with endless examples of how the world has changed (mostly for the worst) since the days of his childhood, one still went away with a sense of hope. It's the feeling that if this one man can keep a family together against the odds - and with laughter to boot - than anyone can.

Engvall closed his act with a cluster of hilarious anecdotes highlighting how we humans can sometimes miss the obvious completely, with the tag line of "Here's your sign" (which reads "I'm Stupid"). For example, Engvall saw a man poking a clothes hanger through a crack in his car window, and foolishly asked, "Did you lock your keys in the car?" Only to be replied with, "No, I just washed it, and now I'm hanging it out to dry." He had the crowd shouting his catch phrase right along with him throughout the bit, gaining volume and enthusiasm with each succeeding example.

He encored with a silly stuttering joke once told to him by Mel Tillis, but this was one of the few pure jokes told all night. Instead, the experience was closer to witnessing the comic strip "Family Circus" on stage, making fun for (and of) the whole family.