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From a day job working with computers to a night job telling jokes, comedian Jeff Foxworthy's story was one of homegrown pride. He spent years on the road on the thankless stand-up circuit, hoping to craft an identifiable persona, but struck comedy gold after finding the potential humor in the subtle nuances of his Southern upbringing. With a distinct American voice that led to his own sitcom, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" (1995-97), the laidback, bushy-mustachi d comedian with the twang in his voice won the hearts of comedy-lovers when he posited that "you might be a redneck if "Born in Atlanta, GA on Sept. 6, 1958 and raised in nearby Hapeville as one of three children, Foxworthy's roots were firmly middle-class. His father was an IBM executive; his mother, an employee of the Atlanta school board. It seemed that everyone in his extended family had a gift for joke telling and, inspired by comedy albums by the likes of Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, he found that he enjoyed making people laugh himself. His parents were fond of giving him the spotlight, often asking him to perform for houseguests. In high school at Hapeville High during the mid 1970s, the young Foxworthy was something of a...
From a day job working with computers to a night job telling jokes, comedian Jeff Foxworthy's story was one of homegrown pride. He spent years on the road on the thankless stand-up circuit, hoping to craft an identifiable persona, but struck comedy gold after finding the potential humor in the subtle nuances of his Southern upbringing. With a distinct American voice that led to his own sitcom, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" (1995-97), the laidback, bushy-mustachi d comedian with the twang in his voice won the hearts of comedy-lovers when he posited that "you might be a redneck if "
Born in Atlanta, GA on Sept. 6, 1958 and raised in nearby Hapeville as one of three children, Foxworthy's roots were firmly middle-class. His father was an IBM executive; his mother, an employee of the Atlanta school board. It seemed that everyone in his extended family had a gift for joke telling and, inspired by comedy albums by the likes of Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, he found that he enjoyed making people laugh himself. His parents were fond of giving him the spotlight, often asking him to perform for houseguests. In high school at Hapeville High during the mid 1970s, the young Foxworthy was something of a cut-up, which delighted classmates and often ran contrary to the tastes of the school principal.
Foxworthy took after his father in his cutting a path into the computer field. In 1979, after graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering, Foxworthy stayed in Atlanta and took a job at IBM. As it had been in high school, Foxworthy became known around the office as the one who made everyone laugh, prompting his colleagues to suggest he hit the stage. In 1982, buoyed by their encouragement, he crafted several minutes' worth of jokes into a short set and inadvertently entered a multi-night comedy contest at the Punchline Comedy Club, in which he won the first night and placed fifth overall. That first night offered a pivotal moment of clarity for Foxworthy, who - only a few jokes in - knew what he wanted to do for a living.
On Dec. 31, 1984, Foxworthy left his job and formally embarked on his comedy career, which began with a gig at a Georgia Tech fraternity party. It was a career move that he knew would not sit well with his girlfriend, Pamela Gregg, but she encouraged him to stick with it despite the lean lifestyle. The first month out, he worked at Punchline, then made $20 the second month and took a temporary filing job at a warehouse. It was a humbling experience, but Foxworthy continued to hone his act steadily over the years, climbing up the pecking order of various comedy bills in just a year. By 1985, he was eking out a small living professionally, and he and Gregg were married.
Initially, his material ran more along the lines of personal observations about his domestic life, but despite a penchant for rock and roll, Foxworthy had always felt more than a little bit country. In 1987, after having his speech patterns ribbed by the comedians at a club, he found humor in the club's adjacent bowling alley, which strangely had a car valet service. When he went home that night, he rattled off some 10 jokes about the absurdity of rednecks who were oblivious to their redneck status. The next night, that material was a hit, and a year later, he had crafted the redneck material into a book, the title of which could well have served as a mission statement: You Might Be a Redneck If , later published in 1989. That same year, he was also the anointed "Best Stand-Up Comic" in America by the American Comedy Awards. A year later, he became a second-time author with Hick is Chic: A Guide to Etiquette for the Grossly Unsophisticated.
That year, Foxworthy segued into television after a set at Dangerfield's in New York City led veteran comic Rodney Dangerfield to put him in his HBO special, "Rodney Dangerfield: Opening Night at Rodney's Place" (1989). By 1990, Gregg told Foxworthy, that if he was to find real stardom, he needed to try his luck in the hub of show business - Los Angeles. Foxworthy agreed, moving his family from Atlanta to the West Coast. The popularity of the first book led to the subsequent Showtime special, "Jeff Foxworthy: You Might Be a Redneck " (1991). Foxworthy was highly visible that year, appearing as himself on HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" (1992-98) and another Showtime special, "Jeff Foxworthy: Check Your Neck" (1992), which coincided with his fourth book of the same name. 1992 also saw Gregg give birth to their first baby girl, Jordan Lane. In 1993, Warner Brothers re-released his seminal album from 1989, You Might Be a Redneck If to mass appeal and the Foxworthy's became the parents of second daughter, Juliane in 1994. Foxworthy, meanwhile continued to tour the country, compile his material into books, and appear on various specials, including the "30th Annual Country Music Awards" which he hosted in 1995.
Despite his rise to fame and a house in Beverly Hills, by August of 1995, Foxworthy had seen his share of disappointment in dealing with the television world. After a three-year process of trying to develop a sitcom, out of the blue, ABC called to offer him a shot - just as he and Gregg were considering moving back to Atlanta where they had purchased a several-acre spread. The ensuing series, entitled "Somewhere in America," morphed into "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" and was set in Atlanta, but the network, fearing the locale was "too Southern," moved the surroundings to Indianapolis and focused on Foxworthy as a family man with a heating and air conditioning repair business.
Foxworthy spent that first year on the air frustrated and unable to assert his voice within the writing, even while his second big comedy album, 1995's Games Rednecks Play, was a double-platinum chartbuster, selling a million copies in just over a month and earning a Grammy nomination. Adding insult to injury, the series was cancelled. Still, in 1996 he won the People's Choice Award for "Best New Comic Actor," a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Country Music, and released Crank it Up: The Music Album along with another book, No Shirt, No Sh s No Problem! The presence of a significant audience only proved ABC executives had not understood what made the comedy tick, but NBC thought it did. After being cancelled by ABC, the series was immediately picked up by NBC for the 1996-97 season. Despite minor tweaking, the revamped series fared about the same and was yanked from the air.
Just after his sitcom fizzled for good, a worn Foxworthy and his family made their previously delayed back to Atlanta. In 1998, he returned to doing what he did best - stand-up comedy. He released a special and an album by the name of "Jeff Foxworthy: Totally Committed," then went on to release Big Funny for Dreamworks Records in 2000. Several years removed from the ABC and NBC sitcom debacle, in 2003, Foxworthy went on the road with some comedian friends - fellow Southern-based comics Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and Ron White - and filmed it as "Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie" (2003), which was the genesis of another network series. Along with Larry the Cable Guy and Engvall, Foxworthy created and hosted The WB's "Blue Collar TV" (2004-06), a multi-racial ensemble sketch comedy show based on the comics' shared deep-fried humor. The series spawned a second career track for Foxworthy. It also opened the door for Larry the Cable Guy's "Git-R-Done" persona, inspiring their made-for-TV follow-ups, "Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again" in late 2004 and 2006's "Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One for the Road," in which Foxworthy showcased material from his 2004 album, Have Your Loved Ones Spayed or Neutered.
Foxworthy found his ticket into the movies, putting his distinct voice to use on film as a loopy rooster named Reggie in the animated feature "Racing Stripes" (2005). "Blue Collar TV" failed to make the cut when The WB fused with the UPN network to form The CW network in the fall of 2006, but in 2007, Foxworthy, who had built his career examining the minutiae of intelligence and common sense, fittingly took on hosting duties for Fox's game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (2007- ), pitting oft-embarrassed adults against formidable grade school minds.
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"Anywhere there are flannel shirts, there are rednecks. It has gone from being an embarrassment to being a badge of honor." --Jeff Foxworthy, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, October 11, 1995
"Other comedians were always razzing me about my accent and being from the South. But I was at a Detroit comedy club one night and it was next to a bowling alley with valet parking. Then I realized there were rednecks up north, too."
"If you've ever put Astroturf in the back of your pickup, you might be a redneck." --Foxworthy
"If you wear a dress that's strapless with a bra that isn't, you might be a redneck."
"If you dad walks you to school because you're in the same grade, you might be a redneck."
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