A life dedicated to making others smile is one filled with purpose, and one comedian who has devoted his life to comedy is coming to the Chippewa Valley.
Bill Engvall is a comedian known for his standup comedy career, which began in 1980, his many television appearances on shows such as “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” “Last Man Standing,” his stint with comedy troupe The Blue Collar Comedy Tour and his many live comedy records.
Engvall is coming to Eau Claire for two performances in the RCU Theatre in the Pablo Center at the Confluence on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets start at $49 plus fees and taxes.
Engvall said the current show he is performing is centered on the relationship with his wife, so couples and those in relationships will have a great time with the show he’s put together.
“This show is different than some of the other shows I’ve had, because we’re looking through my wife’s eyes and what it’s like to be married to a comedian,” Engvall said. “It can be difficult because her life has been on stage, but the show is about all the trouble she gets me out of and a fun show for couples to watch. I always know I’ve written a good joke when I look out and see a husband-and-wife elbow each other.”
During the past 40 years of performing, Engvall said he has learned to relish in his comedic storytelling style. Instead of trying to get a laugh from the crowd every 15 seconds to avoid any silence during his performances, he’s learned to set his audience at ease and provide a more natural style. He said he tries to be “the funny guy in your living room doing the talking” instead of just the standup comic there to make you laugh.
Engvall said the standup comedy business has evolved throughout the past decade as streaming and comedy specials have flooded the market. He did one special in 2017 entitled “Bill Engvall: Just Sell Him for Parts,” but said he is wary of doing another as the amount of content out there is overwhelming.
“Netflix wanted to own my special, but I didn’t want them to own it because I’m the one who wrote it,” Engvall said. “For me it’s like building a house and having someone else say they could buy it from me. It used to be that you’d do one for HBO or Comedy Central, but nowadays they’re all over the place. I think it’s great for young comics to get their name out there, but for someone like me who’s been out there for so long it isn’t of huge benefit anymore.”
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With the popularization of online comedy specials and streaming, live comedy records have largely fallen to the wayside as well. Engvall said he misses doing live recordings, but the market isn’t asking for them much nowadays do to streaming and YouTube live recordings.
“I miss the old days of doing a record and it goes gold or platinum,” Engvall said. “Nowadays everyone has a special out and the market has gotten really watered down. I don’t know if I’ll do another special, I may just accrue more material, but I never say never. It was more fun back in the day, but unless you’re an artist nowadays like Taylor Swift, the albums aren’t a significant form of income anymore.”
In addition to standup comedy, Engvall has appeared on television many times. From having his own sitcom entitled “The Bill Engvall Show,” on TBS from 2007-2009 to appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” and hosting various gameshows, Engvall said television taught him how to listen and become a more rounded entertainer.
“In television, one of the things you learn right away is you’re not the boss,” Engvall said. “When I do my standup I’m the boss, but with television you have to take someone else’s words and make them your own and make them sound natural. It isn’t an easy thing to do and that’s why some comedians can’t make the jump from standup to television. And I really enjoy the chance to dig into a role and bring it to life.”
After years of entertaining and struggling to do the “little dance you do” when trying to please people who want to see a mix of new and old material, Engvall said his love for the art of comedy and wanting to continuously grow inspire him to return to the craft every day and put on a quality show like the performances coming up at The Pablo Center in Eau Claire this weekend.
“The honest truth is I wasn’t trained to do anything else,” Engvall said. “I love when I finish a show and I know I’ve made people happy and people are going home feeling a little bit better than when they got there. And people in Eau Claire can expect a great Bill Engvall show, meaning a clean relatable show. For those who’ve never seen me, I think they’ll enjoy it because everyone can relate to some part of the show. And for those coming back, I have a new story about my wife and I going to Africa for three weeks, a new grandbaby and some new material I think they’ll enjoy.”
Tickets for Bill Engvall’s performances this weekend are available at the Pablo Center box office and online at the Pablo Center at the Confluence website.