DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER
After the tumultuous year of 2020, it is important to get a dose of the best medicine that humankind has created: laughter.
Continuing with the Week Five’s theme of “The Authentic Comedic Voice: A Week in Partnership with the National Comedy Center,” Bill Engvall will be performing a set at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, July 29, in the Amphitheater.
Engvall is a Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum recording artist and one of the top comedians in the country.
His first album, Here’s Your Sign, is certified platinum and held the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Comedy Chart for 15 weeks straight. His second album, Dorkfish, also debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Comedy Chart, as did his subsequent comedy albums.
Engvall is looking forward to performing for crowds after not being able to during lockdown.
“I just think that people are just so happy to be back out,” Engvall said. “What I’ve discovered during COVID-19 is that human beings are not good to be confined; we have to be out and around. We have to have that social interaction. So as far as comedy goes, I think (everyone is) just very happy to be out, and they just want to laugh. They’re not looking for you to change the world.”
Engvall believes that the true authentic comedic voices are the ones that are grounded in reality and the everyday person.
“Some of the best comedic voices are true to themselves,” Engvall said. “When people see me onstage, that’s the same person they’re going to see in the coffee shop or the mall. When you look in the history of comedy, the real ones like Richard Pryor and George Carlin, they spoke from a point of reality.”
He avoids hot-button issues and political topics, especially after the year that the country has gone through.
“People’s nerves are still raw,” Engvall said. “I think they’re going to be raw for a long time. At least from my perspective, the audience just wants to know that you’re like them. I always say you don’t have to be the funniest guy ever. I just know that because I do a clean act, I’m relatable to them.”
Engvall still loves the classic comics like Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and George Carlin; but he has respect for new ones like Kevin Hart.
“I really have respect for younger guys because, I gotta tell you something, if I had to start over today, I don’t know that I’d make it,” Engvall said.
He sees himself retiring eventually, as he has achieved every milestone that he foresaw for himself (besides jokingly contemplating the possibility of Bill Engvall: On Ice).
“The beauty of what I’ve enjoyed in my career is: I honestly have achieved every goal I ever set in front of me, and I don’t know what’s left,” Engvall said. “I’m in a really great position right now where I can sit back and wait and see. The other thing is: I don’t plan on doing this for the rest of my life. I worked really hard. I don’t know that retirement from the road is not that far off, not because I don’t like it, but just because I want to. I don’t want to work myself to death, and I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”
For Chautauquans who like to sit out on their porches, Engvall says, his show fits right in the same vein.
“Come on out, sit back and relax,” he said. “My show is like we’re sitting around your living room, and I’m the funny guy doing the talking.”