Originally posted Friday, July 12, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
This past Tuesday, Jeff Foxworthy delved into his first judging job ever on NBC’s “Bring the Funny,” a reality competition show covering all sorts of comedy.
In a sense, this show is a permutation of both “America’s Got Talent” and “Last Comic Standing.” In this case, sketch comedy, comedy singers, magicians and stand-up comics share the same stage.
Foxworthy, the legendary comic who lives in Johns Creek, approached judging to be helpful but not mean.
“I want to help prepare to get to the next step,” he said. “Most of them have never been n TV. There’s a lot of nerves and just three minutes. Three minutes is hard.”
Foxworthy recalled trying to get on “Star Search” in the 1980s and failing six times. He only broke out once he got six minutes on “The Tonight Show” and Johnny Carson liked him so much, he waved him over to the couch.
In the first episode, Foxworthy raved over some funny acts, including a sketch group that mocked one of those upbeat kids’ group acts like the Wiggles. The twist: one of the members was a conspiracy theorist.
But when a dude who had a funny concept - a robot stand-up comic - wasn’t all that funny, Foxworthy called him out. “You’d win ‘Bring the Robots,’ but not ‘Bring the Funny,’ “ he said.
Writing matters, he said, as much if not more than the idea. He recalled telling Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy when they started the Blue Collar Comedy Tour to keep writing their tails off. They only had a short period of time to make a good impression and when they went out on multiple tours, they had to come up with more material. It worked. Now both White and Larry the Cable Guy are big stand-up stars.
Fellow “Bring the Funny” judge and “Saturday Night Live” vet Kenan Thompson, who grew up in College Park, was the toughest on the contestants that first hour. But he and Foxworthy both focused on constructive, technical critiques.
Chrissy Teigen, who is a social media influencer with 24.9 million Instagram fans who entertains her fans with comedy online, was by far the easiest one. She tended to like almost everything - even the robot guy. “She’s the voice of the people,” he said. (Foxworthy - hardly a social media maven - was forced to go on Instagram by NBC. “I just posted a photo of myself by my tractor about to move brush,” he said. “Glamorous!” He has a 400-acre farm and grows corn and soybeans.)
For Teigen, the studio was near “The Voice,” so her hubby John Legend would stop by on set regularly (and appeared in the first episode.)
“He’d be standing in the wings with two kids in his arms,” Foxworthy said. “I’ve been there, dont that. He was a really cool guy, just laid back.”
Along with host Amanda Seales, he said “Bring the Funny” threw four disparate people together. “But from day one, even though we are as diverse as can be,” he said, “it just worked. We liked each other.”
What Foxworthy realized was that with only three minutes, the sketch comics had an advantage over the stand-up comics. Sketch troupes could bring more visual pizzazz in the opening seconds while stand ups generally had to sell themselves with just words and their own physical humor. “You need to quickly establish your personality and point of view,” he said.
He said he picked acts that he felt could come back and improve and most did, he said.
Foxworthy, while on “The Tonight Show,” got some advice from a fellow comic: “If you think you’re going too slow, go slower.” This gives the audience a sense you’re in control. If they think you’re nervous, you’re more likely to die and less likely to kill.
But even then, Foxworthy cringes when he watches his 1980s mulleted self. “My voice was even higher pitched,” he said.
He somehow spent an hour watching himself on his A&E documentary in May about him. “My wife was on the couch watching,” he said. “I’m by the stairs cringing.”
Foxworthy reluctantly said yes when A&E approached him in part because he knew the “Biography” brand had credibility. They gathered three of his best friends - White, Larry the Cable Guy and Kathleen Madigan - to sing his praises at the Punchline.
What was most surprising to many was how emotional White got over how Foxworthy helped his career. “He could hardly talk without crying,” Foxworthy said. “People had never seen that. We’ve known each other more than 30 years. That’s a long friendship.”
Now 60, Foxworthy realized while doing “Bring the Funny” that he was by far the elder statesman. “Dang, I have gray hair!” he said. “I’m the old guy! I’m supposed to be the new guy!”
“Bring the Funny,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC
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