If you're expecting Charlie Sheen-level revelations in the A&E "Biography" for Jeff Foxworthy airing May 28, you came to the wrong place.
Hapeville native and long-time Alpharetta resident Foxworthy is not just a kind, self-deprecating good ol' boy, he is the anti-Kardashian. Controversy runs away from him.
Yet his popularity over the years is incredible. No comic has sold more CDs when people purchased comedy CDs. He sold millions of "You Might Be a Redneck" books and calendars. His "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" was a smashing success and helped skyrocket the careers of Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White. The Comedy Central roast of Foxworthy in 2005 was the highest rated in the network's history - until Sheen's roast in 2011. In 2007, he helped turn Fox's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" into a surprise prime-time success.
Foxworthy during the hour-long special chose to talk about his life in an unusual roundtable featuring three of his closest comedy buddies: White, Dan Whitney (Larry the Cable Guy)and Kathleen Madigan.
"Jeff didn't want to do a traditional bio," said Sarah Girgin, director and executive producer of the special. "I love howscomedians relate to each other, sitting around clubs and sharing stories. He wanted to re-create these intimate conversations with people important to him."
And that trio? “They were very gracious. They truly love Jeff. It’s not just a work relationship,” Girgis said.
They taped it at the Punchline Comedy Club, where his stand-up career began on a dare 35 years ago and where he met his current wife Pamela.
While there aren’t a lot of tidbits in this hour that Foxworthy fans don’t already know, it’s perpetually amusing to see copious amounts of old photos and home videos of Foxworthy in all his mullet-era glory.
Others interviewed: his wife Pamela, his brother Jay and his best friend and manager Larry Burns.
Jay Leno also appears because he was the comic who smoothed the path for Foxworthy to appear "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" in 1991. Leno was Carson's primary sub and he recommended Foxworthy.
Foxworthy’s set on Carson went so well, Carson asked him over to the couch to talk afterwards. He then laughed at one of Foxworthy’s jokes right in front of him. It was like being blessed by the comedic Pope.
“If Johnny liked you, it was like getting the Willy Wonka golden ticket,” Foxworthy said in the special.
After having two girls, he got his own sitcom, considered in the 1990s to be the pinnacle of a comic’s career. For Foxworthy, it was a grind. He was relieved when it was cancelled after two seasons.
He also decided to leave Los Angeles after seven years and return to Atlanta to raise his family. He has stayed here ever since.
Foxworthy wanted to give his two daughters as normal a life as possible and it appears he succeeded.
The hour spends a lot of time chronicling the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" and even visits the Kroger he worked at before he became famous. But it also features his big heart: he does a weekly Bible study at the Atlanta Mission homeless shelter. (He allowed them to air a few minutes at the start of his meeting so they'd have video but booted the cameras out of the room for the rest of the meeting. He didn't want the men to feel uncomfortable.)
“He’s just a great human,” Madigan said near the end. “He makes the world better.”
“Biography: Jeff Foxworthy – Stand Up Guy,” Tuesday, May 28, 10 p.m., A&E
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.