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Lowbrow pals to yuk it up at Heinz Hall

Staff Reports
| Wednesday, April 6, 2016 4:27 p.m
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Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy

You might be Jeff Foxworthy, if … a horrible “you might be” list surfaces, with your name attached to it.

Take (please) the website with a rather offensive list, under the headline “Comedian Jeff Foxworthy: You May Be a Muslim.”

Was it really authored by the good-natured TV show host?

“Didn’t write it,” Foxworthy says. “We live in the age where people can put your name on something and your picture on something and put it out there. Once it’s out there, you can’t stop it.

“The first time I heard about (the Muslim list), I thought, ‘Great, someone’s going to bomb my car for something I didn’t write.’ ”

Now, the redneck lists — those are genuine Foxworthy. Starting with his 1993 album, “You Might Be a Redneck if …,” the Atlanta native has built quite a career in comedy, TV and publishing (multiple best-sellers), often making fun of the way Southerners act.

Do you have to live below the Mason-Dixon line to be a redneck?

“Oh, no,” Foxworthy says, from his Atlanta home. “That’s just how it began. They started calling me a redneck because I drove a truck and wore jeans and boots. I had never traveled before I got into comedy.

“But I found that anywhere you went, once you were 20 miles outside a city, you found rednecks. Accents were different, but good Lord, that’s why (‘You Might Be a Redneck if …’) worked. It wouldn’t have worked if it was just a Southern thing.”

Some have compared the folksy Foxworthy to Mark Twain, though others would call that a stretch as wide as the Mississippi. In any case, two decades ago he turned his stand-up popularity to television, first with the sitcom “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” then as host of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

When his TV career fizzled, he and Larry the Cable Guy, Ron White and Bill Engvall hit the road as part of “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour.” After packing venues across the country, it spun off into “Blue Collar TV.”

Half of that team is back together, as Foxworthy is touring with Daniel Lawrence “Larry” Whitney — who was raised on a Nebraska pig farm before becoming the comedian known as Larry the Cable Guy.

“You’re on the road with your friend,” Foxworthy says, of touring with Whitney. “With him, we do (comedy) individually, then at the end we bring out our stools and do it together.

“We travel together, hang out after shows. I think that’s why the Blue Collar thing was so successful. People could tell we liked each other.”

The current tour brings the lowbrow pair to the tony Heinz Hall, of all places.

According to Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a redneck if … you live in Pittsburgh.

“Over the years, I’ve performed there a bunch,” he says. “Unlike New York or Los Angeles, people were normal. They weren’t trying to be hip or on the cutting edge. They were people that got up and went to work, went to Little League games and rooted for the Steelers.

“Being not far removed from the steel industry, they’ve got a lot of redneck traits.”

As he professed on HBO in 1998, “To me, the definition of a redneck is a glorious absence of sophistication.”

Although he is not a political comedian, and because he is a connoisseur of redneckism, Foxworthy was asked to rate the major presidential candidates on that characteristic.

“Golly,” he drawled, with a chuckle, “there’s not a whole lot of rednecks in this bunch. … Out of this group, maybe (Ted) Cruz being from Texas, and I know he has jeans.

“Bernie (Sanders) doesn’t have a whole lot of redneck, except he likes free stuff. Rednecks do like free stuff. … Hillary, I have seen a few of my redneck friends when they’re drinking sit there and bark like a dog (a reference to Clinton barking during a speech to mock Republicans), so maybe she has that going for her.

“Trump, he just says what he thinks whether it’s politically correct or not, that’s kind of redneck.”

And, of course, Trump wants to build a wall or fence between the United States and Mexico. “Rednecks are real big about putting fences up,’” Foxworthy noted. “But if we built it, the wall would be made out of bailing wire and pallets and car doors.”

Tom Scanlon is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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