Bill Engvall wants to have a conversation.
The veteran comedian and actor presents new material and his “classics” for two shows for his new comedy tour “Sell Him For Parts” on June 15 at the Cherokee Casino in Pocola. The first show is at 6 p.m. with another show at 9 p.m.
“I really don’t want people to think they’re coming to a show, but rather a bunch of people sitting around your living room having about a 90-minute conversation and I happen to be the funny guy in the room,” said Engvall during a phone interview from his home in Utah. “There will be some new material about getting older and everything. I’ll put in some classics like Dorkfish and Here’s Your Sign. It’ll be a good mixture and clean fun.”
Engvall has gotten a lot of mileage out of “Here’s Your Sign” since it was part of his debut comedy album back in 1996 from a show he did at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Mich.
“It’s funny. Someone asked me how do you write a signature line for stand-up comedy. I told them, ‘you don’t. The audience will write the line for you.’ And they did,” Engvall said.
Engvall began his comedy back in the mid-1980s in Texas.
“I love westerns. I wanted to be John Wayne, but I wasn’t very smart. I didn’t know you had to go to like acting classes or school,” said Engvall. “So, I kind of did it in reverse and it has led into acting.”
Engvall has played a variety of roles, never really settling upon a typecast.
“I don’t want to be a one-trick pony,” he said. “I like to keep my fans on their toes. I got some pushback from my fans with my role in ‘The Neighbor,’ but I don’t want to be stagnant,” Engvall said.
He still wants to pursue his cinematic hero and be in a full-length western as well as do a comedy movie.
For his comedy, Bill Engvall followed the works of Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby (“It’s a shame what has happened to him.”), Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Steve Martin.
“When I was growing up I would listen to my dad’s Bob Newhart albums, but it was when I got my first Steve Martin album (“Let’s Get Small”) and listening to the audience response, it hit me… this is something I could do,” he said. “My dad is funny and so the seed for me to do comedy was planted early and was already fermenting in my mind before I knew it.”
Engvall has made it his pursuit to make people laugh and feel better about themselves. It’s a pursuit which has led him to become an ordained minister, and he’s going back to college to get a degree in Christian Studies.
“This has just been a natural progression for me,” he said. “It began as a betterment for my own soul and so becoming a minister and getting this degree is just an extension of my comedy.”
Engvall has made it a conscious choice to maintain a clean act and stay away from politics and religion during his routine.
“I have fans from 13 to 85 and when you do politics or religion, you’re going to lose about 50 percent of your audience,” said Engvall. “My act has worked for me. I just want people to feel better and leave it at that. To do stand-up comedy, you have to be really smart about what you’re talking about … and there are some things that are just above my pay grade.”