Whatever Happened To Bill Engvall?

Stand-ups like David Chappelle and Louis C.K. might garner more attention due to their controversial material and headline-grabbing inappropriate behavior, but you'll find no shortage of comedians flying under that scandalous radar who do rather nicely for themselves, thank you very much. Enter Bill Engvall, a buttoned-down comic who, unlike the many comedians whose divisive jokes have put their careers in jeopardy, avoided platforming on politics and religion and chose to spark laughs from more G-rated, slice-of-life anecdotes. 

"They want to know that you're like them, that you go through the same things that they do," said Engvall about his audiences to the Florida Times-Union. "I want people walking out of that theater feeling better about themselves than when they walked in."

That jocular combination resulted in Engvall winning a national stand-up comedy award and eventually landing a spot on the legendary Blue Collar Comedy Tour with heavyweights Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, and Ron White. Subsequent TV appearances on such shows as "Dancing With the Stars" and Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," movie roles, and several solo junkets helped keep his name in lights.

Lately, however, fans have likely wondered why Engvall, best known for his "Here's Your Sign" shtick, isn't so visible these days. Although he announced one facet of his career he plans to drop, the comedian remains busy to the point where he hardly has time to sit on his front porch watching the sun set on the horizon.

Bill Engvall's friendship with Jeff Foxworthy changed his life

Bill Engvall was born in 1957 in Galveston, Texas. His father was a doctor who worked with the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Engvalls moved to Arizona when he was given a job assignment there. After high school, Engvall planned to become a teacher, per GCU Today, but quit shortly before he was to get his education degree. He spent a few years as a college dropout working "odd jobs" in Dallas, including one as a comedy club DJ, spinning hits between sets. One night at the venue and on a whim, he tried his hand at being a funnyman. "I didn't have any material," he said to Penn-Live Patriot-News. "I just got up there and winged it, and it worked."

By the mid-'80s, Engvall, now married, felt his routine was sharp enough to try his talents in Los Angeles. Eventually, nightclub stints morphed into larger-profile gigs like talk show appearances and hosting televised improv shows on cable. But his first major break took place in 1992 when he scored a best male stand-up trophy at the American Comedy Awards. Just as fortunate, ABC broadcast the event to millions of living rooms across America, and Engvall caught the attention of industry movers and shakers who would book him appearances on sitcoms including "Delta" and "The Golden Palace."  

In 1995, Engvall had a regular role on a short-lived NBC sitcom called "The Jeff Foxworthy Show." But his association with the show's star would change his life forever.

The comedian launched a recording career

The start of Bill Engvall's working relationship with Jeff Foxworthy was a result of exquisite timing. While Foxworthy's sitcom tanked, the comedian was still a hot property on the stand-up circuit, thanks to his "You might be a redneck if ..." routine. When Foxworthy asked Engvall to open for him on a tour, the comic jumped at the chance. 

The Foxworthy connection proved to be vital in Engvall landing a recording contract with  Warner Bros. His first recording, "Here's Your Sign," issued in 1995, became a monster hit that debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, held that spot for 15 weeks, and eventually became certified platinum, per Variety Attractions. The title track also yielded his most famous comedic line. "So one week, I was working at a club and came up with this sign bit and people seemed to like it," said Engvall to CMT. "In fact, it got so popular that I started selling signs that said 'I'm Stupid' for a dollar apiece or two for five bucks at the shows."

Two years later, Engvall struck gold with his follow-up "Dorkfish," which also hit the Billboard summit in its first week. And while he'd record nearly a dozen recordings during his career, "Here's Your Sign" still remains his most successful outing. But that was hardly an issue, with the comic just starting to taste success. His best years were almost within reach.

Bill Engvall made it big via Blue Collar

In 2000, Bill Engvall hit a career peak when he teamed up with Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, and Larry the Cable Guy for the first of six Blue Collar Comedy Tours. The lineup, determined by Foxworthy's manager, offered a cross-section of personalities that immediately connected with an eager audience. Foxworthy academically picked apart nuances of everyday life, White related his exploits as a tequila-loving hellion, Larry was pure country bumpkin, and Engvall offered pragmatic wisdom in dealing with unusual situations.

Engvall recalled the initial tour experience with awe. "I remember one night, I forget the town, [but] because we'd all come in from different places, everyone was on a private plane," he said to the Post-Crescent. "And for whatever reason, the promoter sent four limos. And after the show, each limo pulled up in front of a private plane and I looked at Foxworthy and I said, 'This is about as close to being a rock star as we're ever going to get.'"

He wasn't kidding. After the final tour ended in 2006, bean counters were still keeping track of the tour's other revenue streams, which included movies, DVDs, merchandise, and even dolls. In 2010, Forbes listed Engvall tenth among the country's top 10 money-earning comedians at $10.5 million. The Blue Collar pandemonium didn't turn Engvall into a rock star, but it still made him pretty rich.

The stand-up star has been no stranger to TV

Before striking gold with Blue Collar, Bill Engvall relied on TV roles to supplement his stand-up income after moving to Los Angeles, but the funnyman admitted getting in front of cameras was a struggle. "I went on plenty of auditions and they seemed to like me, but I never got the part," recalled Engvall to Texas Monthly. After some bit roles on "Designing Women" and "The Golden Palace" (a short-lived "Golden Girls" sequel and one of the four shows Betty White played Rose Nylund in), his luck started to turn with "The Jeff Foxworthy Show." 

But after Blue Collar, even more TV roles rolled in. His most prolific experience was with "Blue Collar TV," a sketch comedy series that ran for two seasons during the latter half of the companion tour. A year after the tour concluded, TBS signed the comedian for three seasons of "The Bill Engvall Show," which also starred Nancy Travis and future A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence. Playing a detective in the TNT hospital drama "Hawthorne" starring Jada Pinkett Smith and voicing a character in the animated comedy "Bounty Hunters" came after that.

While some of those shows tanked after only a couple of seasons, Engvall still had to pinch himself over the opportunities. "I come to work and there's a stage door with my name on it ... and I'm on TV," he said to Tucson.com. "I can go to any town in America and somebody will say, 'You're Bill Engvall.' That's a pretty bizarre thought."

He played a preacher on a controversial sitcom

Probably the most controversial sitcom that included Bill Engvall in its recurring cast was "Last Man Standing," created by Tim Allen, who was previously best known for the klutz-oriented comedy "Home Improvement." For Engvall, who played Reverend Paul when he joined the show in 2018, it was a chance to be reacquainted with Nancy Travis, who played Allen's wife and was formerly his onscreen spouse on "The Bill Engvall Show." And playing a preacher seemed natural for Engvall, himself an ordained priest who officiated a wedding involving Emma Slater, his TV partner on "Dancing With the Stars."

His arrival came at a pivotal time for the family-oriented sitcom, which, despite good ratings, was canceled by ABC in 2017 for "business and scheduling reasons," network president Channing Dungey revealed at a media conference covered by The Hollywood Reporter. Per CNN, some fans were convinced that the political views of showrunner Allen, who once lamented on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that being a Republican in Hollywood was "like '30s Germany," played a role in the decision. A year later, FOX picked up the show, which ran for three more seasons.

Engvall, who stayed away from the controversy, enjoyed every bit of his tenure on the program. "It touches what a lot of Americans deal with on a daily basis," he said to Fox 11 Los Angeles of the show's success. "It's such a relatable show."

Bill Engvall has starred in a few weird movies

Even Bill Engvall would admit that Hollywood producers wouldn't rush to his side for the sake of box office appeal. But in the independent, direct-to-home video markets, as well as movies shot for cable, he's a go-to personality. Not surprisingly, many of his cinematic outings post-Blue Collar were screwball comedies, like "Delta Farce," which teamed Engvall up with Larry the Cable Guy to play some good ol' boys mistaken for military reservists. 

He also starred in the campy made-for-TV flick "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" alongside former network candy attractions including David Hasselhoff and "90210" star Ian Ziering. He's also managed to snare minor roles in equally oddball fare that includes the horror comedy "Monster Party," suspense film "The Neighbor," and the gallows humor-laced "Mr. Invincible."

If any of these sound like guilty pleasures, Engvall certainly isn't apologizing. "I like doing those, because it's fun for me," he said to Las Vegas Magazine."It's something different, and I think it's something different for my fans to see. I like the fact that they can look at that and go, 'Good God, I can't believe Engvall did that.' I like it because it's something completely different from what I do for a living."

He stays busy with other projects galore

Since his heyday during the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Bill Engvall has been set for life financially, meaning he's not so compelled to take on so much work. Still, he finds ways to keep himself occupied. "I'll just say that idle time is not my friend," he commented to the Press of Atlantic City. "I need to keep busy, and I enjoy it, you know?" 

His fans, if they're true blue-collar working stiffs, could probably relate. And chances are, Engvall's more diehard base was keeping tabs on his activities by listening to his podcast "My Two Cents," watching him host a game show called "Lingo," checking out his blog about the Los Angeles Angels baseball franchise on the Fox Sports West website, or reading any of the three books he had written. Sadly, only the books survive today.

In September 2021, Engvall launched another venture called "Blue Collar Auction," which premiered on Circle TV and had folks bidding on unique memorabilia from Lady Gaga's old Pontiac GTO to Rolling Stones veteran Bill Wyman's mandolin. "There isn't really much I won't do for a laugh," said Engvall in a prepared statement, "and you'll get to see that firsthand as I embarrass myself on multiple occasions." 

Bill Engvall's had his share of health issues

Bill Engvall's wit has earned him not only a huge bank account but an almost endless series of cheers, applause, and standing ovations. On one popular TV show in 2013, he drew a great deal of audience response in that he let his feet do all the talking. That would have been "Dancing with the Stars," which saw Engvall team up with professional hoofer Emma Slater to dance all the way to the finals, finishing fourth.

But the experience led to some health issues once he finished his fancy footwork routines, competing against the likes of Snooki Polizzi, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Valerie Harper. All that onstage activity proved to be so stressful on his legs, he had to undergo knee replacement surgery. To make matters worse, doctors discovered he also had a kidney stone and a case of shingles that needed to be treated. "After all that stuff I'm scared to go to the doctor anymore," said Engvall to Michigan-based MLive, "because I'm afraid they're gonna look at my wife and go, 'Ma'am, just sell him for parts, it's just not worth it.'"

While touring in January, Engvall joined the list of celebrities who have contracted COVID-19. He recovered but admitted it wasn't easy. "My wife has been with me for 40 years," he said to KTLA. "The worst thing about COVID is the fact that I've been home for five days and have not had one kiss."

The funnyman's personal worth is around $40 million

So, whatever happened to Bill Engvall anyway? In a word, lots. You see, Engvall's done enough to accumulate a nest egg amounting to about $40 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. That's four times what he had earned a decade earlier.

His property includes a massive family home built from reclaimed wood in Park City, Utah, a ranch in Texas, and a California beach house his family sold in 2015 for $5.2 million, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Engvall also has a car collection that includes a restored 1950 Chevy pickup, an upgraded 1977 Volkswagen van, and a 2013 Tesla Model S electric car, according to Motor Trend. His wife's tastes are a bit more extravagant; she owns a 2008 Aston Martin Vantage and a 2007 Mercedes-Benz.

As for what constitutes his earnings, it's safe to say that much of it comes from his Blue Collar days, not only from ticket receipts but from DVD and merchandising sales and royalties from broadcasts of the sketch series. Everything else is gravy. And Engvall, who is 64 at the time of this writing, won't miss the long hours. "Now I don't have to work as much," said Engvall to the Post Crescent back when he was 60. "I do it because I love it but I don't have to work."

Inside Bill Engvall's retirement plans

During the summer of 2021, Engvall announced he planned to retire from stand-up and cap that part of his career with a major farewell tour dubbed "Here's Your Sign, It's Finally Time." Engvall populated the tour itinerary with dozens of dates starting in August 2021 in Winterhaven, California, and ending with a November 2022 one-nighter in Ivins, Utah.

"I always said when the traveling starts taking over the fun of being on stage, it's time to hang it up," he said to News Nation. "I don't ever want to cheat my fans. We've all been to a concert where the artist just kind of walked through it, and I just never wanted to be that guy."

A desire to hang out more with his wife and kids now that he's a grandfather sparked his decision to stop touring. However, he hinted he'll take on other projects as long as they don't take him away from home for extended periods of time. "I'm excited to focus on future opportunities in entertainment and spend more time with my family," he said in a press release. "I'm not going anywhere — just hanging up my hat when it comes to sleeping in the airport and in-room dining."