AS GOOD AS IT GETS

With a new movie, a zany album and a hit tour, life is great for funnyman Bill Engvall

I told my dad," chuckles funnyman Bill Engvall, " 'I can honestly look you in the eye and say, "I'll be coming to a theater near you - and not buying popcorn!" ' "

Yep, it's true.

In addition to headlining the highly successful Blue Collar Comedy Tour with his buddy Jeff Foxworthy and special guests Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White,

Bill's preparing for the release early next year of his first feature film, The Blue Collar Comedy Tour Movie. The film features footage from two Blue Collar shows, as well as behind-the-scenes antics and a few special surprises.

"We came back to Nashville and shot the video with Chris Cagle," declares Bill, "and he just rocked!"

Bill did a little rockin' and singin' of his own on the just released Cheap Drunk:An Autobiography, his zany fifth CD.

"Now I will tell you this," he laughs, "nobody is gonna say, 'Move over George Strait.' They're not gonna say, 'Why are you doing standup? Here's your Grand Ole Opry card.' But the two songs we did for the album didn't come out bad." Possibly because he got some help from singer Elbert West, best known for his recent release "Diddley."

According to Bill, the album's title describes him pretty accurately. "I have no drug or alcohol tolerance at all," he smiles. "If I'm at home and I take a shot of Nyquil, I'm walkin' around my own house goin', 'Hey, baby, what's up?'

"And my wife says, 'You're just a cheap drunk!' "

It's obvious Bill's enjoying his success these days.

"It's one of those things that, every once in a while, you have to step back and go 'wow' and appreciate it for a little bit," he says. "Because it goes by so fast."

And Bill's not above going out of his way to make sure those around him have as much fun as he does - whether they want to or not!

"We were playing in Boston in this really old theater," he recalls. "And I went down a flight of stairs and the biggest rat I've ever seen in my life stopped right in the middle of the hallway - and the rat and I looked at each other, then he scooted off. So when I told Foxworthy, he said, 'God, I hate those things.'

"At the end of the show, we went down those same stairs. Jeff's got a Dr. Pepper in his hand. As soon as we got to the skinniest part of that hall, I screamed, 'God! There's that rat!'

"And I thought Foxworthy was gonna lose it. Dr. Pepper's goin' everywhere - he's lookin' but there's no rat. And I'm about to wet my pants."

Fortunately, if anybody appreciates a good joke, it's Jeff. And the friendship of the two has only grown - in spite of the rat incident!

"As a performer," declares Bill, "this tour is as good as it gets. We're all buddies anyway, so being on the road with your best friends is a great way to make a living."

-- David Scarlett

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