Why comedian Bill Engvall is ending the year, and his touring career, in Utah

After 42 years traveling the country performing stand-up comedy, Bill Engvall is about to take the stage for the last time in the place he considers home: Utah.

Is that true. A Texan who still has that distinct sound in his voice when he says, “Here’s your sign,” has made Ingval Park City his home for more than 20 years.

“We started coming here to go skiing – great snow, we love to ski,” said Engvall. “And then a year later we spent the summer there and it was great. We’ve been here ever since.”

When he decided to retire from touring at the end of 2022, he knew immediately that he wanted his final shows to be in pristine condition.

“For me to be able to wrap it up in Salt Lake City is perfect,” said Engvall. “For whatever reason, the people of Utah took me under their wing. They were great to me and loyal to the shows. So when my wife and I decided it was the time, I said, ‘I want it to be the last show in Utah and I want it to be at the Eccles Theatre,’ because I love it. This is an amazing place.”

He will perform two shows at Eccles on New Year’s Eve, pulling back the curtain on a career that has taken him to every state in the Union over the past four decades.

“It’s been a great run — 42 years. It’s 41 years longer than I thought it would last,” said Engvall. “People, like, ‘Oh, why are you retiring?’” And my honest answer is — because I grabbed the brass ring. I did everything I wanted to do in this business. Other than “Bill Engvall on Ice,” and nobody wants to see that.

Make decision

Engvall still loves to perform, but the travel that comes with it has been wearing him down. Although he has long since left behind performing in small clubs in faraway places, now he is making headlines at big venues.

“I don’t care how great the travel is — when you’re on the road alone, it takes a lot out of you,” he said. “People see you on stage for 75 to 90 minutes and think, ‘Oh, what a wonderful life. But they don’t see the 22-and-a-half hours you spend in a hotel room.

Engvall fondly remembers the blue collar comedy tours, which saw him tour with Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy. Blue Collar was “a godsend. It literally made me a household name. Without it, I seriously doubt we would have this conversation now.”

(Theresa Woodhull) After 42 years, comedian Bill Engvall will perform what he says is one last time on December 31 at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City.

That tour 2000-2006 was very successful. Even producing a movie and TV series. But for Engvall, the best part of his “blue collar” days was “you had someone to talk to and visit with or have breakfast with. And when you’re alone, it’s like a lonely life.”

However, he is not complaining. “There was not a single thing I regretted about this profession,” he said.

“This is fun. During COVID, when I couldn’t work, I suddenly realized I didn’t miss it. And I thought, You know what? That means it’s about time.” Because I never wanted to do that just for a check. I think we’ve all seen shows like that. This is not fair to the fans who spent their hard-earned money.”

Get used to yota

Engvall first started coming to Utah around 2000, when his family and Foxworthy and his family “used to meet in Park City and we were skiing and hanging out. It was so much fun.”

That was when he was “indoctrinated in Utah”. Headed out to book a dinner at Grappa’s on Main Street in Park City, and decided to stop on the way and get a glass of wine, not thinking much of it. “I’m from Texas now, where they pretty much sell liquor when a baby is born,” said Engvall. “They just want to have a glass of wine at the bar,” he told the maitre, and was surprised when he was asked, “Do you have any intention of dining here?” “

In his confusion, “Just say yes,” the man behind me said. And I said: Yes. The master says “there is a tavern”.

“That’s when I learned about the liquor laws in Utah.”

He jokes about Utah, though he mostly praises the state. “We love going down to Moab,” Engvall said. “One of the things my wife and I love about Utah is the difference in geography, whether it’s red rocks or… [Grand] Escalante staircase [National Monument] Or in the mountains – beautiful hiking trails there. There is no shortage of things to do in Utah. And I think Utah is a very family thing. And I think that’s why you see a lot of people moving in, because they’re starting to realize, “Oh, that’s not what I had in mind at all.”

And Engvall’s business fits right in with family-friendly Utah.

“I don’t want to get on the soapbox here,” he said, “but I firmly believe that one of the reasons I stick around all the time is because I work clean.” “Listen, I love a good and dirty joke as much as the next guy, but I really don’t want to sit through 90 minutes of it,” because after a while, I start to think, “Is there anything else you can do that damn thing?”

“There is a certain niche that loves dirty comedies, and I don’t envy them for that. I enjoy it, but I find I get more emails and comments on social media thanking me for keeping it clean. It’s amazing how many of those I get. And I haven’t. I wanted to get to the point in my show where I was relying on filth as a crutch simply because I didn’t want to write new stuff.”

Engvall said that he and his wife have become ordinary Utah. They go to see the lights in the temple yard. And drive through ZooLights at Hogle Zoo. “We do all those foolish things,” he said, “and we love every minute of it.”

He said people were still amazed to learn he lived in Utah. To be clear, he’s not here full time — he also has a place in Scottsdale, Arizona, that he retreats to during the coldest part of the local winters. “I’m at that age where… I don’t need these five things below,” he said with a laugh.

And he “got involved on a small level in Park City—not in a political way, but doing things and bringing things up just because we really enjoy it. I hope Park City keeps its charm and doesn’t become Aspen, but it seems to be going that way.”

If Engvall looks like a regular guy, that’s because he is. Definitely a lot more of the average guy than you would expect from a guy who is a comedy icon and has starred in movies and on TV.

“When people see me in downtown Salt Lake City,” he said, “the guy they see walking around the mall is the same guy you’ll see on stage.” “I’ve never had to adapt to a character or put a facade on. It’s just — hey, that’s Bill — whether I see you at IHOP or I see you at Grappa. And I think people appreciate the fact that the guy they just saw at LensCrafters is the guy you’re going to see at the Eccles Theatre.”

You probably didn’t see him at the Sundance Film Festival, though, because he’s a local and he knows he makes sure he “bucks him out of town for it.”

Success took years

He said that one of the reasons Engvall appreciates its success is that it didn’t happen overnight. He performed in clubs and on television for more than two decades before hitting his first blue collar run. And he never thought that major success was in the cards.

He said, “Oh my God, no.” “I guess you’re dreaming about it, but the reality of it coming out is so slim. I mean, I was so stupid I didn’t know you could make a living off of this. And then it wasn’t until the first album came out that things really started.”

Even this was a slow start. His first comedy album, Here’s Your Sign, was released in 1995, and “in its first week, the album sold 50 copies nationwide.”

It eventually became a huge hit, some 15 years after he first hit the stage, and Engvall was more than OK with that.

“People ask you, ‘How do you know there is a God? And I know that because it didn’t give me fame at 23. Because I would have totally screwed it up. I would have been in some rehab,” he said, laughing. “I think sometimes when you’re that young, you’re not mature enough to appreciate what you’ve got . And I think there’s a good reason I didn’t give it a break until I was old enough to be able to handle it.”

Not completely retired

Engvall doesn’t have to retire from performing entirely. He said, “Listen, my ultimate dream — if I could have everything I wanted — would be kind of like I had when I was doing The Tim Allen Show.” (Engvall had a recurring role as Reverend Paul on Seasons 5-9 of “Last Man Standing.”), appearing in nine episodes. “I would like to have a recurring role where I’m in five or six out of 10 shows.”

He starred in his own sitcom “The Bill Engvall Show” from 2007 to 2009 on TBS. (His teenage daughter was played on the show by Jennifer Lawrence, before she went on to star in “The Hunger Games” franchise and win an Academy Award for “Silver Linings Playbook.”)

If, at this point, he was offered a starring role in a TV series, “it would be something I’d have to consider,” he said, “because it would either be filmed Monday through Friday and then go home on the weekends, or go back to L.A. and I wouldn’t that “.

And he doesn’t say he’ll never perform on stage again, though he has no plans to tour the country. “As far as I know, that’s retirement. Now, two or three years from now, if I get bored and my wife, Jill, says, ‘You have to get back on the road,’ I can do that,” Engvall said. “But as of now, I’d like to see what you throw its life. See what’s in there. … The honest answer is: I don’t have a plan.”

He would like to spend more time helping out at the National Capacity Center in Park City,” he said. “I’ve been there volunteering a little bit. I’d like to do that more regularly,” he said. who can’t get out. …

“I’ve been so lucky and so blessed to have a job that I’ve loved for so long. Now it’s time for me to give something back.”

He and his wife plan to spend more time with their son, daughter, and grandchildren, and also plan to travel “to some of the cities and towns I’ve just traveled to most of my life. There are some really great things about this country.”

final offers

The last two shows will be 60% new material and about 40% Engvall “results”. They will be filmed for a future TV broadcast (port and date to be announced).

“The new things I wrote were precisely because we were shooting a special,” Engvall said. “If you’ve got my liar, I’ve just done a greatest hits. But it’s not really fair to the fans either. If you and I go see Aerosmith, we’re fine if they play a couple of new songs, but we really want to hear the hits.”

It’s not that he can’t keep performing. He can book another tour if he wants.

“But I’ve always said I want to leave with people who want more,” said Engvall.

Will he be relieved when he’s done? sad? “I think there will be a mixture of both,” Engvall said. “All I know. That’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve never had to get a real job.”

“Yeah, it would be a very emotional end to the show.”

Bill Engvall: The Last Show

Comedian Bill Engvall will perform two shows in Salt Lake City, before retiring from touring.

when • Saturday, December 31, at 5 and 8 pm

where • Eccles Theater 131 S. Main, Salt Lake City.

tickets • $35 – $85 at myarttix.org, in person at the Eccles Box Office, or by phone: 801-355-ARTS (2787).

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting the local press.

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