Bill Engvall, jack-of-all-trades funnyman.

Engvall just a guy, but a funny one

Published: Sunday, May. 8, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 2I
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 8, 2011 - 12:10 pm

In the game of "Lingo," contestants attempt to guess a five-letter word and then fill in a card similar to one used in Bingo, completing lines horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

It has not enjoyed the long-term success of "Wheel of Fortune" or "Jeopardy," but it's endured a lot longer on television than many other game show attempts.

Now, the show, which originally premiered in 1987 as a syndicated program hosted by Michael Reagan, son of the former president, is about to get another run. This time, Bill Engvall will step into the shoes of Reagan and his successors, including Chuck Woolery, and it will be the Game Show Network airing the show.

Engvall, who plays the Silver Legacy this Friday, describes the game as a "combination of Scrabble and Bingo" and has just completed taping 40 episodes in eight days.

"Yes, those times when a host says things like 'Will you come back on Monday?' are a compression of time. The taping session is grueling, but it's great fun and I got to give away some money. In the bonus round, for example, if the contestants can guess five words in ninety seconds, they win $100,000, and it's great to give people a chance to win that kind of money.

"Plus, there are big laughs in the format and this version is more interactive than previous ones."

This isn't the first time Engvall has gone the game-show route. Last year, he did the pilot for an ABC idea, "Trust Me, I'm a Game Show Host," sort of a "1 vs. 100" idea that found 100 contestants betting on which of two unseen hosts was giving the correct answers to questions.

It didn't get picked up. It's difficult to predict what will take off in that genre. After all, who would have thought a show called "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" would be a hit? It's worked out pretty well for Engvall's frequent stage mate Jeff Foxworthy.

"I hope this one gets picked up. There's a lot of comedy in what people say in this show and, boy, do they get into the game!" he said.

If anything can be said for Engvall's career, it is that he has never stopped trying everything and anything. Some, like the "Blue Collar Comedy," have been successful and led to a vast and dedicated following for his stand-up comedy as well as for that of Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. Others, like "Mobile Home Disasters," a low spoof of "Extreme Makeover," have bombed.

There have been movie tries ("Bait Shop" with Billy Ray Cyrus, "Delta Farce" with Larry); a multitude of comedy specials ("Here's Your Sign" became a signature routine); books (including his autobiography, "Bill Engvall – Just a Guy"); and some major television successes (a continuing guest spot on "Delta," one of the top CMT shows "Country Fried Home Videos," and the three-year run of TBS' "The Bill Engvall Show").

"I would like to do another sitcom now that they're back on the primetime schedule in a big way. In two years or two months, who knows?

"Right now, I can say I have been so blessed in my career. There have been the movies, the TV shows, the books, but I still love stand-up. I live for the time I have onstage. It's a different lifestyle and people say, 'Oh, that must be awesome,' but, believe me, I'm not Aerosmith and there is no bar backstage or cute chicks.

"I just like to be able to be there and watch the people laugh. It is a drug easy to get addicted to."

Engvall promises the show he will bring into Reno will be "lots of fun. I'm writing like I used to before I had kids. Now, I like to talk about the things I am not going to do anymore. I'm not texting, for instance, not taking 15 minutes to say, 'What's up?' "

And even though "Blue Collar Comedy" has not been around for a while, that does not mean it's gone.

"Jeff, Larry, and I have been shaping up a new show," Engvall said. "It should happen the first quarter of 2012. It's been three or four years now, and we didn't want to burn out on it. We took a little break, but we've discovered people still want to see it. Ron White decided to take a walk this time, and we're OK with that."

BILL ENGVALL

What: The comedian has done game shows and television sitcoms, but this show is all stand-up comedy.

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Silver Legacy, 407 N. Virginia St., Reno

Cost: $50, $67.50

Information: (800) 687-8733, www.silverlegacy.com

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Read more articles by Mel Shields



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