Tag Archives: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader

Despite Myriad Projects, Stand-Up 1st for Jeff Foxworthy

Jeff Foxworthy photo by Brian Bowen Smith/Fox

Jeff Foxworthy has a full dance card of TV and movie gigs of late — not only as a recurring investor on “Shark Tank” and as host of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” but with his role in the big screen sports comedy “Crackerjack,” and his voice work in the forthcoming “Smurfs” movie.  But don’t get the idea he’s aiming to veer away from stand-up comedy.

“Oh, my God — I wouldn’t ever want to do that,” says the nice guy funnyman, who is currently on the road with Blue Collar Comedy cohorts Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy.

“Twenty seven years into doing comedy, we’re filling up arenas and I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had.  I’ve always said that laughter is like the relief valve that keeps the boiler from exploding.  In a big room, it’s infectious.  If, for a couple of hours, we can make people not worry about stuff and have a shared experience, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

According to Jeff, his “Crackerjack” part as an announcer, widely-touted as his first live-action acting role, is a small one.  “I’m trying to help a couple of guys from my church out,” he says, by appearing in the movie and providing input.  “It’s kind of cool…I always have a heart for the underdog.”

As far as this summer’s “Smurfs” movie in which he’ll be heard along with a cast including Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Katy Perry, Allan Cumming, Hank Azaria, Jonathan Winters and George Lopez —  Foxworthy says, “I don’t know if my mustache will be blue or not.  They’re going to put a mustache on my character.”

Foxworthy is the first to admit he’s not the kind of guy who leaps to mind when “Shark Tank” entrepreneurs are discussed.  When he’s on the NBC show, “It makes me feel like the old ‘Sesame Street’ song: ‘One of these things is not like the others…'”

His involvement came about because Mark Burnett produces both “Shark Tank” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”  One day, Burnett told him, “‘You know what you would be great on?  You should do ‘Shark Tank.’  I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Those guys are worth a billion dollars!'” he recounts.  But Burnett convinced Foxworthy he has the business savvy, and “It’s fun — something totally different for me.”

And he is very different for “Shark Tank.”  “On day one I came in and they said, ‘Now do your tough guy face,'” he tells us with a laugh.  “But I’m much more of a goldfish than a shark.  Seeing the contestants come in with their ideas takes me back 25 years, when I had the idea for a ‘Redneck’ book, but didn’t know how to advance it.  It’s a very sympathetic place for me.  I think, ‘Look over here.  I know you’re nervous.  I’ll make you relax.'”

Jeff Foxworthy Part of Effort to End Negative Stereotypes of Teens

Jeff Foxworthy Fox photo

Jeff Foxworthy Fox photo

Jeff Foxworthy thinks it’s time to stop negative stereotyping of teens.  The comic and “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” host wants to get the word out about 7 Days Across America, an effort to showcase the good deeds of today’s youth, with a team meeting such teens beginning tomorrow (9/5) in San Diego, winding up Sept. 12 in New York.  They’re visiting 14 cities in all.

“I just thought it was a cool idea,” says Jeff of the program that includes awarding of a $5,000 scholarship (see www.7Daysacrossamerica.com for details).   He notes that according to research by the not-for-profit Encouragement Foundation, which is spearheading the effort, “about 71 per cent of the press about teens is negative.  They just said, ‘There’s a lot of great kids out there, and maybe just by bringing some of these good stories to light, it will encourage other kids to say, ‘I can do that.’”

For Jeff, it’s personal.  Two of the teenagers he considers great happen to be his daughters, Jordan and Julianne.  “They’re good kids, and they run with good kids – good friends.  But that’s not what gets attention,” he says.

Jeff took Jordan to Africa when she was 14 as part of a church charity trek.  She came back determined to do something to fight malaria, which kills more children in Africa than HIV/AIDS, and teamed with Compassion International to develop the Bite Back campaign.  Since then, the 17-year-old has been back to Africa three times — and raised a half million dollars.

Younger daughter Julianne “has been making us laugh since she was two.  She’s just naturally funny.  And she’s a really good writer.”

As for himself, “It’s been a busy summer,” Jeff understates.  He taped 170 episodes of “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader” – both the upcoming new daily syndicated version, and the prime time show that starts its new season on Fox Sept. 21.  Then he jumped into a string of standup comedy gigs all over the country.

“Speaking of encouragement, that’s one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about the show,” adds Foxworthy, “that I’ve seen in my mail letters from teachers saying, ‘You’ve made it cool for kids to be smart again.’  Wow, not only are we hopefully a little entertaining, but we’re encouraging and positive as well.”