Wednesday, July 12, 2006

July 12, 2006
There is a brilliant piece in the latest New Yorker about Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, and The Blue Collar Comedy Tour guys and the pit bull agent who manages them. The title of the piece is "Blue-Collar Gold" (sub-hed: "Comedy between the coasts") and in the article it talks at length about the zero respect these guys get in Hollywood and the "industry." For example, "Blue Comedy Comedy Tour: The Movie" was tepidly released in 2003 and the studio had no faith in it, gave it no budget to promote, and it barely took in $600,000 in theatres. When it was released in DVD it grossed $38 million dollars!

"People [in Hollywood] act like you're not even in show business," says Bernie Brillstein, who conceived the tv show "Hee Haw", which ran for 24 years. The article goes on to say “Studios see themselves as the pinnacle of America's entertainment pyramid, a cut above television, two cuts above music, and six cuts above touring Blue Collar comedians and mimes.”

Here's the president of of digital entertainment at Paramount: "It's so unsexy, so low-end hillbilly shit—but it makes so much money!"

So who's the mastermind behind this phenom? One bulldog manager named J.P. Williams, one rich comedian-trucker. His core principals?

Clean it up: No dirty jokes. "It's not about censoring the artist: The whole art of comedy is doing a pussy joke without ever using the word 'pussy.'"

Scrub it again: groom the profanity from your act. Wall-Mart won't sell product with a parental-advisory sticker.

Work the hook: catchphrases: Larry the Cable Guy's "Git-R-Done" and Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be A Redneck" and Bill Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" catch phrases grace license plate holders, cell-phone wallpaper, camo hats, greeting cards and slot machines. Last year, Larry the Cable Guy sold $7 million dollars' worth of novelty merch in convenience stores alone.

And what do the agents in Hollywood say about these cats? "[Williams and crew] just tapped into this huge audience of one hundred thousand people filling the Astrodome to see Billy Graham, and none of us Jews here know who the fuck they are or what the fuck they're thinking."

And these same guys view Mel Gibson’s $600 million dollar take on “Passion of the Christ” as an anomaly. Ha.

What I glean from this is there's basically two major markets in the U.S. The urban, mostly coastal (Manhattan and Hollywood) market, and then there is that vast space in between, derisively referred to as “the flyover crowd” by the minions of media types flying back and forth, “taking meetings.” In fact, Jeff Foxworthy came up with the Blue Collar tour concept after reading an article about “The Kings of Comedy” a group of black comedians who toured the country in 1997 and it ended up in a movie by the same name, filmed by Spike Lee, which grossed $37 million. The article went on to say that the Kings appealed to “hip urbanites,” and Jeff said to his manager, “That’s leaving a lot of people out.”

"If you're a man and you've been antique shopping during a big football game, you're either gay—or married."
—Jeff Foxworthy

This just in:

Road Report
“Hedy and I just came back from Three Trips. One to Kennebunkport Maine. One in Jackson Hole Wyoming and one to Indianapolis.

“In all three we looked for True West and here is our report. We saw TW in Portland Maine—in a grocery store. I saw TW three times in Wyoming—drug and grocery stores. No visible sign of TW in Indianapolis. In all instances I moved TW to the front most position on the rack.
—Allen Fossenkemper

”Country and blue collar is where the money is.”
—Bernie Brillstein

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