Jeff Foxworthy - Funny?

I was riding my bike uptown the other night past Seattle Center and noticed that Jeff Foxworthy is coming to Seattle soon for a show, with none other than those Blue Collar Comedy Tour stalwarts Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy.

Do you remember these dudes? I have a faint recollection of Blue Collar Comedy being really popular for about a year. If you don't remember, Jeff Foxworthy is the originator of the "You Might Be a Redneck If..." line of jokes, like this knee-slapper:
You might be a redneck if... you were acquitted for murdering your first wife after she threw out your Elvis 8-tracks.
Hahaha! Dudes! Rednecks totally murder people! And they obviously get divorced a lot, and dudes, they're so behind on technology they still use 8-track tapes! Man, what a witty observation. Anyway, this joke isn't funny and neither are most "redneck jokes."

I admit, though, that one isn't necessarily representative. I was googling around looking for ticket information for this upcoming show and I came across this list: Jeff Foxworthy on the Pacific Northwest! Here are some of the gems:
2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.
11. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon,
Yakima and Willamette.
13. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.
23. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
Tickets are only $70.00, y'all. But seriously, here's what you realize about these "jokes" - they are portrayed as making fun of denizens of the Northwest, and follow a long heritage of "You know you're from..." lists (you can surely find one about your hometown on facebook if you search for it) - but are in fact "funny" because they degrade the same population Foxworthy's been degrading, albeit on the sly, forever.

This list is funny because it sets up an opposition between people of the Northwest, who "get" what the list is talking about, and people who don't "get" it - i.e. don't get recycling, can't pronounce difficult words, eat fast food, rarely exercise, etc. And this is presumably funny for rednecks, because they see themselves in that other category, and think of Northwesterners as hoity-toity yuppies or whatever.

What I realized, though, was - why Seattle? Are there rednecks here? Are there people that find Jeff Foxworthy funny here? And then I realized - rednecks aren't supposed to find him funny. Who is reading this list of things about the Northwest? People who "get" the list, right? Meaning... not rednecks. People who like making fun of rednecks find him funny.

Did u laugh at this photo? I did. Why? Why did u/did u not?

And that makes Seattle a perfect place for the Blue Collar folks to perform. There's nothing that Seattlites like more than making fun of denizens of lamer places (read: everywhere), who aren't as smart as us (read: everyone) and who don't care about issues as much as we do (again, everyone). Also, like most white people, we love racist jokes but don't like being seen as racists.

Redneck jokes are the last acceptable racist jokes, aren't they? Because, guys, we're making fun of white people. You can't be racist for making fun of white people! Right? Let's face it, dudes - making fun of rednecks is really just another way of making fun of poor, white people. Uh-oh.

Is Jeff Foxworthy a redneck? He's rich. He doesn't have a working television on top of a broken television, he has a flat screen HDTV. He doesn't live in a trailer, have five non-working cars on his lawn, or listen to 8-track tapes. He lives in a mansion, drives an expensive convertible, and it has a built-in XM Radio and mp3 attachment with an ass-kicking sound system. He has a cultural cache with this sub-population, who believe that because he's one of them it's OK for him to make fun of them. But I wonder - how many rednecks are really in his audience? Especially when he's playing in Seattle?

I often thought about Dave Chappelle the same way, and I wonder whether it was part of the reason he stopped telling jokes/making hilarious TV. Just like it's OK for Black people to tell a Black joke, Chappelle could make fun of Black people all he wanted and it was OK. I've used this to my advantage in the past: "Why are Black people so tall? Because their knee grows!" (Say it out loud, it's funnier.)

Last year a rumor got started on Twitter that Dave Chappelle was doing a secret show in Portland. I lived in Portland at the time, got wind of the rumor, and a few friends and I arrived at the secret spot an hour before midnight, and THOUSANDS of people had showed up, just because it had spread around Twitter. By midnight, there were literally three thousand people there to see Chappelle. And I looked around, and Portland being Portland, 90% of the audience was white people.

Who thinks Black crackheads is funnier - Black people or non-Black people?

And I wonder if, as Chappelle got more and more mainstream, he started noticing his audiences getting whiter and whiter. For a comedian whose jokes are largely based on Black stereotypes, (crackheads bouncing around, pimps playing dice on the street corner, spending one's reparations check on a truck full of menthol cigarettes, etc.) that has to be troubling, because you have to ask yourself - when does self-parody leave the realm of sociocultural criticism and become exploitation? Who was going to be paying him $50 million? That's right, some white CEO at some major corporation. Doesn't it depend on your audience? When Black people are laughing at Black stereotypes, it's one thing, but when an audience full of white people is laughing a some Black stereotypes on the screen - are they laughing at or with you, Dave?

And so he quit, and maybe not for that reason. And that's the same question poor people, I think, need to ask about Jeff Foxworthy. I don't know if he has the integrity to realize that when he is playing a show in Seattle in 2010 he isn't elbowing ribs with fellow rednecks about the silly things that they as a sub-population collectively tend to do, say, or think. He is a non-redneck talking to other non-rednecks about the idiotic traits of a wholly other sub-population. I think Jeff Foxworthy transcended from parody to exploitation long ago. or is it possible that's how it always was?

Do u think Jeff Foxworthy is funny?
Is Dave Chappelle going to make a "comeback"?
Did u laugh at that photo?
R u a redneck?
Who's the best comedian working the circuit today?
Do they have to handle this internal crisis of audience?
Did Chappelle "quite while he was ahead" / make a good decision?
Should comedians care about why people are laughing as long as their laughing?
Do super-popular comedians have a role in shaping society for the better?


  1. doesn't it seem that, as a generalization, only people who actually identify with these kind of jokes seem to think they're really, really funny? or topical in any way? i read that PacNW list of JF's and didn't get much of it (or find it funny) - guess why? I don't live in the NW and have spent very little time there. you don't "get" it unless you're "in" it. same with the traditional redneck jokes. if you can relate to it, it's funny; that's what makes comedy, comedy.

    perhaps these comedians just know their audience.

  2. But isn't that the point?'s audience isn't rednecks. Redneck jokes are PC because of the facade that it's a redneck talkin' to rednecks about stuff they identify with. But neither J.Fox nor his audience are rednecks, they're upper middle class folks, thus audiences are not "in" it; they're most definitely "out" of it and what's happening is both audience and performer making fun of a party not present (rednecks (i.e. poor people)).

    I threw the D.Chap part in there because it's a clearer distinction (but I think it's the same) - DC was telling black jokes but then realized that his whole audiences was white.

    Racist (or classist) jokes are, on the surface, funny because there's a little nugget of truth that you see in yourself or whatever, but what's happening, in these two examples at least, is they "otherize" (in these examples) rednecks or Blacks. what audiences "get," then, is that they are separate from, and, implicitly, better than the sub-groups being derided.

    Maybe originally JF and DC were playing to redneck and black audiences respectively, and their comedy had authenticity but now it's, in my opinion, what i described above.

    My hypothesis is that DC quit because he feared losing his authenticity. Other hypothesis? JFox never had authenticity to begin with so he's got nothing to lose (and keeps performing...)

  3. Your posts are waaaay long. I can never get through a full one. Shorter posts = good.

  4. Steve, there are pictures throughout, and bullet points... I try to make it easy for you. I know Seth Godin says 300 words or less but that's if you're trying to sell something! right?! :T

    Usually if people care about what you have to say... :( they'll invest the 5 minutes in reading a whole blog post... :( I guess you don't fit into that category... :( :( :(

  5. I'd have to agree with the first comment, Elliott. If you aren't in some way "redneck" or can't identify with the joke, what would make it funny?

  6. Did y'all finish reading the post? Or maybe I need to re-visit it because I must have been super unclear.

    I am making the argument with this blog post that the "identification" hypothesis, (i.e. these folks are funny b/c their audiences identify with the comedian/characters in the comedy) does not apply in the two examples I gave.

    I am in no way a redneck and identify with "redneck culture" 0%. I grew up upper-middle class and have lived exclusively in major cities on the West Coast.

    And yet I laugh when I see pictures like that dude on his toilet on his porch. I was watching a Youtube video of these dudes while I was "researching" this post and I couldn't help but chuckle once in a while - and I asked myself the question you asked, "what makes it funny?"

    It's funny because of what I talked about in the post; it's exploitative and "otherizing."

    I was making the point about "redneck" jokes because that's a point usually not made. I referenced Chappelle because I thought everyone already knew the point I was making about his comedy - and it would support my Jfox hypothesis.

    Can many suburban white kids identify with the characters in Dave Chappelle's comedy? Well, possibly not, but they still find it funny, buy his dvds, etc.

    Here's Chappelle: "The truth is simpler, and more interesting. Chappelle had, essentially, become uncomfortable with playing a black fool for white audiences. Upon his return from Africa, he told Oprah Winfrey a revealing anecdote: While Chappelle acted out a sketch that featured him as a pixie in blackface, he heard a white crew member laughing a little too hard. This was, apparently, the galvanizing moment that caused Chappelle to reassess the intent of his comedy, and the kind of laughs he was giving his audience. As he told Time, 'I want to make sure I'm dancing and not shuffling.'"

    What I'm saying is deep down (or sometimes not deep down), there is the potential for the origin of our laughter to be not identification, but actually the opposite... You dig?

  7. yeah, i dig. but disagree.

  8. Anything in particular you disagree about? I suppose it's fine to "agree to disagree" but I am 100% comfortable with being wrong (I just usually wanna know why!)