Hello, friends. Kurt here. Boy, oh boy. Where to start? In this very space, I've already been called out for snobbery for sticking it to lowbrow comedy and the people who love it, so I'm gonna try to keep the snark to a minimum. But I definitely stopped dead in my tracks when I walked into the gym this week and saw that the movie du jour was Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again, the straight-to-video sequel to Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie, a feature presentation of below-the-Mason-Dixon comics delivering below-the-belt jokes. My first impulse was to disregard the movie altogether, and just go with another day's title (okay, there was only one other day at the gym this week). Then, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got: this could turn out to be a whole lot of off-the-beaten-path fun, like getting a free glimpse of hell without the threat of damnation.
I exaggerate, but I'm certainly not kidding when I say that the Blue Collar quartet – Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy – generally make my blood run cold. The latter is by leaps and bounds the worst offender, and his “Git-R-Done!” is, no exaggeration whatsoever, my most reviled catchphrase in the English language. That he is very much viewed as a role model in many parts says horrible, horrible things about our country (I happily missed Cars 2, thank you very much). Engvall and Foxworthy seem like nice enough guys, the former boasting the least identifiable, and therefore most benign, schtick (I couldn't even tell you what it is). Foxworthy has surely been the most successful, as he has the savvy to parlay his white-trash brand into big-time crossover appeal (how many TV shows is he hosting now?). His “You Might Be A Redneck If...” gags are Blue Collar's best because they are the most shrewdly self-effacing, at once told from the inside but also distanced from it. Many are made up, sure, but you get the sense that folks back home are regularly pissed for being anonymously exploited, while Foxworthy can always snap back with, “well, at least I made something of myself.”
But no matter how large the grain of salt with which it's taken, all of this promotes a proudly ignorant way of life that very realistically puts people like Michele Bachmann into positions of power. Don't tell me it's just comedy – it's spoon-fed blinders for pig-in-mud fools and bigots. The segment I saw, which followed a healthy string of “You Might Be a Redneck If...” fan favorites (“If your mother can tell off a state trooper without taking the Marlboro out of her mouth...”), was a lengthy bit with Ron White, whose most fascinating characteristic is that he's still alive despite never being without a cigarette or a scotch-filled tumbler. White's jokes slid from the obvious to the obscene. None were funny. Some simply poked fun at the absurdity of his agent's decision to fly him to a gig that was an easy car ride away, but most just underscored a reckless contempt for women. Commenting on recent De Beers campaigns (this film hit shelves in 2004), he observed that the diamonds are basically designed to shut women up (“Take her Breath Away,” etc.), a notion that everything about his delivery endorsed, not condemned. He also went on about boobs in bars and wanting to see every woman naked and then wanting to vomit after looking at the ugly ones.
I know rudeness is White's M.O., and I know I'm just not the audience for this. But, as I said, we're dealing with some seriously unproductive stuff here, the ripple effects from which don't just linger inside some smoky, small-town Arizona venue. Worst of all was how willfully the females in the audience guffawed at White's cutting humor, conditioned to think that it comes from a place of wink-wink love, and isn't carelessly condescending. The camera kept cutting to jolly ladies bursting out in giggles, and even the woman on the elliptical beside me laughed hard at the De Beers cracks. Wake up, ladies! Don't better yourself at the gym only to give your thumbs up to entertainment that craps all over your gender! Don't laugh at Ron White, whose closing joke invited roars of applause for exalting Texas death penalty laws! Be better than Blue Collar!
1. If the Blue Collar guys were to be ranked in order of tolerability, it would go like so: Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White, Larry the Cable Guy.
2. This post ain't gonna get me any friends in the Bible Belt.
3. If you walk into a gym and recoil at the sight of a marquee that reads, Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again, you might be a film snob.
Can I get an “Amen” in here?