Jeff Foxworthy has last laugh with new CMT comedy show

Friday, September 1, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Comedian Jeff Foxworthy calls his new TV show "Foxworthy's Big Night Out," but some of his guests probably wish he'd stayed home.

In one episode of the new series premiering 7:30 p.m. today on Country Music Television, he gets singer Sara Evans to take a whiff from a stinky container of squid guts. The dark-haired beauty recoils in disgust while Foxworthy busts up laughing.

In another, he coaxes Kenny Rogers into singing his hit duet with Dolly Parton, "Islands in the Stream" -- only Foxworthy sings Parton's part and the two men end up gazing at each other uncomfortably and trading lines like, "You do something that I can't explain. Hold me closer and I feel no pain."

The first season of shows was taped in front of a live audience in Foxworthy's hometown of Atlanta. With the CMT connection, it's no surprise the guests are all country music stars. But they're an interesting mix, ranging from veterans like Rogers and Hank Williams Jr. to newcomers The Wreckers and Pat Green.

"My thought was to spread it out. I wanted to get some people you don't know that much about," Foxworthy said.

The half-hour show consists of a monologue written and delivered by the host, as well as sketches and musical performances.

"It's like a 30-minute showcase on a country artist where people are getting to see them in an element they don't normally get to see them," Foxworthy said. "It's a little like 'Saturday Night Live."'

He has a good feel for which singers make the best guests. He chats with a bunch of them as host of his syndicated "The Foxworthy Countdown" radio show.

Still, Foxworthy gets a kick out of seeing their reaction once outside their comfort zone.

"Some of them are nervous wrecks about doing comedy, and I'm thinking, 'You perform in front of thousands of people every night.' And then after they get the first laugh they become like heroin junkies."

Foxworthy, 47, had a sitcom on ABC and NBC in the 1990s and also created the "Blue Collar TV" series for The WB Television Network and Comedy Central.

His new show has a campy "Hee Haw" air with skits such as Celebrity Deer Hunter and a group of dancing women in skimpy costumes called The Homewreckers.

"I always thought it was weird that we were on The WB. Even when we were doing great numbers for them, they just kind of didn't know what to do with us," Foxworthy said of the network known for shows like "Gilmore Girls," "Smallville" and "Charmed."

"From that standpoint, 'Big Night Out' is a much better fit. My audience has always kind of been their (CMT's) audience and vice versa."

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