In Step With Bill Engvall: The Q&ABy Christine Champagne
The “Blue Collar” comedian thinks he has a shot at winning “Dancing With the Stars.”
Bill Engvall may not be the best dancer on “Dancing With the Stars.” Actually, there is no reason to tiptoe around the subject of ability—Engvall is not delusional. “Now, am I the best dancer on the show? Not at all,” he admits. “But I’m trying as hard as everybody else, and I think that’s what America is buying into.”
He’s right. You can’t help but root for the Texas-born comedian—he tackles everything from the Paso Doble to disco with such incredible enthusiasm. It just radiates from him, and it’s infectious and inspiring.
WhoSay recently spoke with Engvall to find out what it’s like to strut his stuff in front an audience of 12 million people every week, how his dancing partner Emma Slater brings out the best in him, and why he was so torn up when fellow competitor Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi got voted off the show.
WhoSay: Did you have any experience dancing before you joined “Dancing With the Stars?”
Bill Engvall: The only dancing I really ever did before is what I call “the white guy prom dance.” It’s where you just kind of move one foot around in a circle. And growing up in Texas, I went Texas two-stepping with the girls, but it was nothing like this. I didn’t know anything about ballroom dancing. I’m not going to lie to you—I was a little nervous about doing this because it’s one of those things that if it goes good, you look like a hero, but if it goes bad, you look like a chump.
WhoSay: So you weren’t the guy tearing it up on the dance floor at a friend’s wedding?
Bill: I was never the guy who would get out there and just sling it around the floor. I was always afraid I’d get embarrassed, or I’d look like an idiot. So doing this show is so far out of my comfort zone.
WhoSay: Still, you just go for it. You don’t seem daunted. Well, you did say the tango was killing you during rehearsals, but then you go out on performance night, and do your best. You really own the dance floor when you are on it.
Bill: I remember thinking going into this, when this is over I don’t want to be going, “Oh, I wish I would have done this, or I wish I’d worked a little harder, or shown a little more emotion.” So I pretty much just leave it out there every Monday night on the floor, and that’s why I’m exhausted come Tuesday morning!
WhoSay: The idea of learning how to dance in public is pretty insane. I wouldn’t do it.
Bill: Not only in public but in front of 12 million people! But I’m kind of the everyday guy, and I’m showing everyday people that if you really want to put your mind to it, you can do this.
WhoSay: Have you gotten a lot of support from your friends who are comedians, or have you gotten a lot of ribbing from them?
Bill: It’s interesting you bring that up because when it first started, it was total ribbing. I knew that was coming, the ribbing part. Now, they’re all watching.
WhoSay: Why do you think you have gotten so far in the competition? Some of your competitors do have more natural ability, or they’ve clearly taken some dance classes in the past.
Bill: I give the credit there to Emma. This is her first year as a pro, and I can’t tell you how proud I am that we’ve gotten to week nine in her first year. When this thing started, I told my wife, “If we get past the first elimination, I will feel like a success.” Then I said, “If I get to week four, I will be ecstatic.” Well, here I am at week nine, and for a long time, I would think, “There’s no way we’re getting to the finals.” And, now, I think, “You know what, I’ve got a shot at this.” I think what a lot of the critics forget is that this is not a dance competition. The judge’s scores are 50 percent. The fans’ score is the other 50 percent, and I’ve got the greatest fans on the planet because of WhoSay. I’ve gotten wonderful support from these people, and that’s why I love posting the pictures on the website and tweeting. When I started this thing, I think I had 60,000 Twitter followers, and it’s up to 97,000 now.
WhoSay: So does it fuel you to know that so many people are behind you and loving what you are doing?
Bill: Yeah, it’s crazy. And I’m doing it for them. I’m doing it for them, and I’m doing it for me. Actually, it’s more for them now because I get so excited when I retweet people who have said, “Dude, I am so proud of you. This is so cool. You're going to go all the way.” I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, but I’m now doing it for them because everybody seems to be getting a great deal of enjoyment out of it.
WhoSay: Judge Carrie Ann Inaba recently referred to you as the mayor of “Dancing with Stars” because you are buddies with everyone on the show.
Bill: That’s just kind of the way I lead my life. Nobody is better than me. Nobody is worse than me. It’s like we’re all human beings, and I don’t want sound preachy, but that’s why I talk to Cher the same way I’ll talk to a PA or the security guard. There doesn’t need to be this hierarchy of like, “Oh, well I’m a celebrity.” At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.
WhoSay: As challenging as the competition is, you look like you are having a lot of fun doing this.
Bill: I’ve got a brother-in-law that pours concrete for a living, and there are a lot of people who have hard jobs, people working blue-collar jobs, and I get paid to go dance. How can you get up in the morning, and go, “Ugh, my life sucks?” Really? I’m on TV. I’m going to get seen by 12 million people. I get to dance to a live band with a beautiful girl, and you’re going to pay me? Okay. That’s a good day!
WhoSay: Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a. “Snooki,” was voted out last week, and you clearly felt awful about her having to leave. As much as you love being on the show, you are gutted when your fellow celebrities have to say goodbye.
Bill: You could not have said it any better. Snooki was a great little dancer. I walked over to her and I said, “I am so sorry. This probably should have been me.” And she goes, “Shut up.” And I go, “No, you shut up! I didn’t want to like you, and now, I love you!” She really is a completely different person than the one I knew on “Jersey Shore.” I mean, it’s just like a 360. But it does hurt [to see people go]. You become this little family.
WhoSay: How will you handle it if you get voted off the show?
Bill: We all know it could be us. It could be me next week. Now, I think maybe there’s a little bit of a difference in that I’m so happy where I’m at, and I’ve gotten so much further than I thought I would have gotten. So if I get booted, I’m fine. I have so proven to myself that I can do this, and the sad thing for me will be that I don’t get to see everyone.
WhoSay: Do you think being on “Dancing With the Stars” will have an impact on your life beyond your career? I’ve interviewed people who have done reality competition shows ranging from “Project Runway” to “Survivor,” and everyone talks about how they have been grown from the experience.
Bill: Without a doubt. This will be something I will remember for the rest of my life, and it will be remembered with fond memories. I mean, I save every picture that I can get. The friendship that I’ve developed with Emma is incredible. My wife Gail and I were talking, and I said, “When Emma gets married, we’ll probably be in the church. When she has her baby, I’ll be one of the first to call.” We’ve gone through this little journey together, and she’s seen the best of me, and she’s seen the worst of me. And how many chances do you get in life to do something like this? I have no regrets. There’s nothing I would change. It’s just been one of the most magical, wonderful experiences of my life.
See if Bill makes it on "Dancing With the Stars" tonight on ABC at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CST.
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