Blue-collar workers: From left, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy star in Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie.
Emily Piraino


Country Comfort

The Spike used to have squirrel pelts with a 12-gauge shotgun hole in the side tied with twine onto mesquite branches hung on the guest-room wall. Their little heads and tails used to give The Spike nightmares, almost as much as eating their tiny, deep-fried legs. Squirrels, incidentally, taste nothing like chicken.

Yep, The Spike is a redneck descended from folks with scars on their knuckles and born with six-packs in their hands. And Arizona was the promised land they were led to, like Caleb into Canaan.

Of course, being a redneck isn't something The Spike was proud of while in school. There is just something about showing up at the third grade in dad's Army fatigues, sporting a trench camping knife, that makes you the weird kid.

But now, rednecks are in vogue, if the recent première of Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie at Arizona Mills is any indication. It isn't every day that a film opens in Phoenix, much less the stars of the film appearing at the opening. The Spike got a little giddy to be invited.

The Spike felt instantly at home, because the stars of the film, Jeff Foxworthy ("You Might Be a Redneck If") and Bill Engvall ("Here's Your Sign"), and fellow Blue Collar comics Larry the Cable Guy ("Git-R-Done") and Ron White ("People Learn Things When I Drink"), are rednecks, too. So was the entire capacity audience at the press screening, at least as far as The Spike could tell. It was like redneck Mecca.

Folks was whoopin' and hollerin' while they answered questions to win free tee shirts, because nothing gets a redneck whipped into a frenzy more than free stuff (unless it's naked women, big trucks, or beer). Carefully selected rednecks were given the opportunity to win a trip to Connecticut to see the next Blue Collar Comedy Tour live show. In order to win, they raced with a spoon in their mouths that held a potato, with their legs duct-taped together. Only from the glorious mind of a redneck could such a competition be born. A man named John, whose shirt proclaimed him an employee of Sexton Pest Control, won the contest in a photo-finish flash against rough competition. The Spike cheered.

A chunk of the audience had previously met at the Waffle House with the comedians, a place this crowd evidently frequents. The Waffle House is a staple of redneck culture and lifestyle, with its dripping hash browns, crispy eggs and butter-soaked toast, and The Spike was offended not to be invited.

After a brief appearance, the stars left the theater, with Foxworthy stopping for a minute to sign autographs. "She likes it in green, Jeff," said a woman behind The Spike. And Foxworthy obliged, signing the poster with a green Sharpie. Then they were gone with the wind.

The Spike went out to the lobby at this point to get some popcorn, and witnessed the redneck celebs in a huddle by the condiment stand. The Spike, like all rednecks, has a bit of a celebrity problem. It was difficult to repress the urge to go up and ask a stupid question to get into Bill Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" act. The Spike tries to pretend celebrities are blasé, but put The Spike or any of its kin near anyone even a little bit famous, and they become stalker fans. It's in the genes.

So The Spike stood nervously by the concession stand, trying to come up with something stupid enough to say, which is usually not a problem. But nothing appropriately stupid came to mind, so The Spike took the enormous bag of glistening yellow popcorn and box of Red Vines, tucked its head down, and returned to the theater without a firsthand glimpse of the glory that was the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

The film itself is hysterical. Truly. And The Spike doesn't dole out compliments like grandma hands out nasty fruitcake at Christmas. It isn't really a film so much as a theatrical release of an HBO comedy special, but it's a really good comedy special at least worth the $8 admission. The individual acts are split up by clever shopping segments where viewers get to watch the foursome in Victoria's Secret, Spencer Gifts, an outdoor shop, a day spa (The Spike's favorite by far) and a flea market. Normally, The Spike would guffaw at the juvenile fart jokes and lingerie gags that were strewn about like beer at a family reunion, but these guys can pull off even fart jokes with style.

The best part was that the film was made here in Phoenix all of it. The malls are familiar, and so are the streets and sidewalks. The show was filmed at the Dodge Theatre, and the people who are asked to quote redneck lines in the lobby of the Dodge are all Arizonans and proud of it.

The South may be what people associate with rednecks, but Arizona is not to be underestimated for sheer redneck population or fervor. Even The Spike was proud that the film was made here. All of those other states that people think of as redneck states they didn't make the film there. Oh, no. They weren't good enough, or redneck enough. The kings of the rednecks chose Arizona, the Copper State, the home of the cactus wren. Arizona is the new redneck capital of the world!

With this realization, The Spike's chest filled with pride as it ate a trough of buttered popcorn, slapped its knees, and reveled in what Foxworthy termed a "glorious lack of sophistication." This state is never the test market for anything except really screwy political leaders and the genome project, but distributor Warner Bros. thinks Arizona's response is indicative of the marketability of a film.

Well, slap The Spike's britches and call it Shirley. The state of Arizona is playing the supporting role in this film. It's Arizona's chance to be a star, and change the face of American cinema.

Of course, being known for the state that unleashed Foxworthy and crew on the world might not be the most elegant thing, but dammit, if you live in Arizona, you just might be a redneck. So stand up and claim your birthright -- your place in the annals of redneck history.

And go see the movie Arizona could use the PR. As told to Quetta Carpenter

Spike us! E-mail or call 602-229-8451.


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