Oh, you wanted more. Ok, then, let’s take a look at the aging boomer reading memes comedy hour.
It should be noted that the first comedy cd I ever owned was Jeff Foxworthy’s Redneck Olympics. I played the hell out of it. I used to be able to recite every word. I had always loved comedy. Norm Macdonald was my favorite SNL actor before I even knew he was a stand up (pre internet, definitely pre-Youtube). As soon as the “Comedy Central Presents” series premiered, I voraciously watched and rewatched every single one of them.
But before any of them was Jeff. This was before the whole Blue Collar Comedy deal. Before Larry the Cable Guy passed him commercially and Ron White lapped him in terms of talent. I read more than one book that Foxworthy wrote. Hell, I even had his cookbook. I maybe should have seen the path this was all leading when the catch phrase for the cookbook was “No Arugula. No Pate. No Problem.”
Comedy has an expiration date. No comedian is cancelled, even as much as they would like to claim otherwise. Comedians either evolve or lose relevance. The comedians that were big 15 years ago aren’t the comedians that are big now. The comedians that were big 15 years before that are either dead or lamenting their professional standing.
This comedy special takes place with a comedian very obviously looking at what comedy is and having zero ability to adapt to it. That is pretty much every comedian these days who claim that they are too real and politically incorrect to be stars and that the liberal blah blah blah blah blah. Nick DiPaolo and Jim Breuer aren’t cancelled. They are just irrelevant. Dave Chappelle isn’t cancelled. He is too big for that. Dane Cook isn’t cancelled. He just has to wait for a bunch more things to become nostalgic to riff on them. Jeff Foxworthy isn’t cancelled. Jeff is a relic of a different era of comedy.
Jeff is still doing comedy because he loves comedy. A quick google search shows that he is worth over 100 million dollars, so he isn’t struggling for cash. His heart seems to be in the right place. But man, this special is rough to watch.
Jeff starts the show with a joke about his breath in a mask during Covid. Is this a well covered meme from 2020? You better believe it is. Is Jeff using it as his opener in 2022? You know it.
He is early able to hit his mark early on when discussing dealing with his wife during lockdown, which is a rapid fire monologue in her words, which, while not being the funniest thing on the show, takes a ton of talent to hit correctly. The reason most comics don’t try to do things like that anymore is because it’s really difficult and he pulls it off with ease because he does know how to develop his set and hit his marks.
Of course, he followed that up directly with a Jerry Springer joke, reminding everyone that the comedy point of view of this show is still firmly rooting into a time when Bill Clinton was in office.
In a bit about his aging mother getting her first smartphone, Jeff hits a funny joke about text abbreviations that loses it’s funniness when you remember this is actually a well worn out meme about old people not understanding technology, but with the personalized touch of him talking about his own mother.
The special is called “Good Old Days” and when he talks about it, it feels like he kind of gets it. The underlying tie to all of these jokes are that Jeff is watching the world change and be different from when he was either the most successful or possibly the most satisfied in life. It happens to everyone. He speaks about his elderly family members. He speaks on death. Virility. Youth.
We all change and get older. Tastes in popular culture change. Those that get by the best are the ones that understand that life has past them by and adapt to life as it is because of the realization that life is going to go on without them. Life will go on long after Jeff Foxworthy does comedy. Comedy will go on long after Jeff Foxworthy does comedy. I feel like Jeff is more self-aware about this than many.
About 1/3 of the way through the set, Jeff says the joke that is being used as the call tag for the entire special, and the thing that caught my attention, because it’s not only a heavily reused right wing meme to describe the current generation of youth as soft, but is also spectacularly untrue.
He says that growing up he played every sport, and it was weird back then because if you wanted a trophy, you had to finish in first place.
Yep. We’ve all heard it time and time again. Not that any of it is true, or at least it hasn’t been true in at least 30 years. My parents basement is littered with 3rd and 5th place trophies, because since AT LEAST Desert Storm, they had been giving out trophies to damn near everyone who played youth sports. This was never done for the kids, either. No matter what aging boomers with a very rose colored view of history would lead you to believe, the reason we got trophies was that all of our parents complained how much things like Little League cost, and the act of giving out a trophy satiated enough parents that it kept on happening.
Complaining about trophies isn’t elderly people lamenting youth getting soft. It’s them complaining that they had to spend money on jerseys, pants, cleats, helmets, bats, balls, and whatever else was needed.
Because back when Jeff Foxworthy was young (mid 60’s-early 70’s) sports was different. It was more loosely affiliated below the high school level. You played on summer teams with generally hand-me-down jerseys from previous years. The cost wasn’t there, and back then, parents weren’t as much involved in it. You would have one dad that would take charge of the team or a gym teacher on summer break, and whatever few kids could be wrangled up had a few practices and played a bit against the other teams in the area.
And I can tell you from being a fairly avid garage saler, THERE WERE STILL TROPHIES HANDED OUT TO PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T WIN BACK THEN. This might come as a shock, but in the trash heap that is the geriatric mind, they forgot about things like that because it doesn’t fit the narrative. So it costs 50 cents at a yard sale, a very real thing to dispute a fake thing rattling around in their brains.
Foxworthy of course gets a huge applause for it. It’s 60’s children’s version of low hanging fruit.
Jeff went on to complain about child seat laws, school curriculum, and sex education.
He has a whole thing about land line telephones.
Then he explains to everyone that you used to have to take photos with a camera. Really ground breaking stuff.
A long winded diatribe over not being able to take dick pics back in the day? It’s in there.
The bulk of Jeff’s material for the set is either about the past or his wife. He uses both to lodge complaints about the world we live in now. His longest continuous bit is about how much his wife packs while on vacation. This feels like well worn territory at this point. He certainly isn’t the first to do it, but he is the first to do it in a nostalgic way, so I suppose there is that.
The final monologue is the most noteworthy of the entire show. He speaks to being a comedian. The upsides and downsides and the life you live, with a nomadic life leading you from town to town. He finishes with a story about doing outdoor comedy in the summer. that leads to him being naked in a nice hotel He makes brief, fleeting mention of doing state fairs and festivals. And the throwaway mention of it is the most interesting part of it all, and it ties the set together better than I think Jeff even realizes.
You see, people who are currently at the top of their industry don’t play state fairs. People who are hot in the comedy scene don’t have to do shows like that. And if you can read the tea leaves of the set, it actually plays into the entirety of his show.
Jeff loves comedy. His sadness and lovers lament that permeates so much of this is the realization that in many ways, the industry has passed him by. People who got big around the same time as him evolved. Norm Macdonald became the elder statesman that everyone held with reverence. Louie Anderson became a beloved character actor. Bob Saget became the edgy father. Ray Romano got incredibly successful with television. Judd Apatow became a writer/producer/director.
Jeff Foxworthy just kind of stayed the genial southern guy. His bit never changed. He quit doing “you might be a redneck” jokes because the bit had become stale enough that even he knew to jettison it. But the sets were always the same. The same stories of growing up blue collar that connected with such a large audience for over two decades, doesn’t have the same place it used to.
It’s obvious when Foxworthy makes attempts at sounding like he understands the changing winds, because of how “your right wing uncle on Facebook” it all feels and sounds. And he hints at wanting to go off on something larger, something political, but abstains because that’s never been who he is as a comic.
You can tell though, beyond all that, is what he really wants to say is that he can’t get back what he used to have. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the television appearances. It’s about his ability to do what he loves to the largest audience possible. It’s no different than any number of comics who cynically blame others for their place in life. Jeff comes about it from a genuine place. Jeff is Molly Hatchet still playing Flirting with Disaster to close every show. He is Richard Simmons becoming a parody of himself in later years. He is every celebrity going on ridiculous game shows hoping someone will notice them enough to give them a new gig.
By lamenting what life has become while alternately trying to come off as being in full grasp of what the current moment is, Jeff himself becomes a bit of a parody of the person he was at the height of his stardom.
Jeff Foxworthy is chasing a feeling that he is never going to get back.