As a new comedian, Georgia native Jeff Foxworthy took his share of ribbing about being a redneck when he started performing in big Northern cities.
One day he was playing a club in Detroit and he noticed that the bowling alley next door offered valet parking. It got him thinking. He figured that was a tell-tale sign that rednecks must live there too.
"I know what I am, but apparently a lot of people don't know they're in the club too," he said in a recent phone interview.
That started him on writing his wildly successful one-liners about rednecks. Foxworthy, 53, will be sure to tell at least a few at his performance Sept. 8 at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys. The show is the final offering of the winery's summer concert series.
Foxworthy said it was hard at first for him to convince others that his redneck jokes could sell. He was turned down by 14 publishers before one company finally decided to publish his book "You Might Be a Redneck If ..." in 1989. The book sold millions of copies and made him a star.
"We live in an age where nobody does one-liners," he said. "They're easy to remember and they're easy to tell."
He said he based most of the jokes on things he or his family did, but it turned out people all over the country could relate.
"If it wasn't you, you had a relative that was guilty of it," he said.
Foxworthy has recorded nine albums, starred in HBO comedy specials and his own sitcom and appeared in "Blue Collar TV" with comedians Larry the Cable Guy, Ron White and Bill Engvall.
"I kind of just always talk about my life," he said. "I learned real early on if I think it or if my wife says it or if my kids do it, we're not the only ones."
In recent years, he has become a game show host, presiding over Fox's "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" until it was canceled and now appears on GSN's "The American Bible Challenge."
A devout Christian who leads a weekly Bible study for homeless men in his hometown of Atlanta, Foxworthy said he had to think about the offer for the latter show before he accepted.
"My first thought was I don't want to be standing in line in hell because I did a game show about the Bible," he joked.
But when he heard contestants were raising money for their favorite charities, he was sold. He was happy that the first winners earned money for a food pantry in Texas.
Foxworthy said he grew up in a funny family and was always interested in comedy. When he was a kid, he would save his allowance money and buy comedy records from Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart and Flip Wilson. He would memorize the routines and do them at school, sometimes getting into trouble for disrupting class.
Years later, Foxworthy was delighted when his high school principal attended one of his comedy shows and sent him a note backstage. It said "I can not believe I am shelling out money to listen to the same stuff I used to put a stop to."
Foxworthy had the letter framed.
Foxworthy has kept away from politics for most of his career, but he has made an exception this year, endorsing Mitt Romney for President.
An avid news reader, Foxworthy said he is concerned about the national debt that has piled up under the Obama administration.
"If you spend more than you make, you'll end up bankrupt," he said. "I don't want my kids to inherit this."
Foxworthy said he owed it to his two adult daughters to enter the fray this year. Family has always been very important to him. He and his wife will celebrate their 27th anniversary next month.
Foxworthy said he was determined to be a good father because his own father abandoned the family when he was young. He has always put his family first and his career second and tried not to take show business too seriously.
"Knowing what I know about myself, I'm two decisions away from making French fries for a living," he said. "I love what I do, I love being a comedian and I love being a writer. But it's what I do, not who I am."
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8
WHERE: Ironstone Vineyards, 1894 Six Mile Road, Murphys
CALL: (209) 728-1251