TORONTO - You might be a redneck if you love Jeff Foxworthy, but it's certainly not a prerequisite — after all, he is the highest-selling comedy-recording artist in history, famed for lampooning some southerners for their cartoonish ways.
Now, he and some members of his Blue Collar comedy troupe are back with a new series. But this time, they're all cartoons.
Wednesday marks the premiere of "Bounty Hunters," a charmingly animated series about three friends' hijinks running a small-time fugitive-tracking operation, a satirical nod to "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
But when the series was pitched to him a few years ago when he was in the throes of hosting the Game Show Network's "American Bible Challenge" and CBS's "American Baking Competition" — he says he was "kinda like the redneck Ryan Seacrest" — Foxworthy was leery of doing an animated series.
"It wasn't something I was actively seeking out," he says from his home in Georgia. "My concern was that it wouldn't be funny. I'd kind of gone through that in the '90s, with a sitcom ("The Jeff Foxworthy Show").... But they wrote two or three scripts, and I went, 'Oh wow, not only have they captured our voice, they've captured our dynamic with each other.'"
That dynamic has been the core of his group of comedians, which include Foxworthy's "Bounty Hunters" co-stars Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, over decades of professional collaboration and even more years of simple friendship.
It's been so long, Foxworthy says, that working together has become a labour of comfort, comparing their affability and affection for each other with "The Carol Burnett Show."
"My favourite moments on that show when I was a kid was when they were making each other laugh. You could tell that they loved each other ... and when I think of us as a group, that's where my mind goes," he says.
"You have that kind of trust factor with them. It's not like one person's trying to fight the other two for other laughs.... I remember when we went out (on the 'Them Idiots' tour), and it was like putting on your favourite pair of shoes."
Foxworthy has also enjoyed collaborating with showrunner Eric Horsted, whose southern-sensibility bona fides include executive producing on "Reba" and "Home Improvement" and who is a known quantity in the animated comedy field, with credits for Adult Swim's "The Boondocks" and Comedy Central's "Futurama."
"That's kind of the key to a great director, that 'Hey, I've got an idea and a vision, but I'm not married to it if we find something better in the process.'"
The medium has provided myriad challenges, though, including with his voice, for which he's taken tips from Horsted.
"Comedically, when I'm doing stand-up, I'm pretty physical — I'll fall on the floor or act things out," he says. "Now you have to sell it with your voice. It's gotta be a little more over-the-top."
He adds that the biggest obstacle has been a lack of an immediate response, something he's used to as a stand-up comedian.
"(In animation) you don't even know if it's good or not, because you don't get that feedback. It's what drives stand-ups, you crave that instant feedback."
Nevertheless, he's very excited for the show to air, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of another long-running animated comedy about everyday life in the south.
"'King of The Hill' was on for a long time, and it was funny. When 'King Of The Hill' first started, I would watch it and go, 'Well, I could've done this show, this is kind of 'You Might Be A Redneck If...' That's not a bad comparison."
But unlike the slower-paced realism of "King of the Hill," "Bounty Hunter" takes pratfalling aim, as much of Foxworthy's humour does, at the more ridiculous characters that live in these rural environments.
"It's like, I always encourage people to go to the fair, because it makes you feel better about your own family," he says. "You go, 'Hey, our family's screwed up, but look at this guy. Compared to that, we're OK.'"
That relatability is what has made "redneck humour" such a rich field to mine around the world, decades into his comedy career.
"When I grew up in the South, I'd never been anywhere else, I kinda thought I had exclusive rights to them. And doing stand-up, travelling throughout the U.S. and throughout Canada, you quickly realize, go 10 minutes out of any city, there's rednecks. That's why it's worked."
And as for Canadians who believe that this the redneck-driven bounty-hunter series is essentially American — the series will be aired in Canada on Comedy — Foxworthy has some news for you.
"Anywhere you have flannel shirts and beer, and Canada's certainly supplied the world with a lot of those — no, you guys definitely have rednecks too."