ATLANTA - Some situations that Jeff Foxworthy deals with are close to universal. His daughters, Jordan and Juliane, are now 16 and 13, respectively, and have perfected The Look that teenage girls give their hopelessly uncool dads.
"You start getting instructions like, 'Dad, when my friends are in the car, you are not allowed to sing to the radio,' " says Foxworthy. "So if I ever do that, and they give me The Look [all parents of teens know The Look is capitalized], then I stop the car at a stop sign and get out and do a little dance in the street to mortify them. I say: 'Don't give me The Look or I'll embarrass you like you've never been embarrassed.' "
He breaks out in a hearty cackle at the memory.
A nice guy from Hapeville, Ga., who got ridiculously rich and famous off blue-collar humor, Foxworthy hosts the goofy hit
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
on Fox, and has a new book out,
Learning to Talk More Gooder Fastly: Redneck Dictionary III
"Yeah, like there's the need for a third one," he says self-deprecatingly over the phone.
For years, Foxworthy was defined in the culture by his line, "You might be a redneck if. ..." He couldn't go to a Braves game or a Wal-Mart without fans' coming up and offering him their own jokes - or, frequently, his own jokes.
, which debuted in February, and the Redneck Dictionaries changed that. "Within a week, I went from fans shouting, 'Hey, you might be a redneck' to 50-year-old men walking up to me in the store and punching my arm and saying, 'I only missed two questions last night.' "
Foxworthy wasn't looking to host a quiz show when the producers approached him, but he was looking to dial back on his stand-up commitments. He's such a brand name now that he only did about 25 shows in 2007, some of them lucrative corporate gigs. At Foxworthy's level of comedy, it's all about CDs and books and TV, not five shows a week at Chuckles in Fort Wayne, Ind.
And that's when he heard the pitch for
: Several bright kids compete against one adult on a quiz show, with questions pulled from elementary school textbooks. He liked the kids, the format, the improvising he could do as host, but most of all he liked the schedule: Spend a week in Los Angeles, knock out three shows a day for five days and fly back to Atlanta with 15 weeks' worth of shows in the can.
If fans aren't stopping Foxworthy in Wal-Mart to crow about their ability to outsmart 10-year-olds, they sometimes offer definitions for his Redneck Dictionaries. (Sample from the new one: "iPod: Having groped or roughly handled another person or object. 'iPod her for about 20 minutes before I realized she was my mother-in-law.' ")
Foxworthy's next project will come early next year with
Dirt on Your Shirt
, a book of poetry aimed at 4- and 5-year-olds.
"I thought, 'This will be easy,' " he says. "So I sat down to write, and I said, 'This is hard.' No wonder Dr. Seuss is such a big deal."