High/Low Impresarios

The irony is too delicious to resist.

We’ve had a  festa of fabulosity in Dallas.  The high-minded, help-the-world extravaganza of TEDxSMU events throughout town.  And on the eve of the main Saturday TED session at the Wyly Theater, the impresarios of low-brow humor taking the stage at American Airlines Center — i.e., the Blue Collar Comedy team of Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Richardson H.S. alum Bill Engvall.

So what’s the common ground with these seemingly polar opposites?

It’s the very best in stand-up.  Just different topics and purposes.  Foxworthy and Co. provide an always welcome dose of comic relief.  And TED presenters deliver real-world stories of hope, exploration, achievement and learning. 

With TED, your head hurts from a day of information and inspiration intake.  With the Blue Collar Comedy boys, your ribs hurt from two hours of non-stop laughter. 

It’s all fast moving.  Precision timing.  Content with a pow!

Both ends of the spectrum convey an impressive element of creativity — with massive numbers of fervent followers. 

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.  There are three major TED Conferences held annually and more than 750 TEDx programs held thus far in 60 countries — plus other initiatives celebrating global thought leadership.

TED Conference speakers have included notables such as Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, authors Malcolm Gladwell and Elizabeth Gilbert, Nobel Prize winners, etc.  Our own Dallas native Melinda Gates kicked off the TEDxSMU activities this fall with a simulcast of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s TEDxChange, coinciding with the gathering of the UN to review the Millennium Development Goals.  You get the picture.

Blue Collar Comedy is a genre of Southern redneck-inspired humor captured by Jeff Foxworthy, an IBM corporate dropout who is one of the most successful comedians in the country and the largest selling comedy-recording artist in history.  He is a brilliant talent aggregator who recruited other comedian friends to tour with him, popularizing the genre and building the multi-media Blue Collar entertainment brand, one of the most successful franchises in the history of humor.   

Beyond the redneck aspect, Foxworthy explores humor in family situations and human nature.  Engvall focuses on his everyday life and observations of comments he finds to be stupid.  Texan Ron White is a good ol’ bad boy.  And Larry follows a stereotypical redneck style filled with one-liners and the signature comment, Git-R-Done!  There is an unabashed lowball aspect to the genre — and they delight in it. 

Here’s a big difference.  TED afficionados wear their affiliation proudly.  Very overt.  Blue Collar Comedy is held by some as a secret vice.  Somewhat covert.  Shhhhh.

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Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene