Monica Pearson One on One: It all began in Atlanta for Jeff Foxworthy

Comedian’s hugely successful career began at The Punchline

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Jeff Foxworthy is one of America’s most popular comedians. He also a well-traveled actor, writer and producer, but when Peachtree TV’s Monica Pearson first interviewed him 20 years ago, he was just beginning his career right here in Atlanta.

“I was scared to death,” Foxworthy recalled, the night he entered - and won - the Great Southeastern Laugh-off at Atlanta’s Punchline comedy club in 1984. “I knew a minute into it, this is what I want to do.”

Foxworthy is a graduate of Hapeville High School and attended Georgia Tech but left before graduating. He was working at IBM in its mainframe computer department when he entered the contest, at the urging of his co-workers.

Watch Monica Pearson One on One on Sunday, July 24, at 8 pm, on Peachtree TV.

“I was the guy that, every place you’ve ever worked, there’s somebody in the break room,” Foxworthy said. “I was the guy doing impersonations of the boss in the break room. And then you turn around and the boss is in the doorway. That was me.”

Foxworthy recalls his reaction when his co-workers entered him into the contest. “I’m like, y’all, I ain’t even done an amateur night. So I wrote five minutes about my family. And the first night I went on stage, I won. I had no idea what I was doing. And I remember driving up Roswell Road beating the steering wheel, going, ‘I won!’”

Foxworthy’s future wife was in the audience that night. “She was an actress and had just done a project with one of the comedians in the contest and she was rooting for him. So I met my career and my wife five minutes apart, same place, same night. How nuts is that?”

Foxworthy has had an amazing career, from doing standup to doing shows on Netflix and hosting shows like, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader” and The American Bible Challenge. His comedy albums have sold over three million copies.

The Covid-19 pandemic shut down Foxworthy’s touring, but he’s now back entertaining audiences with his own brand of humor.

“I remind myself right before I walk out, that everybody I’m gonna be looking at is going through a struggle,” he said. “It might be financial; it might be emotional; it might be physical; you don’t know what they’re dealing with every day.

“People are coming back and going, ‘I cannot remember the last time I laughed like that’ and I’m say, ‘Well, then you needed it.’ I don’t think laughter makes people struggles go away, but I do think laughter is like the release valve that keeps the boiler from exploding. And so I tell them whatever your struggle is, for over an hour and a half, let’s put it on the shelf and let’s just laugh.”

Monica Pearson: One on One is an interview-themed series featuring the legendary Atlanta journalist.

Tim Darnell

Tim Darnell

Tim Darnell is the Investigative Digital Content Producer for CBS46.