For comedian Jeff Foxworthy, 1990 was a very good year.
In April, the Georgia native made his "Tonight Show" debut and three days later he was named the American Comedy Awards' Club Comic of the Year in a nationally televised ceremony.
Foxworthy's humor book "You Might Be a Redneck If . . ." ("You have more than two brothers named Bubba or Junior." . . . "Your family tree does not fork") sold more than 100,000 copies and went into its eighth printing.
His second paperback book, "Hick Is Chic: A Guide to Etiquette for the Grossly Unsophisticated" (Longstreet; $4.95) came out in September and is already in its second printing. (Under tips for all occasions, he offers such sage good-ol'-boy advice as: "Teach your children not to eat french fries found in other people's cars" and "It is considered tacky to take a cooler to church.")
Before 1990 ended, Foxworthy had even made a second appearance on the "Tonight Show" and was asked back for a third.
Not a bad year indeed for the former Atlanta computer repairman who quit his job at IBM six years ago to go into comedy.
"It was a great year," acknowledged Foxworthy by phone from Las Vegas last week where he was appearing at the Tropicana. "I told my wife on New Year's I kind of hated to let it go."
The lanky headliner with the trademark Southern drawl averages 48 weeks a year on the road, which undoubtedly helped seal his American Comedy Awards honor. (Club owners around the country offered their nominations for best club comic and club patrons did the voting.)
"I've always kind of believed in the (Jay) Leno theory that whatever you do you have to work real hard for it," said Foxworthy, who pulled into the Irvine Improvisation this week.
Foxworthy said he always acknowledges at the outset of his act that he has a heavy Southern accent: "If you don't, people go: 'Does he know how dumb he sounds?' "
But he describes his on-stage persona as being "like somebody that everybody in the club knows: the guy at work, the next-door neighbor. It's very accessible and friendly."
And while he is known for poking fun at "rednecks," the Atlanta native says he isn't just picking on Southerners.
"I made a point when I did the books not to include anything Southern such as grits and rebel flags," he said, explaining that the theory behind the first "redneck" book was that people would frequently say to him, "You're from the South; That's where the rednecks are." But whether he was in Los Angeles, Seattle or Chicago he'd always counter with: "You have them here."
"Which is the truth," he said. "You have them all over the country."
Actually, he said his signature "You might be a redneck if . . . " bit is only two minutes out of an hourlong show.
"I think the gist of what I do is relationships--the difference between men and women, being single and married," said Foxworthy, who has been married 5 1/2 years to actress Pamela Gregg. The couple have no children but that may change. Said Foxworthy: "I told her we need one; I'm running out of material."
Last January, Foxworthy and Gregg sold their home in Atlanta and moved to Hollywood. They now rent a two-bedroom home in Beverly Hills.
"Actually, I really like it there," drawled Foxworthy. "I didn't think I would, but we're having a great time. I do a joke in the act saying I thought I'd never leave the South, but I started doing some television and getting on the air and then my kinfolks said: 'Jeff, move away from there.' "
Who: Jeff Foxworthy.
When: Thursday, Jan. 10, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Jan. 11, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 12, at 8 and 10:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 13, at 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Improv, 4255 Campus Drive, Irvine.
Whereabouts: In the Irvine Marketplace shopping center, across Campus Drive from the UC Irvine campus.
Wherewithal: $7 to $10.
Where to Call: (714) 854-5455.