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Comedian Jeff Foxworthy's Keeping Faith on the Air with The American Bible Challenge
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
- Get ready for an all new season of The American Bible Challenge, hosted by the incomparable Jeff Foxworthy. The comedian-turned-game-show-host begins the hit show’s third season with great expectation as its first episode airs on the Game Show Network tonight (May 22) at 8 p.m.
Foxworthy shares about the exciting new season, his personal walk with Jesus Christ and why he goes to two Bible studies a week in this interview with CBN.com.
Hannah Goodwyn: When did you first open a Bible?
Jeff Foxworthy: Oh, wow, as a kid, I'm sure. I've got to say when I was seven, so it was at a young age. I remember having the ones with the pictures. I still have the first one I read. Though I will say that the one that I had, probably for the first 25 years of my life is in pretty pristine condition, whereas the one that I've had for the last 15 or 20 years, it's written in, and it's a little bit of a mess. The spine's fallen off of it. In fact, I was telling somebody that the other day, because somebody said to me, "I don't think God would want you writing in the Bible." I said, "I think He would love you writing in the Bible, because it means you're spending time in there." So I would be very upset if I lost this one. I've got 25 years of notes in the margin there.
Goodwyn: Sounds like you've used it.
Foxworthy: Yeah, this one's been loved on, yeah.
Goodwyn: You're getting into it a little bit, but what does "this book" mean to you?
Foxworthy: Everything. It's kind of like nothing else matters without that. I remember one day talking to somebody about the show, and they had never really grown up exposed to faith very much, and they said, "Well, I always thought of the Bible as kind of a book of rules." And I'm like, "Oh, no, you've got to read it as a love story. It's like the greatest love story of all time."
You know, the amazing thing to me is you can go back, as I go through it now, and especially in the New Testament, I can open a page, and there’ll be, seven different colors of highlighter pens in there. And I'm like, oh, wow, so I've read this at least seven hundred times, and every time something different spoke to me in there. It never gets old.
Goodwyn: The American Bible Challenge seems very much like a family show. Is Bible reading a family event in your home?
Foxworthy: Yeah. I've been fortunate enough to make enough money that my kids can go to a Christian school. In fact, my youngest one just got back from her fourth trip to the same village in Africa. So, yeah, faith is just a huge central thing in our home, whether it's mission trips or doing things within our community or talking about that, or going to church together. You know what you know; and my kids don't know any different. I've got the plaque next to my door…"I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth," and that's how I feel.
Goodwyn: You mentioned Bible study. I read somewhere that you had in the past or maybe you still are doing a Bible study with guys in your community.
Foxworthy: Well, I do two. I've been in one for…I guess this is the 17th or 18th year. We meet on Thursday mornings in the back room of a barbecue restaurant, same group of guys. We kind of raised each other's kids and buried each other's parents.
And then for the last five or six years, I've taught a small group at the Atlanta Mission which is a homeless shelter. It's kind of funny; when I started doing that, it was just me and 12 homeless guys, and through the years it's grown. There's, I think 22 group leaders now and 180 homeless guys a week, so that thing kind of exploded on us. So yeah, that's twice a week I'm in a small group somewhere.
Goodwyn: Switching gears a little bit. What do you think God thinks about comedy?
Foxworthy: I think he loves it. One of the biggest mistakes that we make sometimes is we take ourselves so seriously. People on the outside look at it and they go, "Well, there's not a whole lot of joy there, so why would I want to be part of that?"
I think when God breathes His attributes into us, humor was one of them, especially with me. I mean, I have to be able to laugh at myself, because I do some really dumb things, but I think God loves that.
When God created man, he really could have stopped at Adam and Eve and had that intimate relationship with them, but He allowed them to have kids. So you'd think why would He allow them to have kids? I really think it's because He wanted us to have just a small inkling of how He feels about us; and that's the way we feel about our kids. So I know with me as a dad, when my kids are laughing, when my kids are happy, it thrills my heart. I think He feels the same way about us.
Goodwyn: Looking at your career thus far, where does this gig, being the host of American Bible Challenge, rank?
Foxworthy: You know what, I think it's one of the coolest things I've ever done. I love my job. I've always said I love what I do. I love being a comedian. I've been so blessed because I've gotten to do it for a long time, almost 30 years. But I've always said it's what I do; it's not who I am. So when you are able to take what I do and mix it with who I am into a show like this…and one of the things I think is so cool about this show is it's a show about the Bible on a non faith-based network. It's the number-one show on the network. That's the appeal of it. It's the only game show where the people that win don't keep the money, they take the money and turn around and love on somebody else with it. So I think for a lot of people that have never been interested in faith…faith just talked about can get boring pretty quickly, but when you see it in action, then it gets interesting, and I think that's what this show does.
Goodwyn: You talked about giving the money to charity. If you were a contestant, what charity would you give it to?
Foxworthy: Oh my goodness, I've got so many of them, but I would probably give it to the Mission. My wife and I have been chairman of the fundraiser for the New Children’s Hospital for 15 years or 20 years, I don't know how long, and the thing that always appealed to me about that was kind of like St. Jude. They don't turn anybody away based on ability to pay. You show up at the door and you go, "My kid's got cancer and I've got a dollar." If they've got a bed, they give it to you.
So I've always had a heart for the underdog, but I never really thought much about homeless people until I got involved in this. Then when you get down there, you realize almost all of them are addicts, which is how most of them ended up being homeless, but they're addicts because they got messed up early in life through some kind of abuse, whether emotional or sexual, or physical. I think if God delights in one thing, it's restoring broken people. So when you see people that have been so messed up and lost so many years of their lives, when you see them able to be restored to their families, to finally understand the love that they've been craving all their life, it's a pretty cool thing to get to be a part of.
Goodwyn: It's cool to see the different charities and different kind of Christians that are on the show. What can we expect from this new crop of competitors?
Foxworthy: Well, they're as diverse as ever, which was, kind of from day one part of my argument was I wanted it to be if somebody had a mental idea of what a Christian looked like, when they turned on the show they were like, "Okay, I was wrong about that" in that we might have nuns play next to tattoo artists playing next to cowboys, next to beauty queens. I mean, it's the most diverse group of teams you've ever seen, but yet they all kind of have the same heart. They all love the same things. The one thing we went back and tried to do better this year was to make these stories of who they were playing for more personal instead of being generic. Just like the American Cancer Society, it's like, "Okay, let's take an individual or let's take something within your community where we can go in and show this." Again, it kind of goes back to faith you can see that gets interesting. I hope we've done a better job of making these stories more personal this year.
Goodwyn: Do you learn a lot as you're reading the questions and answers during the taping?
Foxworthy: Well, here's what I've learned is that me and my southern accent apparently mispronounce a ton of names in the Old Testament, because I have a little thing in my ear called an "IFB" where, as we're doing the show, you have people in the truck recording it, but they're also trying to time it, like, just figure out where the commercial breaks are, and so they will say things in my ear like, "Jeff, ask the question, but go to commercial before you give them the answer." And things like that.
Well, now on this show, half of the time I will pronounce an Old Testament name, and in my ear I can hear, "No, no, no, no, no, Jeff, not even close." So most of the things that are on my cards are phonetic pronunciations of 12 syllable names.
Goodwyn: There are some tricky ones.
Foxworthy: Oh my goodness, yes.
Goodwyn: Do you ever try and guess in your head as the show's going on, like, "Oh, I know that."
Foxworthy: Yeah. It's a little bit like Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? I know some of it, but I'm kind of glad that I'm not the one answering the questions.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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