Comedy fans know Jeff Foxworthy for his particular brand of Southern-fried humor, with many of his best one-liners beginning, "You might be a redneck if …" In more recent years, he's become better known as the host of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, which enjoyed a popular four-year run on Fox TV before being cancelled last year.
Now Foxworthy is gearing up for his next TV gig as host of The American Bible Challenge, a one-hour show premiering Thursday night (8/7c) on the Game Show Network (GSN). (A preview.) Foxworthy, 53, looks forward to hosting the show that will test contestants' knowledge of Scripture; teams will be playing to win money for charities.
Foxworthy spoke to CT about his new job, his faith, his sense of humor, and his desire to make the Bible more accessible to millions of viewers.
How did you end up with this gig?
Fifth Grader didn't get renewed last year, which I really enjoyed doing. I never thought I would do a game show, but now I guess I'm now officially in that genre. So the people behind Bible Challenge asked me if I'd be interested. I had to think about it, because it's a tricky area: Part of me was like, Do you do a game show about the Bible? But I thought, Okay, God, you know I'm an idiot, so you've got to make this clear if you want me to do this or not.
What ultimately convinced you to say yes?
That the people that are playing on the show are not playing for themselves. They're playing for money to bless somebody else, whether it's building wells in Africa or inner-city kids or something, some charity or ministry of their choice.
How would you do as a contestant on this show? Are the questions pretty hard?
I'm probably like a lot of people. If we kept it in the New Testament I think I would do pretty good. But when you start getting back to the facts in Leviticus, I might not. That's the challenge for us, to make it not just about facts. That's been my struggle: How do you do this where you're not only able to do a game show, but how do you share the good news within it, too? How do we make it go from head knowledge to heart knowledge? How do you turn this into something intriguing for somebody that's not interested in the topic, versus a host who wasn't a believer and didn't really care? As I've wrestled with this, I've decided to try to let that be kind of my mission.
It's kind of cool that it's not just running on a Christian network, but on a mainstream network like GSN, where all types of folks can tune in.
That's my hope. If it was just going to air on a Christian network, I probably wouldn't be interested. But that's where I land. I don't really like to speak in churches; I just always feel like that's preaching to the choir. I teach a Bible study for homeless guys in downtown Atlanta every week. Been doing it for years. That's the guys I'd rather go talk to. I'd rather take my act outside the church.
But the challenge is, how do you make this appealing? How do you show that this is more than just a book of facts and rules? That was always part of my conversation with the people at GSN, that if we can somehow mix in the good news with this, then, yeah, I'm up to the challenge.
Can you give an example of what that looks like?
Yes. One of the little games they came up was a thing about, was is it a law in the Bible or is it an obscure law in some U.S. state? One of them was, "Thou shalt not have a Mohawk," which is covered in Leviticus [19:27]. I said, "Okay, if we do something like that, you've got to allow me to put that in context, because what that was written to the Israelites right after they had left Egypt, and God was saying, 'Look, you don't have to look like an Egyptian anymore; I've separated you.'" The last thing I want is some 20-year-old kid with a Mohawk at home watching this going, "Oh, God doesn't love me." So some of this stuff you're going to have to be able to put it in context, and that's a little bit of a challenge.