Last Man Standing star Tim Allen: We just dont make fun of stuff… except liberals
LOS ANGELES – With the new year now here, so, too, is the return of “Last Man Standing.”
Despite being ABC’s second-most-watched sitcom during its final season, it seemed “Last Man Standing” was destined for purgatory after the series was whacked by ABC in May 2017 after six seasons. The series had a huge resurgence on FOX in 2019 and is kicking off its long-awaited eighth season on Thursday.
This season, fans will catch an extra dose of comedian Bill Engvall, who returns alongside series star Tim Allen, as the venerable Reverend Paul.
Allen, 66, and Engvall, 62, sat down with Fox News on the series set and dished on their longtime friendship as “road comics” and opened up about the connection “Last Man Standing” had made with viewers in seven seasons on the air.
The dynamic between the pair on set is easily replicated off-camera, as Allen said simply it never feels like work when he’s working with Engvall, given the decades-long history they share.
“We spend most of [the time]… I mean, it’s really a blessing in disguise because we just B.S. the whole time about roadwork,” Allen said of their working relationship.
Engvall agreed with Allen’s assessment and said he understands as a stand-up comedian the work it takes to reach the pinnacle of helming your own sitcom, since Engvall also used to have one of his own.
“Yeah, I love when I get called to be on the show because I think as road comics, this is the Holy Grail,” Engvall said. “You get your own show and now to be able to just sit and visit and talk — and we talk on the road and talk about the show, and you’re talking with someone who knows where you’re coming from and vise versa, because we both have done the same things.”
It’s apparent right away that Allen and Engvall enjoy each other’s company. During our extended conversation, the two seemed to finish the other’s sentences when speaking about the art of comedy — and what began as Engvall reflecting on the euphoric feeling of performing on stage quickly turned to Allen telling a tale about the late, great comedian Richard Pryor.
“For me, it’s just the love of it. I mean, I think to really be a successful road performer, you have to literally love every bit of it,” Engvall said. “Even though we gripe, it’s still that when you’re on stage and the audience and you are on the same wavelength and it’s rolling, I don’t think there’s a better…”
“I saw [Richard] Pryor all when I first started out. I went to see every concert he was in. I’ve never in my life been so amazed at what that man could do to me,” Allen said, adding that he and the “Harlem Nights” actor had become friends.
“I said, ‘I want to do this,'” Allen recalled. “It was nonstop joy and whatever laughter is to any individual, he opened my mind. You knew his perspective. You got a joke, but he just… I was hurting. One time I put my hand up at the Fox Theater as though… and he’d go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to slow down a minute, this little white kid is having trouble with this.'”
Allen said Pryor’s style helped shape his own and, over time, Allen developed a pace he knew could hold the audience’s attention.
I’ve never in my life been so amazed at what that man could do to me.
“Because I wanted him to just give me a pause, just for a second. So I’ve been a rock ‘n’ roll comic, I don’t give any gaps,” Allen explained. “I wanted to do the same thing. I’m humbled to even say what Pryor did to me and I’ve been doing that.”
Allen said that after 30 years of performing comedy, he still gets a rush every time he walks onto the stage.
Bill Engvall and Tim Allen in ‘Last Man Standing.’ (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)
“I say to myself, walking, ‘I love this. I love this anticipation,'” he said. “’I’m going to give you guys the best I got. And if you give me the laugh back, I win.’ You win because I really think they get what I got, leaving that Pryor show. I hope that they’ve never laughed that hard.”
When asked what they wanted to be implemented in the show in order to garner even more laughs from viewers at home, Allen gave an interesting answer — reflecting on the overall growth the show has seen since its inception and drawing parallels to the manner in which a professional football franchise would respond after being told they weren’t good enough.
“It sounds redundant, but this year it’s a very difficult thing — situation comedies on television on any network,” Allen said. “Getting this to have an arc in 18 minutes or 22 minutes with commercials — what it eventually does and the staff that we got — we’re like a pro football team that came back because I don’t know how to describe the writing staff on this show, the leadership in this show, the crew on this saying, ‘We are veterans.’ I’m always amazed that they’ve come up with a new idea at all.”
Again, the unmistakable dynamic between Allen and Engvall filled the room as they bantered about being literally and creatively married to the same woman, series costar Nancy Travis, 58.
“I mean, this is a family that now all my daughters in the show have grown and gone out. Nancy Travis and I have… his ex-wife… we were both married to the same woman, right?” Allen said.
“Again,” Engvall quipped.
“Again, weird,” Allen said before carrying on. “But as this show evolves, it just all of a sudden evolved quite naturally. And again, this writing staff…”
Engvall quickly stepped in to praise the staff, saying: “You’ve probably got the best writing staff in the business.”
Allen continued: “Headed up by Kevin Abbott, I just think these guys really know what a story is. And they want to lay comedy on top of drama. And it’s very difficult and it’s such a challenge, and they do it. And I’m just going, ‘Look, we’ve got one more [season], I think we’re into five now. And I said, ‘OK, we did it again.’ My mind goes, ‘It’s going to drop. This is going [down]. We’re veterans and we can break a leg really quick.’”
When posed the question of the show’s longevity, the pair couldn’t help themselves but make a comedic moment.
“I’ll tell you this, that I’ve been amazed… I think I’ve done four or five episodes as Reverend Paul. But how many people on my social media will say, ‘Hey, we saw you on ‘Last Man Standing’ again.’ It’s just this wave that just continues to roll and it hasn’t crashed yet. And it’s like, I am thrilled,” Engvall exuded before Allen put on his booking agent hat and all but extended Engvall’s time as a guest star on the family program.
“Hasn’t crashed yet. Huh… yet,” Allen said. “However, if we added more Reverend Paul episodes, we could make sure it goes in for a soft landing when it crashes.”
Guest star Bill Engvall in the special one-hour The Best Man/Sibling Quibbling episode of ‘Last Man Standing.’ (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)
Allen said the show’s success is a combination of many things but maintains that the approach the writers and performers take in speaking on certain topics is what sets it apart from other programs.
“I go out on the road and this is it. This is a nonpolitical show. I love that the guy, the dude I play, has an attitude,” Allen explained. “I love that he’s Archie Bunker, as I’ve said from day one. It’s Archie Bunker that went to U of M. He’s an engineering and marketing guy, so he’s bright, but he has an attitude and he’s angry.”
Allen continued: “But I go on the road with this, 44 gigs this year, and I don’t see politics like people see it. The most of America where I tour and you too [Engvall], is kind of the base of this country and that’s what this show celebrates. We don’t make fun of religion. We’re not pushing religion. We don’t make fun of relationships. We don’t push it. But we honor family.”
“And we honor connections with friends and we honor making decisions that are good for your community. It’s the little subtle things these guys do,” he said.
“We just don’t make fun of stuff… except liberals,” he added with a laugh. “Just whatever the button is to push, we like to push that button. It’s right now that the tender stuff is what… what do they call it, snowflakes? Whatever that PC, correct — we like pushing that a little bit.”