November 07, 1994 12:00 PM

JEFF FOXWORTHY’S CAREER epiphany came one night when he was doing his stand-up routine in a Detroit comedy club and realized the place was “next to a bowling alley, with valet parking.” Inspired, Foxworthy went back to his hotel and wrote his first checklist defining what he chose to call redneck behavior. Six books, 10 Tonight Show spots and a hit comedy album later, millions of Foxworthy fans realize you might be a redneck if:

“You ever mowed your lawn and found a car.”

“You wear a dress that’s strapless with a bra that isn’t.”

“You go to a family reunion to meet women.”

Now, with his first album, You Might Be a Redneck If…, having sold over half a million copies, Foxworthy, 35, is hitting the stores with a new single, “Redneck Stomp,” and his latest book, Games Rednecks Play (such as spitting for distance). Says the former computer engineer: “A redneck is anyone with a glorious lack of sophistication. It doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you make.”

In fact, Foxworthy’s father, Jim, was a high-level exec for IBM when Jeff, the oldest of three kids, was growing up in the comfortable Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Ga. Still, says Jeff, Jim came home from work each day and “sat out in the back, drinking a beer and watching the bug zapper.”

Foxworthy graduated from Georgia Tech in 1979 and followed his father to IBM. Five years later, armed with a rep as “the funny guy around the water-cooler,” he quit to become a full-time comic and in 1985 married Pamela Gregg, a onetime actress. Gregg, as he calls her, kept them afloat with a public-relations job in a dairy while Foxworthy struggled to catch on—which he did. After just two years he was doing up to 500 shows a year, with Gregg joining him on weekends. “It was exciting and fun and romantic,” she says.

In 1990, Gregg insisted they move to L.A. so Foxworthy could make a run at TV Within two months he’d arrived on the Tonight Show. These days the couple, along with daughters Jordan, 2, and Juliane, 6 months, are riding high on redneck royalties in Beverly Hills. “Sometimes we lie in bed and giggle about the things we’ve done,” says Gregg. Adds Foxworthy: “I’m not one of those comedians laughing on the outside and crying in the middle. I’m laughing inside and out.”

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