Jeff Foxworthy, host of FOX’s Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, knows a thing or two about putting family first. He settled his wife and two daughters outside Atlanta, although L.A. would have been easier for his career; he “wanted them to grow up around their family, and that’s where family is.” He schedules his comedy tours to avoid being away more than two nights at a time, sometimes flying in the wee hours to get home in time to take his girls to school. And he turns down offers that might interfere with his commitment to his home life.
So it’s no surprise that he would create one of the few shows on TV that parents can watch with their elementary school children. Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? takes questions from real elementary-school textbooks and poses them to adults. If the adult gets stuck, which they often do, they can “cheat” off a fifth grader. Unlike most exams, however, there’s a million dollar payoff for a perfect score.
From 2nd Grade Health: What is the largest and heaviest organ in the human body?
From 3rd Grade English: True or False: “Wow,” “gosh,” and “darn” are examples of interjections.
From 5th Grade Social Studies: Of the current U.S. holidays, which was made an official federal holiday most recently?
Do you know the answers? Bet your kids do. This dynamic makes it fun for kids and parents alike. Turns out adults have cleared out much of this information in the attics of their minds to make room for political slogans, worries about real-estate prices, and 80’s Depeche Mode lyrics. The kids get to demonstrate that those hours spent at their desks are paying off. Parents, if they’re lucky, might get an answer or two right. Everybody has a good time.
In addition to hosting Fifth Grader, raising his children, traveling on the Blue Collar Comedy tour, and writing best selling books, Foxworthy finds time to perform for American troops. He shared a story of how after a show for 5,000 returning soldiers at Fort Stewart, he was sitting “signing autographs, and just person after person was like, ‘Thank you so much.’ And I was like, ‘That’s silly. I’m telling jokes. You went over and put your life on the line for this country.’ It’s a weird feeling for them to thank you for that.” He’s a rarity in the world of entertainment: a man who takes his responsibilities to family and country more seriously than his image.
When I asked Foxworthy for his thoughts (after FOX’s July press conference for Fifth Grader) on why there weren’t more kid-and-parent-friendly shows on TV, he responded with bemusement: “I don’t know why Hollywood hasn’t figured that out yet.” He didn’t linger to discuss the matter, however. Apologetically, he explained he needed to go. His wife and daughters were waiting in the car.
Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? premieres Thursday, September 6, at 8:00 P.M. on FOX. Your answers? The liver; true, and Martin Luther King Day.
— Rebecca Cusey is a writer in Washington, D.C.