Perhaps the only person more surprised than Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi when she and partner Sasha Farber were eliminated from Dancing with the Stars last week was Bill Engvall. Engvall and his partner, Emma Slater (who also happens to be Farber's girlfriend) were thisclose to elimination the previous week, but were spared, thanks to a glitch in the voting system that resulted in every couple being safe.
"When Nicole got bumped, I literally was walking towards Tom [Bergeron] to say, 'No, no, no, no. That should be me,'" Engvall tells TVGuide.com. "She's a better dancer."
But, as Engvall said Emma and some of the other pros pointed out to him, the competition is about more than just dancing. And the comedian says that he's grateful to have lasted another week.
"I'm tired and sore," says Engvall, 56. "Listen, it's the hardest thing I've ever done. But you know what? I'm having the time of my life. With the two weeks of pre-rehearsal, it's been 10 weeks of the most fun I've ever had."
Read our full interview with Engvall below to find out which dances he believes the judges underscored him and Emma, and how excited he is to meet Cher on Monday's episode of Dancing.
You and Emma had a pretty big comeback this week. How shocked were you when you were saved, even though you had been in the bottom two the previous week?
Engvall: It was a weird mix of emotions, because I was excited, but Sasha and Emma, they've been dating for three years. So she was upset that Sasha was gone, so she starts crying. I was like, I don't know what to do here. I don't know how to react. I want to be excited that we're moving on. It was a strange array of emotions. But I'm so excited for us.
You went over to Nicole after her name was read. What did you say to her?
Engvall: I went up to Nicole and I said, "Sweetheart, that should have been me." She was crying and she said, "Shut up." I go, "No, you shut up." I said, "I didn't even want to like you. And now I love you." I've told her, I was not a fan of Jersey Shore nor her [before DWTS]. But over the last 10 weeks, I've gotten to know her and she's the sweetest, nicest little thing you'd ever meet in your whole life. She's fun to hang out with.
Are you surprised you've made it this far in the competition?
Engvall: When I first started this, I thought, if we get past the first elimination I'll be thrilled. If we get to Week 4, I'll be ecstatic. Because it's Emma's first year as a pro, I wanted her to at least get to Week 4. I didn't want her to get a celebrity and all of a sudden, we're out the first elimination. But now here we are in Week 8. And I am so happy and I'm so proud of her. Hell, why not win this thing? If we do, it'll be awesome and I'll go crazy, but if we get eliminated on Monday, I'm still just as fine with it.
Have you noticed yourself improving week to week?
Engvall: I started with nothing. I had never ballroom-danced in my life. ... I'm really proud of where I've come, from zero to here. Am I the best dancer on the show, technically? No. But I guarantee you, I've probably made more improvement than anybody. Jack [Osbourne] and I are in the same boat. Listen, I think a great finale would be me, Jack and Leah [Remini]. Because you're talking people who've never had dance experience.
What's your working relationship like with Emma?
Engvall: Little Emma, they could not have put me with a better partner. She's just sweet. It's like having another daughter. Every Monday night, we look at each other and we go, it's just me and you dancing. And we just have fun. I wink at her and she gives me a smile and we just take off. And what happens happens. And at the end of the night, I give her a big hug and we laugh. It's just been the time of my life.
We've seen some of the other pairs have moments of tension during rehearsals in recent weeks, but that doesn't seem to be the case with you and Emma.
Engvall: That little girl is so patient and such a good little instructor. We're like two peas in a pod. We laugh. I can honestly say that in 10 weeks, we've never had a moment where I was ready to walk out.
You really do seem to be having fun every week. You and Jack definitely lightened the mood during your team dance last week.
Engvall: I am. You know why? Because I get it. It's a TV show; it's fun. If it was a serious dance competition, you wouldn't be on Dancing with the Stars. You'd be on PBS. ... But yeah, it is fun. And that's what it should be.
You seemed to really enjoy the team dance from last week.
Engvall: I had so much fun. I was having just the time of my life. I thought we kind of got underscored. [But] I've got to tell you something. Derek [Hough], he gets Man of the Year award for me. With his back hurting him, he went out and he didn't mail it in. He threw out 200 percent. And I told him this yesterday. I said, 'Dude, you're like my hero.' He could have easily said, 'I can't dance because of my back' and no one would have said a word. But he went out there and threw it down. Threw. It. Down.
Your individual dance last week wasn't one of your best numbers, and you guys ended up with a pretty low score last week. What happened?
Engvall: I've gotten really good at covering the stage. [Laughs] ... And at the end of the dance, I spun Emma out too soon. It was not my best dance, but I felt like the scores were very fair.
Do you think all your scores have been fair so far?
Engvall: I feel like I was underscored on two. There was Week 1 with the foxtrot. ... They gave us that mid-range 6, and I think we deserved 7s on that one. I don't think it was better than a 7, but it was definitely better than a 6. And then I think the dance we got really underscored on was the Viennese waltz, because I felt like we really nailed that one. I thought there should have been a 9 or two in there. It is what it is. But last week, I thought it was scored very fair.
A lot of people are getting plagued by injuries at this stage in the competition. Have you had any, other than the usual aches and pains?
Engvall: I told my wife the other morning, 'God, it'd be so nice to wake up one morning and something's not hurting.' A lot of it's age. I'm twice some of these kids' age. So the knees ache, muscle pulls. But knock on wood, I've not had any big injuries.
What's been the show's biggest impact for you personally?
Engvall: It's been the best workout I've ever had. Not to sound like a giddy high school girl, but my wife and I were getting ready to go to a Halloween party last night and in my closet I have a section of clothes that fit, and then you have a couple pair of pants you go, 'Maybe someday I'll get back into that size.' When I started this dance competition, I was wearing a 34/35 jeans. I put on a size 32 yesterday and they fit. I haven't worn 32s in 10 years. So it's been crazy. Plus this week I get to meet Cher!
Yes! She's the guest judge this week. How excited are you?
Engvall: That's when I knew there's a God. [Laughs] ... I've been a fan of Cher since the Sonny & Cher show. I always thought she was one of the sexiest — I look at her and go, I could totally hang out with this lady. It's just going to be a blast. I'm dancing to a Cher song, and she's going to be 10 feet from me. ... She's on par with me, as far as a fantasy girl, with Farrah Fawcett in front of the Indian blanket.
Is there an added sense of pressure because she's going to be judging you?
Engvall: Pressure's trying to save somebody's life, or being in the military and you don't know who's shooting at you. That's pressure. I'm dancing. [Laughs] I think at first there'll be some nerves, but ... I'm the regular guy that will walk up to you and go, 'Hi Cher, I'm Bill Engvall. How're you doing?' I'll be nervous meeting her, but it'll be fun.
What are you working on for your individual dance?
Engvall: We're doing disco, which I love. Of course, [Emma] wasn't even born. She goes, 'When you were in the disco, what was your move?' I go, 'My move?' She goes, 'Didn't you have, like, a standard move? I go, 'No. My only move was, how do I get this girl from the club back to my apartment?' What's funny is, we have gotten through this disco quicker than we've gotten through any dance. We actually have the dance down. Now it's just cleaning it up.
Are you getting a lot of material to use in your stand-up routines?
Engvall: Oh yeah. Trust me, this is going to end up being like a 20-minute bit when this thing's finally over.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.