The song is most notable for its satirical final verse, preceded by a recitation in which Coe explains that "a friend of mine named Steve Goodman" wrote the song and considered it "the perfect country and western song." However, Coe told him that it was not the perfect country song because it "hadn't said anything at all about mama, or trains, or trucks, or prison, or getting drunk." Goodman then proceeded to add the final verse, incorporating all five of Coe's requirements but completely unrelated to the rest of the song (the first line of the verse, for instance, is "I was drunk, the day my Ma got out of prison"), whereupon Coe agreed that now it was "the perfect country-and-western song."
In the book Whiteness: A Critical Reader, author Mike Hill cited the song as an example of Coe being the "'hardest' and most burlesque performer of recent times," adding that the "perverse hokiness" of the song's final verse made it "perfect." Irwin Stambler and Grelun Landon wrote in Country Music: The Encyclopedia that the song helped Coe gain recognition, as it was his first Top Ten hit, and The New Rolling Stone Album Guide cites it as Coe's signature song.Lost in the Grooves by Kim Cooper and David Smay said that "the joke [in the final verse] is funny, but the real key to the song's success is Coe's execution."