Ron White: The blue collar comedian keeps it A Little Unprofessional
By Stratton Lawrence Special to The Post and Courier | Thursday, January 3, 2013
If you go
What: Ron White’s Moral Compass Tour, with opener Vic Henley
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: North Charleston Performing Arts center, 5001 Coliseum Drive
For more info: www.northcharlestoncoliseumpac.com
Ron White doesn’t fake it.
The Texas Panhandle-bred comedian knows that being himself is what makes people laugh, and he’ll tell you point-blank that the Ron White you know from the stage is the Ron White you’ll encounter any day of the week.
For that matter, the glass of scotch he’s perpetually holding is indeed real, as is the cigar he puffs between nearly every line of his jokes.
White knows that for anyone to want to read his Twitter feed, he can’t leave it in the hands of publicists to tweet updates about his new DVD, “A Little Unprofessional.” Instead, he’s the one tapping in recent one-liners such as “I was dreaming of a white Christmas. But my dealer isn’t returning my texts” and “Just cuz it’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day doesn’t mean you get to skip out on the bill at a sushi restaurant.”
After serving in the Navy, touring the small comedy club circuit and then “retiring” to Mexico (where he owned a small pottery factory), White’s career was brought back to life in 2000, when he joined Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, a show that stretched on for three years, led to numerous television appearances and made him a minor household name.
Since then, White has expanded his career to include bit parts in TV and film, including roles in “Horrible Bosses” (he played a cop), “Sex and the City 2” and the upcoming “Jayne Mansfield’s Car.” He also authored The New York Times best-seller “I Had the Right to Remain Silent ... But I Didn’t Have the Ability” and released two chart-topping albums: 2003’s “Drunk in Public” (certified Gold and No. 2 on comedy charts) and 2006’s “You Can’t Fix Stupid” (reached No. 1).
Apart from the scotch, cigar and biting, relentless humor, many fans know him best as “Tater Salad,” an alias he mockingly gave to an officer during an arrest and later turned into his persona on stage.
That wild side and bad boy streak have stayed with White, now 56, and it’s the stories of his still rambunctious attitude (he was arrested as recently as 2008 for marijuana possession) that color his monologues.
White kicks off his 2013 touring Friday evening at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center with fellow Southern-tinged comedian Vic Henley warming up the audience.
Charleston Scene caught up with White to ask about his scotch preference, visiting the Lowcountry and his famous Mexican bride.
Q: Having seen a lot of your material on screen but never experienced your act in person, is it true that your live show can get even edgier and more aggressive than the televised material?
A: Eventually my live show ends up on television, so I don’t really think so. I don’t look at “offensive” the way some people do. It’s very difficult to offend me. Not that you can’t, but it’s difficult.
It’s never my goal to be offensive or to not be offensive, because some people are offended by anything. But most people are more like me, especially if you understand it’s a joke.
The show is pretty rough. I wouldn’t bring my kids to it. And if you have Baptist friends, don’t let them sit together. If they sit apart, they’ll laugh their (butts) off, but if they sit together, they won’t laugh.
Q: Your Twitter feed has more than 120,000 followers, and it’s pretty consistently hilarious. You’re coming up with new material on a daily basis. Does any of that make it into your show?
A: Not most of it. I put it on Twitter because it’s not funny enough to do in the show. So you’re reading my garbage, basically, but thanks for doing it.
Q: You drink a lot of scotch, and you’ve said before that you aren’t paid by any particular distiller; the bottle on stage with you doesn’t have a label. In the promo for your new DVD, though, you’re definitely drinking The Black Grouse. Did you get a sponsor?
A: I’m a big golfer, and I went to Scotland to see the Open Championship the year Tom Watson almost won. Every day we’d go from Glasgow to Turnberry and pass the Johnny Walker facility.
I called my people and said, “I’d like to stop by for a tour.” That’s what I drank, and I’d been putting their bottle on stage every night, unless it was televised. Well, they said no, so I said, “I’ll never drink another drop of your (expletive) scotch.”
And then we called The Macallan people who own The Famous Grouse, and they were like, “(Expletive) yeah, get him over here.” They are the nicest people.
Q: We had the PGA Championship in Charleston last year. Is this a place where you have any memories?
A: Charleston reminds me of a prettier Savannah. I love it. I love the food, and the people are really nice. I remember I found a really great cigar bar downtown. Any time I can get a scotch and smoke a cigar in the same place, I’m pretty happy. You don’t need to tickle my ribs or anything. I’m very fond of Charleston, and I can’t wait to come back.
Q: I should give you a heads up that that cigar bar (Club Habana) lost its lease and the city wouldn’t let them reopen anywhere else because of the smoke-free law.
A: Well ... that’s too bad.
Q: Fill in a gap for me. You’ve quit comedy, you’re in Mexico and you own a pottery factory. Then one day you get a call from Jeff Foxworthy that leads to becoming who you are today. How did that happen?
A: I kind of quit comedy without ever quitting. I stopped doing clubs, moved to Mexico and opened this “pottery concern,” let’s call it.
So I call Jeff and ask if I can open for him, which I’d done many times. On Friday, I would drive across Mexico to Reynosa, catch a plane in McAllen, Texas, fly to Houston, fly to Atlanta, get on a MARTA bus, go to the DeKalb airport, get on a jet that Jeff leased, go somewhere, do a show, come back and get a cab to The Ritz in Buckhead, which is a pretty fun place to stay, and then Saturday, we would go somewhere and do the same thing. Sunday I would go back to Mexico.
So Jeff and I were flying back from a gig one night, and he started telling me about the concept of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and ... I just thought it was too many comedians. It turned into being a really popular thing, so, eventually, they got tired of me living in Mexico because they could never find me.
The managers said, “If you want to continue to do this, you’ve got to get out of Mexico.” That was hard for me, because I love Mexico. I think Mexico is like the Wild West. I flourish in an environment where the rules are vague.
Q: Was the Blue Collar tour when you cut your hair and began considering yourself a professional comedian?
A: Yeah, it was, but my hair needed to catch up and stop being 12 years behind. I had long hair most of my life, and I flat out look better with short hair. I confused when people said, “You have beautiful hair,” with, “It looks good on you.” The hair itself was pretty. I was just confusing the compliment.
Q: Your regular tour opener, Alex Reymundo (although not in North Charleston), is the brother of your wife, Margo. Did he ever rib you about dating his sister?
A: I met Alex the first time I ever walked into a comedy club. I went straight to the bar and ordered a beer and a shot of tequila because I was about to throw up, and Alex Reymundo handed me the beer and the shot. That was on Sept. 17, 1986.
The first time I saw Margo was about three weeks later, when Alex said, “My sister is in a band. Want to go see it?” I was like, “No, I do not want to go see your little sister’s all-girl band.” But, boy, was I wrong.
Margo is classically trained in opera and sang rock ’n’ roll at night. She’s got a huge spread, like four-and-a-half octaves, and she has this just unbelievably awe-shaking power. I was mesmerized. She was probably 17. So here’s how I operate: When I see something I want, 20 years later, I ask her brother for her phone number. Pretty (expletive) bold, dude, pretty (expletive) bold.
Q: And today, you often tour with Margo (Rey) singing and Alex opening. I know your son (nicknamed Tater Tot) comes along, and your buddy is your manager. That’s quite the family operation.
A: Yeah, Steve, my road manager, and I have been friends since we were 6, so for 50 years. We lived next door to each other.
And Margo, she’s been killing it. She has a hit Christmas song right now. It’s just behind three songs by Michael Buble. And hers is the only original song. She’s a force to be reckoned with.
But yeah, I don’t have a big “yes man” in my camp. My camp is not afraid of me, because they’ve all known me for so long. If I get uppity with them, they just call me on it in a New York second and I look like a dumba**.
Q: You’ve got a role in Billy Bob Thornton’s new movie “Jayne Mansfield’s Car.” Are you allowed to talk about the film?
A: It’s a great movie. I hope it comes out some day. I met Billy Bob in a bar in Austin; he was in town shooting a documentary on Willie Nelson. He had this band called The Boxmasters and he had his tour bus down there, so we sat up all night in the bus.
In the morning, at like 8 a.m., I had to put on a coat and tie because the state of Texas was honoring me and declaring it “Ron White Day” (April 27).
I’d slept for about 30 minutes and all my family was there, and my only line to all these representatives there was “I can’t believe they made you work on ‘Ron White Day.’ ”
Q: You’ve been nominated for two Grammy awards. Do you think it’s funny that comedians get Grammys? And did you get to go rub shoulders with any of your favorite musicians?
A: I didn’t go. The comedy Grammys are done under a tent. It’s televised, but it’s on E! channel or something. I keep a pretty busy schedule. And I didn’t win either of them.
Q: So any plans to slow down? Are you healthy? Will you ever kick your scotch habit?
A: I don’t really see that happening. We’re all already dead, so ...