interviews Ron White

The boys of Blue Collar Comedy have just released their very last group effort, never to take the stage together again--but dark horse Ron White couldn't be happier. He's got it all: a successful career in comedy, an endless supply of expensive scotch and cigars, and the gleefully inappropriate sense of humor that put him where he is today. Here, Ron generously shares the last of these in an interview with The Blue Collar Comedy crew has a new DVD coming out, called One for the Road, and it says all over the back of the box that this is the very last time. Is it true?

Ron White: That's got to be devastating for you. It's heartbreaking, I have to tell you.

Ron White: (Laughter) It's already on Comedy Central, along with 24-hour-a-day Blue Collar Comedy Tour programming from the past. It's the highest-rated stuff that's ever been on Comedy Central, our shows are higher than any others. They are the highest-rated things, starting with the Jeff Foxworthy Roast, and then our specials, individually and collectively.

I don't remember what the question was! The question was, is it true that this is the very last one?

Ron White: Yeah, that's the last one. So it's not like a Cher farewell tour or anything like that?

Ron White: No, I don't think so. All our careers...I mean, Jeff's been a famous comedian for a long time, has made a lot of money, and now he likes to hunt and watch his kids float in the pool. I have my own career that is flourishing for a brief period of time, but it's flourishing now. So I'm working very hard at that and so is Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall. Not that we wouldn't...I mean, I would certainly entertain it, but I don't think Jeff would do it, and I would certainly not do it without him. It's probably the swan song, but it's not pertaining to now. OK, well that's tough to hear, but I'm glad you guys are all successful. I have heard a lot of people say that you are the funniest one out of the Blue Collar Comedy bunch, and you're also the only member not to star in the TV show, so it seems like you've gone down your own path quite a bit. I guess you already began to answer my next question, which is: What are your further plans to separate yourself from the group?

Ron White: Yeah, you're right; I already answered your question. I do solo projects, and I opted not to participate in some things that they do. But I also get back together with them and make the movies. I love to do that, I just didn't think...I thought the TV show would be more work than it was worth. I really don't have much of a work ethic, and that kind of stuff is difficult to do. It takes a lot of time--I'd just rather...I'm a comedian, and I like to work on my live show, and if I'm doing television, you don't have time to work on your live show, and you can become a lame comic, and that sucks. Yeah, that does suck. So your plan is to continue doing the live-comedy circuit rather than doing other TV appearances or trying your own TV show again?

Ron White: Yeah, Fox wants me to do a television show right now, and I won't do it. It's ridiculous, too--I would have to move to LA and listen to those nimrods for the next seven years of my life, and if it's successful, they can keep me under contract until I was 57. So, I don't want to do it, and I don't need to do it. There was one point in my life when I didn't have the resources that I have now. But right now, I certainly don't need Hollywood. I mean, I still love to walk on stage and make people laugh, and I work very, very hard at it, and I take it seriously. I write more, I'm on stage more now than I've ever been. If I'm not in the theatre, I'm in an open mic night or doing a guest set at the Comedy Club, or whatever, just trying to develop stuff. I'm a serious guy when it comes to this s***. Yeah, I can tell. I noticed that you're really the only one of the group to let your current wealth and status show through during your act. You have your expensive suit on, and you talk about that and about your Scotch and everything. I really admire that, actually.

Ron White: Really? I wondered how people perceived it. I heard one girl say that she thought it was egocentric, and I certainly don't mean for it to be. I was afforded these things, and I'm not very apologetic for it, but I'm also not trying to rub it into anybody's nose. Yeah, I know what you mean. I really do admire it, because this is where you're at right now, so it would be much less genuine to pretend that you weren't. Was it a conscious decision to incorporate that stuff into your act, or was it just more of a natural progression?

Ron White: I was desperate for new material, so anything I can write a joke about, that works, is in the act. No matter who it offends, or who it bothers, doesn't matter if its something my wife hates. Yeah, it was kind of a conscious thing because some people...Jeff's always said, you know, "Don't talk about the money." And I'm going, well, I don't think...I think people can do the math.

How could I possibly end up anything but filthy rich if we sold all these things? And we did. I mean, you can do the math, like I play the Warfield in San Francisco--the other guys don't play San Francisco--and I sell out two shows in one night. Well, it obviously costs nothing to produce. It's just me, and a stool, and a glass of Scotch. There's no 18-wheelers full of s*** out there. It doesn't cost me anything to produce. You keep all of it. So if you can get one of these careers to catch, which is very, very difficult to do, but if you can, where you're filling up the biggest theatres in town, then you make a ton of money. I decided that it's OK if the audience knows that. Yeah, they definitely know.

Ron White: And I give them credit for it, too. They did it. With all these sold-out shows and everything, pretty much every word that drops out of your mouth on stage seems like it's nearly causing the audience to wet themselves. So what I want to know is when you're writing your new material, how do you whittle it down and decide what's really funny? What's going to get those laughs, and what is maybe best left off the list?

Ron White: Right now in my live show, I do a bit about giving a grizzly bear a rim job and a reach around. Now, I'm unoffendable, and I forget that everybody's not like that. And some people, even though it's obviously a joke, I have really never done that and never would unless the circumstances were just unbelievably extreme. I can't see myself doing it. But I got an e-mail the other day saying that they had no idea I was that kind of person. And I'm like, well, you know, "you're a f****** idiot." Because I'm not that kind of person...I've never had sex with animals--ever! I'm really glad to hear that.

Ron White: Yeah. And I feel strongly about it. Especially a grizzly bear. I mean, that would be setting yourself up for a fall.

Ron White: There's a reason they call them grizzly bears, I think. The way I'm developing the act...I actually have two current things: The live show I'm doing on stage now and what of that has been in a movie or on my last DVD, You Can't Fix Stupid, and what is fresh. And then in my Comedy Club sets, I just work on what is fresh and try to build that show as long as I can. I don't like to do burnt material on stage. Even though my crowd loves to hear me do old stuff, I don't like to do old stuff. So I do very, very little of it.

Right now I'm just desperately trying to create, to keep from doing anything off of those two last records, because they want me to do it, but they don't respond the same way to it, because if you know the joke, you know the joke, and it's not like singing them a hit song. Some of these stories, because I'm a story teller, are long. So when I start it, they'll cheer like crazy, then I got to drag them through a long story they already know. And with the punch lines, they might applaud to them instead of laugh, but it doesn't get me off. That's another thing I was kind of wondering. Often the things that I personally think are just the funniest in the world and make me laugh so hard, are the things that when I tell them to other people, they just don't get it. So what is the disparity between your favorite jokes, the ones that you really love and the ones that work best on an audience?

Ron White: I'll give you an example. This is something that I've been trying to force-feed crowds for four weeks. Not in the theatres but in the Comedy Club. This good friend of mine's neighbor on one side of him, her father is a preacher that lives four doors down from him on the other side, and they live on a lake. He drives really nice cars and has these pretty lake houses, so you don't really figure he's on the up-and-up. He's doing something besides talking about Jesus, in my opinion.

Well, then one day after he had been keeping his grandson for two weeks, his daughter comes home to get the grandson and his a****** is bleeding and swollen, and she calls the police and accuses her father of child molestation. Now, you can see where it's not that funny of a setup, right? The humor that I see in it is that whether he f**** the kid, or under your supervision, he uncontrollably dug at his own a** until it appeared he'd been f*****--it's hard to pick one of those if you have to pick one. You might as well just say he f***** the kid. Well, nobody thinks this is funny but me. I just thought it was just hilarious that this kid had pinworms. That's what it turned out it was. He hadn't been f***** by his grandfather, he had pinworms. I mean, this kid had a case of angry-a** like nobody's business. So I thought there was serious fodder for humor in this, but so far, the crowd is not buying it. I don't know...I agree with you, I think any kind of intestinal parasite is just hysterical.

Ron White: Absolutely. Pinworms? And besides that, who's doing pinworm humor? I don't know, but...

Ron White: Nobody. This is going to come across fresh. A friend of mine had a story about a three-year-old from Ecuador that his cousin adopted. One day, they were changing the baby's diaper, about a week after they got him, and took off the diaper and there were like three feet of white tapeworm flapping around in the air like something from a Cronenberg film. Mom screams and runs away from the kid and nobody would go near him--to pull the tapeworm out of him.

Ron White: Oh, that's got to be foul. So, was there more tapeworm in the kid's a**? Yeah, they had to go and get it pulled out.

Ron White: (Laughter) That would do it for me. I would sell the kid! I don't know what happened to that kid.

On David Cross's Web site, I read his letter to Larry the Cable Guy, which is obviously quite inflammatory, if you've read it. Now I think that, of course, he's entitled to say what he wants, especially in response to what Larry said about him. But it seems to me he's trying to start a feud and get some more attention. What do you think about that whole thing?

Ron White: I don't think Larry's taken the bait. It was Cross that said something first, and then Larry responded to him, and then he made a big response. That was actually the chronology of the events, the way I see it. It actually started with something Dave Cook said. Like somebody gives a f*** about that!

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be David Cross at this point. A very funny young man, but things aren't going quite as well for him as they are for Larry. If Larry wasn't a hugely successful comedian, of course David Cross wouldn't even have an opinion one way or the other. I would just worry about my own f****** career. That's what I would do. I wouldn't get caught up in some fevered high phony f****** debate about whether Larry's a good comedian or bad comedian. He f****** kills is what he does. He made more money than God last year, and Cross is frustrated by his inability to generate huge crowds and profits, I guess. I don't know him, and I'll also say I think he's funny. When he's paying attention to actually telling jokes?

Ron White: Yeah. You're right. I see an act of desperation from a guy that's very frustrated, and it actually makes me smile and chuckle for no real reason. [laugh] Alright. I noticed you dropping the "F" word a whole bunch during our conversation here, and I saw on your Web site that Wal-Mart is selling the censored version of your CD. What exactly is on that?

Ron White: Well, not much but a bunch of beeps. That was something the record company did that will assure they will not be my record company again. I did not want my record censored. My first one wasn't. Wal-Mart will put the DVD uncensored in their stores anyway. So, eventually, you're going to sell the same amount of stuff. It was ludicrous--they did it behind my back--and I'm livid mad about it. The people that buy them are also livid mad because when they see "censored," I guess they don't put together it's going to be a beep sound on it. It's ridiculous. There's no reason to do it. It was stupidity on their part. Yeah, I would pretty much assume if I saw any comedy DVD with the word "censored" on it, that there would perhaps be about five minutes of actual material left on there.

Ron White: Right, it's just the "beep," and there's a "beep." It's ridiculous. It made me madder than anything that's ever happened in my career when they put out a censored version of my record when I explicitly told them not to. They did it out of pure greed and because they could. Because I didn't sign anything that said it had to go this way, you know, it was probably the one stone left unturned in the whole contract was they could do it if they wanted to. I just assumed because they were so interested in doing business with me that they would follow my wishes on it. They just didn't do it. So you won't be doing business with them anymore?

Ron White: That I can assure you. Well, good for you. I have to let you know, I will probably need to do a little bit of creative editing involving vocabulary on this interview.

Ron White: You do whatever you need to do, you've been adorable. Well, thank you. You've been adorable, too, and it's been a real pleasure to talk to you. Is there anything else you want to say to the audience?

Ron White: Well, just that if you come see the live show, and I'm going to come back to San Francisco soon and play the Warfield again within the year, don't bring your kids!

I'm working, it's all out there, offensive or not. It's funny. Thanks very much for your time, and I hope to see you some day. Thank you. Take care.

Like on Facebook