From Blue to all 'White' collar
Comedian Ron White discusses the business, his famous friends and arrest in 2008
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.
Ron White catapulted to comedic stardom as part of the "Blue Collar Comedy" phenomenon, in which he built his own fan base from several years of tours and movie sales beginning in 2000.
What: Comedian performs as part of his "Behavioral Problems" tour
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: O'Connell Center, UF campus
Tickets: $39.75, $25 for students
But White, who returns to the O'Connell Center for a performance Friday, has always exuded something of an edgier persona than his Blue Collar buddies, which include Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy.
Maybe it's the glass of Scotch in one hand and the cigar in the other. Or maybe it's just part of the moxie that comes from being a comedy phenomenon in his own right, selling out tours and moving more than 10 million CDs and DVDs.
Born in Texas and today dividing his time between Atlanta and Los Angeles when not on the road, White recently spoke about his approach to comedy, some famous pals and his 2008 arrest for marijuana possession in Vero Beach:
Q: How is the "Behavioral Problems" tour going?
A: It's amazing. I've always been waiting for the other shoe to fall and people to get bored with what I have to say, but so far it hasn't happened. This year I sold out Radio City Music Hall; I've sold out almost every show that I've done and we're in second shows everywhere, so that's great news. And the response to the show, even though there's so much new stuff it, is just really, really good. So I guess we're still pedaling the bike.
Q: It can't be easy to come up with new material.
A: It's not, but it's easier if all your friends are great comics, because if I have an idea, I can run it by Lewis Black, Jeff Foxworthy, Dave Attell, just some of the most prolific guys that there are. And then, they'll help me with it and then I'll take credit for it (laughs). It makes me look good but I'm really kind of leaning on others too.
Q: Do you venture into any subjects this time that are completely new for you?
A: It's still me. Now I do some stuff about that whale at Sea World. But that's a very 'Ron White bit,' talking about laws and regulations and stuff like that. So that in itself is not a new avenue for me, that's just a new subject. But they're paying new money, so you better give them new material.
Q: Do you try out new material before you take it on the road?
A: I still go to open-mic nights, I still play 100-seat comedy clubs just so I can stay sharp. I live in Atlanta part of the year and I live in Hollywood part of the year, and in Hollywood there's all kinds of comedy clubs. And in Buford (near his Atlanta home), there's a little church that they turned into a comedy club, so I call there and have them put together a show. It seats 90 people, so they can do it in a day's notice. They'll just post it on the Web site, and then I can just go out there and try new stuff.
Q: Do you have any film or television appearances in the works?
A: I may shoot some TV shows this summer. We'll find out; I'm meeting with them tomorrow. It's a television show, a series, but I really don't know anything about it, we're just talking about it.
And I'm in the new "Sex and the City" movie, but I can't tell you anything about that or I'd have to kill you.
Q: But it must be something that's right down your alley?
A: The guy that directed it was just a super-nice guy. He built the character around my stage persona and just asked me if I would come and do it. So he didn't make me put on the white cotton panties and dance like a monkey. But it's only one scene.
I would definitely do small roles in really good films, but what I get offered is big roles in really (bad) films. And I say no to every single one of them.
Q: So you've never taken the approach of Larry the Cable Guy, who has starred in several vehicles created around his character?
A: Some of the finest motion pictures ever made. He just sent me a text two seconds ago.
Q: What did it say?
A: "Ron, do you want to be in golf tourney on Sept. 27 in Orlando at Bay Hill?"
Q: Will you do it?
A: Well, let's take a look and see what I've got on Sept. 27. It's a Monday, so I can do it.
Q: Larry and the other Blue Collar guys are doing a tour this year, and you're not part of it. Is the door still open for the future?
A: It is, in some respects, but I've got to write a 25-minute-long, clean set, because 'Blue Collar' was always pretty clean. And I'm really not interested in focusing on just something being clean anymore. Before, I had tons of material, so we just picked the clean stuff out of it.
And it doesn't really fit; it's so much rowdier and then I got busted with weed in Florida last year. And they think that just [hurt] my corporate image. And I'm like 'No it doesn't.' It wasn't a secret that I smoke pot anyway.
Q: If anything, if probably gave you some ideas for new material.
A: And it also sold tickets and books and everything I do.
Q: Was it the worst thing you had been through in a long time?
A: Oh, it was great! I'd love to stage another one right now because you can't write anything (that) good, because what they did to me was such a ridiculous waste of manpower, to assemble all these people for seven-eighths of a gram for marijuana that I have a prescription for in my pocket from California.
So you're gonna bring two cop cars, four cops, a drug dog, and you're going to spend four hours on this plane, and you know that I'm coming there to do a show, so that's verified. I'm probably not going to do two sold-out shows in Fort Pierce and smuggle some hard drugs or weapons, you know.
Q: What reaction did you get from the public?
A: A lot of radio stations and newspapers did polls. It was 80 [percent] of people going 'Go Ron,' and then 20 [percent] of the people, they hate me anyway. So that's good; I'm not trying to make everybody laugh; I'll give you 20 percent.
But it's kind of a dangerous thing when you have 20 percent of the people throwing 80 percent of the people in jail, that doesn't last long.
Q: And you talk about it in the show?
A: In the bit, I go 'These cops drove by three meth labs and a dead [prostitute], which you know is true, because there are meth labs all over this part of Florida, it's all over everywhere; meth's killing this country.
I was having an argument with Dr. Phil the other day, and I told him 'Doc, if you're hard on marijuana, you're soft on crime.' And people, when they hear my views on marijuana, they think, well, I'm soft on crime. No I'm not! I'm pro-death penalty.
Not only is it wrong anyway, anything you spend doing that, you're taking away from fighting hard crime, rape, murder, whatever, white-collar (crimes), all the stuff that really does harm to this country.
Q: I'm sure you're looking forward to the vote to legalize marijuana in California.
A: Yeah, because we need the tax revenues out here, and it's just so ridiculous not to. I was telling Dr. Phil the other day, because he used to mention pot and Oxycontin in the same sentence on his show, and I said "You've got to quit putting pot in the same category as cocaine and Oxycontin and put it in the category it belongs in, which is bacon. Is bacon good for you? Maybe not, but if you eat it every day, it doesn't matter."
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