Tater Salad's tales
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 27, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.
The first time Ron White called for an interview, he was standing outside a Mexican hospital after the car he was riding in crashed in an accident. The second time he called, he was in the rain in Nashville after dropping off his wife, singer/songwriter Margo Rey, outside singer John Oates' studio, with whom she works as a musician.
What: Comedian appears on tour dubbed "A Little Unprofessional"
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road
Info: 392-2787 or Tatersalad.com
For the enormously popular White, who will perform Sunday at the Phillips Center, such anecdotes really are all in a day's work because if he isn't out experiencing life, he doesn't have anything to turn into those side-splitting tales of travels and travails that have been packing live performances from coast to coast.
"We were in a car crash in Mexico," White says in recounting the first incident while on the phone from Nashville. "The taxi that we were in hit another car, a parked car, going about 50 mph. And this ricocheted us out into a field and knocked over a bunch of concrete and Mexican fence posts," he says.
"There were seven of us in the van, and everybody got banged up. But I stay busy, and I'm a storyteller, so if I don't go do sh---, I won't have any stories," he says laughing.
"I guarantee you if I don't do anything, I don't write anything."
Born and raised in Texas, White sold windows for a living in the Lone Star State before his long-haul odyssey as a tall-tale spinner fully kicked in. All told, White spent about 20 years driving himself to comedy clubs and gigs before hitting pay dirt starting in 2000 when he became part of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" with Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy.
Even then, such routines (and later top-selling CDs/DVDs) as "Drunk in Public" and "They Call Me Tater Salad" had him drawing on real-life experiences and his natural, Texas-honed gift for telling stories and getting huge laughs.
"I shifted into finding out what I was good at," White says about his career path. "And I was never a guy that could just sit down and write a joke on a piece of paper, that's just not how my brain works; I have attention deficit disorder.
"But ever since I was a little kid, people could see something happening; I could tell the story and it would be funny. And it probably comes from my uncle who's a preacher and also very funny. I used to watch him preach all the time, so I have his cadence when I talk."
Along with appearing in such other Comedy Central TV specials as "You Can't Fix Stupid," White has written The New York Times best-selling book, "Ron ‘Tater Salad' White: I Had the Right to Remain Silent ... But I Didn't Have the Ability," and he has played roles in such films as "Sex and the City 2" and the recent comedy "Horrible Bosses."
In February, he will attend the Berlin Film Festival, where his latest film, "Jayne Mansfield's Car" — written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and others including Gainesville musician Wester Joseph in a small role — will be screened before being released later this year in the U.S.
White's role had him playing a pro-bowler and car-dealership owner in the Atlanta area, which worked well since White lives in the Atlanta area, and he invited other people in the film to his house to hang out during downtime.
"We'd take 'em home," White says about some of his co-stars in the film. "I've got a big house in Atlanta, so we'd take some of the cast home, stay at the house, if they were off the next day, play golf. It was just a delightful experience."
So far, that experience hasn't turned up as a full-scale routine on his current tour, but at least one other recent experience in Atlanta has: A certain adventure White had with his good friend, "Dr. Phil" McGraw.
"He's a friend of mine and we hang out together, play golf and stuff," White says. "And last summer, we met them (in Atlanta) and they rented a yacht and I got drunk and fell off of it, so that's my closing story now.
"It happened like three months before I started dickering with it on stage," he says.
"And I knew, when it happened, that one day, as soon as it quits hurting, it's going to be funny."
Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow on Twitter at @SceneBillDean.
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