I spent 30 minutes gabbing with Larry the Cable Guy, whose real name is Daniel Whitney. He was analytical and confident yet humble.
His character on stage is more a goofy, happy-go-lucky Southern good ol’ boy in cutoff plaid shirts and is now considered one of the biggest comedy draws in the country this side of Dane Cook.
But he says he and the character are now melded together in a sense, not separate people. “I’m half and half,” he said by phone last week. “In the beginning, it was just a character. But I’ve had a wife and kids. I’ve started incorporating more of myself into Larry so it becomes more real.”
Larry — we’ll call him Larry since that’s who he is better known as — is going to be on stage for two shows at Fox Theatre Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and will be the target of a Comedy Central roast which was taped earlier this month and airs Sunday at 10 p.m..
On his own simple comedy philosophy: “I read Steve Martin’s book. I noticed how much his career paralleled mine in the way he exploded on the scene. He never felt nervous before a show because he knew the fans were coming to see him. The only thing he worried about was disappointing the fans. That’s exactly how I feel. You just want to do your best every time you go on.
On the Comedy Central roast Sunday: “It felt great. It’s an honor to be roasted. You have to have a certain level of accomplishment to get roasted.”
On who got to roast him: “I got to pick all the roasters. Jeffrey Ross was in my Christmas special. He’s a great roaster, great one liners. Nick DiPaulo was one of my all-time favorites from back when I was working in clubs. Lisa [Lamponelli] is a dear friend of mine. I had to have Greg Geraldo. I like the way he really hammers you. I saw him on the Foxworthy roast. Toby Keith– I hang out with him a lot. And Maureen McCormick? She’s Marcia Brady! I chose her just because I wanted to.And Gary Busey, you never know what he’s going to do.”
On how they roasted him: “They got on my case about my weight. But that’s crap because I’ve lost 50 pounds. I might blow my Nutrisystem deal! They picked on my movies. “Delta Farce” got hammered a lot. And the fact I’m a character.”
On his real accent vs. his stage accent: “I picked up my accent when I moved to Florida when I was 16. I’m a country kid who grew up on a farm in Nebraska. It’s not like I grew up in an apartment in L.A. or woke up to decide I’ll become a redneck. I’ve always been a country act.”
On other roasts: “I watched a few of them. I didn’t want people to get dirty to be dirty for shock value. They have to be clever and dirty. And that’s what I got — a lot of clever jokes.”
On prepping new material: “I work a couple of hours a day… I used to write commentaries for radio. I still do. Out of a three-minute commentary, they’ll be maybe three, four jokes I can pull out. I start inserting them into my act. There are minor league jokes and major league jokes. I give them three chances to get a laugh. If they don’t work in the middle, I’ll try at the end. Then they go back to the minors to get rewritten.”
How long it takes to cycle through jokes: “I’m a one-liner comedien. Everything is buiilt, joke, joke, joke. Then I’ll add new jokes. Hopefully by the end of the year, it’ll be 50 percent different. Then within a year and a half, it’s almost completely new. I can then create a new album.”
On his guitar act at the end of each show: “I’m a big fan of ‘Hee Haw’ with its pickin’ and grinnin’ and ‘Laugh In’ with the people opening windows telling jokes. The guitar enables me to put all the jokes in that don’t fit in my act. Like, ‘Does a cow ever look out at a field and say, ‘I can’t believe I at the whole thing?’ ‘ It doesn’t fit anywhere I’m talking about. So boom, there ya go. It’s also a place to put in new jokes. They’re like 25 pinchitters. They all get laughs but have no place to bat. They just come up and take cracks at the end of the show. It’s a meticulous process… if it was that easy, everybody would be doing one liners.”
On his less-than-extravagant lifestyle: “I live in Florida and Nebraska. Most of my familiy lives in Nebraska. I bought some land out there. In Florida, I bought this place in 1995 before the Blue Collar Tour and everything happened. I’ve put some money into remodelling it but I live in the same place. It’s not exactly ‘Cribs’ material.”
What he does in Atlanta when he’s in town: “Not much. I stay on the bus with my family. Sometimes, I’ll go to Jeff’s place [that being Jeff Foxworthy] if he’s in town. I went to college in Marietta. So I’ve got friends who visit, too.”
Game plan for 2009: “I’ve got a new movie planned. I have another Christmas special planned for the end of the year. We’ll tape it in July in Nashville.”
His TV habits: “ I don’t watch a lot of TV. I used to watch a lot of news when I was doing commentaries to stay informed. But it’s nonthing but bad news now. I’ve quit watching. I go on a couple of Web sites and that’s that. We have kids so we watch a lot of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ I also watch Noggin. And when the kids go to bed, we are History Channel junkies. And ‘The First 48’ on A&E.”
On a Blue Collar Comedy tour reunion: “I’ll do whatever the guys want to do. We’re all buddies. If they all want to do it, I’m in… but it’s got to be special. We left on a high note. Now it’s in the history books. It’s part of comedy folklore.”