Comedian Ron White is synonymous with Scotch and cigars. He won't go on stage without either.
For nearly three decades, he has told tales at the mic, pausing at just the right moment before throwing out the punchline and taking a healthy sip of his beverage.
It was the Blue Collar Comedy Tour that really sent his star heavenward. From 2000 to 2003, White toured with popular comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He now has six comedy albums out, two of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards, three popular TV specials on Comedy Central and a book, 'Ron 'Tater Salad' White: I Had the Right to Remain Silent . But I Didn't Have the Ability, ' that debuted at No. 15 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in 2006.
White will be at the Pikes Peak Center on Thursday. He chatted with The Gazette from Dallas.
The Gazette: Are touring and nationally known comics a tight-knit group?
Ron White: Coming up, a lot of the comics I opened for, or who opened for me, are dear friends. My brother-in-law opens for me some of the time. I don't know a lot of young comics, and I don't watch any stand-up anymore. I've already got a triple doctorate in comedy. I'm out of school. I don't find it interesting.
Gazette: Why don't you watch any stand-up?
White: I have nothing to learn from them; it's not that entertaining. There are four or five guys in the country who are real good, out of 2,000. I've done comedy for 27 years. You find where the beef is and where it's not. Most don't have any substance. I know it makes me sound like a snob, but I am a snob when it comes to that. I'm very protective of my art form. The audience has no idea who's good or not. They're just laughing. Audiences are easy at clubs. They came to laugh. If they go up on stage and sound like a comedian and make noise like a comedian, people laugh, so they believe they are a comedian. Some of these guys have egos. Unless they ask me: I'll tell them the truth.
Gazette: Do you think that was you when you started?
White: I did suck. I've watched old tapes of me. I was horrible. You just have to go the wrong way for a while. There are classes you can take for stand-up, but that's an even bigger joke. You can teach structure writing, but you can't teach timing and how to be funny. That's how weird the art form is. It's difficult to sustain a career in it.
Gazette: Why have you been able to stick around so long?
White: The writing is going great; it's still going strong. I'm still waiting for it to stop and for people to get tired of what I have to say. I'm a baby boomer and aging at the same rate as the biggest section of the population. My fans are 45-75; that's the majority of them. So they're like me. They're not that curious about what some young guy has to say, but they're curious about what I have to say. We're living the same life at the same time. That's what causes my sustainability.
Gazette: You've said in interviews that it takes several years to understand the relationship you have with the audience. What do you mean by that?
White: It's a very complex relationship. It takes a long time to get what's really going down on stage. Comedy is always unfolding itself, and you can always be better. I'll look at tapes that are 1 year old and shake my head at some obvious choice I should have made. You're still a student of this art form. I did shows in 146 cities last year, so that means three to four a week, and the reason I do it is because that's what it takes to keep your chops. You can't keep them doing one show a week; you won't stay sharp. If I'm in L.A., I'll do the rounds at comedy clubs and pop in and do a set. I've got to produce another album and tour with it. It's not my hobby; it's my life. I am a slave to it. I love it, I'm addicted to it and can't imagine a life without it.
Gazette: Are you playing a character on stage? Or is that all you?
White: That's one of the things you have to learn. The closer you can become to who you are, the more they respond to it. But that's the hard part. You have to believe that you are interesting enough, and in your uniqueness and your originality. All those things take forever.
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.