LITTLE ROCK Of the original “Blue Collar Comedy” quartet, Ron White is the only one who still makes his principal living doing standup.
Jeff Foxworthy appears to have gone whole hog for game shows, including Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and American Bible Challenge on cable’s GSN.
Bill Engvall, though currently on a nationwide standup tour, has also flirted with a game-show career, hosting GSN’s Lingo, while taking up acting (TBS’ The Bill Engvall Show, TNT’s Leverage).
Larry the Cable Guy (the nom de stage of Dan Whitney) is making movies and can be currently seen as the TV pitchman for an over-the-counter heartburn medication.
“Yeah, Jeff’s kind of a manufacturer now; he makes hunting equipment, camo products,” says White, who’ll be headlining a comedy “concert” tonight at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall. “He still tours some. But he’s kind of lost interest in it a little bit because he’s got other things.
“Dan’s making those great movies, and Bill wants to be a TV star so bad.”
White, who has played on an old nickname, “Tater Salad,” is best known for swilling Scotch and smoking cigars during his act.
He, too, has made a movie or two (he appears in Horrible Bosses, Sex and the City 2 and in Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, due out this fall).
But comedy remains his bread and butter.
“Last year I did 146 cities. That’s three, four cities a week. That’s pretty much touring all the time,” he says.
“I’m still moving around. You really have to, to stay good at this. One show a week and lay off for a month and still keep your chops? You can’t do it. You might as well retire.”
White is coming off a threeweek break and heading out on an 18-week tour supporting his new comedy special, A Little Unprofessional. Instead of going to cable TV when it debuts on Tuesday, it’ll be available through digital download to Internet-connected TVs, computers, tablets and mobile devices via RonWhiteSpecial. com. (You can also find a preview there.)
He’ll be doing mostly material from that show.
“The whole thing’s new,” he says. “I’m about to release it, it’s already recorded, so you’ll get a sneak peek.
“It’s still regular mayhem, regular Ron White stuff. If you learn anything, it was a mistake. I’m just there to make people laugh as hard as I can make people laugh for an hour and 20 minutes. That’s my only goal.”
His current touring schedule, he says, is radically different from what he did as a club comic.
“Back then I’d go to a city and stay there all week,” he says. “I would get there in my 1985 Nissan pickup truck with a bench vinyl seat that’d bend you over the steering wheel after about 50 miles, and I’d make maybe $1,500 bucks, flat — even less than that when I first started, $500 flat.
“The difference now is that my fans bought me a plane and a bus and then I make a little more money.”
But he still goes about it all the same way.
“I still take stand-up really, really seriously,” he says. “I still go to open-mike nights, I still work out the pieces on stage, I still do it just like when I was an open-miker. Just the car that gets me there is a little nicer.
“It takes the same amount of effort. I now have a better eye for it, maybe, fewer deadend streets, but I still go down ’em.”
He recalls a joke that “I was so sure it was going to be funny, the first time I did it I was shooting a special, and it didn’t get Laugh One in front of 10 cameras. I left it in the truck — 2,400 people in the audience and not one of them laughed at it.
“More often than not, I’ll think it’s funny but I don’t think they’ll think it’s funny, and I’ll be wrong, it’ll kill. My fans are way smarter than I thought they were.”
7 p.m. today, Robinson Center Music Hall, West Markham Street and Broadway, Little Rock.
Weekend, Pages 40 on 09/20/2012
Print Headline: Ron ‘Tater Salad’ White goes Unprofessional