For Ron White, a working-class comedian is something to be
Comedy's resident bad boy Ron "Tater Salad" White returns to Easton's State Theatre Center for the Arts for two shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. April 10.
When asked if the early show will differ from late show, White explained they will be by and large the same performance.
"I only take stuff out of my show one joke at a time. When I write something funny enough to go in the show then I take something out of the show," White says in a recent phone interview.
"It'll be a show they haven't seen because I haven't been there [State Theatre] in a couple years. There's no reason to change it from night to night. If you do all that stuff [jokes] in the right order, it works better.
"When I go on stage, I go on stage to beat a crowd to death. That's my goal. It's to make 'em laugh harder than they've ever laughed, longer than they've ever laughed, not necessarily longer but harder. That's what I'm trying to do."
White, who may be best known to some folks as a former member of the popular "Blue Collar" comedy tour, has had even more success as a solo performer. In the period since the tour concluded in 2006, White has penned a New York Times bestselling memoir, been nominated for Grammy awards, appeared in films and has had comedy DVDs and tours that are consistently among the highest-grossing.
Asked what his drink of choice is these days, he replies, "My favorite drink is called Number Juan and it's a tequila. It's an Extra Anejo, which is a three-year-old tequila aged in a retired bourbon barrel, and I believe that's the best drink of liquor in the world, and I own the company."
In addition to touring, White is excited about a new project for Showtime. He recently shot the pilot in Vancouver, Canada, for "Roadies," a series that centers around a fictional rock band and their tour manager and road crew. The storyline is focused on the goings-on behind the scenes and the "band" is never seen on screen.
"It's written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who is probably my favorite filmmaker. The executive producer is J.J. Abrams, who is basically the Steven Spielberg of this generation and probably the most powerful man in Hollywood right now. It's a big project.
An air date has not been set. The pilot is in post-production.
"I'm the road manager and my character is just fantastic. He's a big smiley, huggy guy, but he'll also kill you," White says. "He's a very complex character.
"TV and I have never seen eye-to-eye because, number one, TV is not fun to do like stand-up is. TV is boring. You sit in a trailer, waiting to do something. Then you do something for three minutes and go back to the trailer. It's hell, I think.
"They [TV and film producers] always offered me lead roles in horrible movies which I would never do. I promised my fans a long time ago that I wouldn't drag them to a pile of [garbage].
"You get on one of those [network] stations; number one, the show is guaranteed to suck, because all of them do. Even the ones that are popular are just horrible. I tune in every once in a while to see what's so good about these shows and there is nothing good about them. It's just bad sitcom writing."
White turned down many offers and pitched ideas that were in turn rejected by producers because they did not fit into the typical formula network executives were seeking. He is pleased with how things have turned out.
"That's probably one of the reasons I got picked for this role is you haven't seen my face all over TV doing every cheesy little thing I could get my hands on."
Casting director Gail Levin, a huge fan of White's, was looking for the perfect vehicle for the comic. "She's seen my last show five times. I'm just on her radar and she thought I'd be perfect for this role. Levin, who has cast extensively for Cameron Crowe over the years, knew White was tailor-made for the part.
For the part of the road manager, White borrowed a great deal from his real life road manger and childhood friend, the late Steve Cooke.
"My road manager was my best friend since I was six-years-old. Because he was my road manager, I was with him every single day and he took care of me completely. He was dying with cancer when I auditioned for this role."
White and Cooke were in California at the time of the audition, exploring treatment options that would slow down the spread of Cooke's cancer.
"I told him, I said, 'Steve, I'm gonna go audition for a part on a TV show and I'm gonna be playing you and he goes, "Go get 'em!'" So, I went down there to Cameron Crowe's office and I opened my mouth and I sobbed for thirty minutes and I got up and left and I went, 'Well that didn't go very good. You're not gonna get a lot of parts doing that.'"
After Cooke died, White received a call from Crowe expressing interest in revisiting the idea of having White play the road manager.
White holds Crowe in high regard. He says of the director, "He's just a fun creative genius of a man. Literally, when I am standing next to him I feel like a blithering idiot, and I don't even know what blithering means that's how blithering I am. He's genuinely fun to work with. He creates an environment that you can take risks in, you know. It's just fun."
The cocktail drinking, cigar-smoking comic can arguably be called one of stand-up's most reliable showmen. His working-class identity extends to his work ethic and any additional projects must accommodate his tour schedule.
"Every once in a while I'll do a movie, but it's got to fit my touring schedule. I won't cancel a date.
"I was in 'Horrible Bosses' and they had a bigger role in 'Horrible Bosses 2' for me but it wasn't a better role it was just a bigger role. It was the same character but with more lines and I wouldn't do it and they were like 'What?' And I'm like, 'No, because I would have to cancel two shows and I'm not gonna jump my fans to have a mediocre role in this film. I'm just not gonna do it. It's not worth it to me.'
"They said, 'You really can't cancel two shows?'" he continues. "They were like, 'All you have to do is postpone them' and I'm like, 'No, no, no. These people paid their money. They got babysitters. They've got all this stuff figured out. Postponing it is cancelling it.'"
White estimates during his comedy career he's done roughly 11,000 live shows in 29 years and he has only canceled four dates.
"My fans have done so much for me and I really do feel a debt to them. I really do."
Tickets: State Theatre Box Office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org, 1-800-999-STATE, 610-252-3132