20 Questions With Ron White

He Talks About Blue Collar, Blue Lagoon, Smoking and Drinking

A founding member of the Blue Collar Comedy tour, Ron White (aka Tater Salad) wants you to know You Can’t Fix Stupid. That’s the title of his new comedy album and upcoming DVD, not to mention a country catchphrase just waiting to happen. Here, the Fritch, Texas, native answers fan questions about his favorite bands and the erroneous rumor that he’s dead.

1. What kind of trouble did you get into growing up in a small town?

Well, not much. When I was a kid, mostly I played in a ditch that didn’t have much water in it. It was for drainage purposes. There was not a lot trouble to get into in that ditch. It was ditch activities like catching crawdads and minnows. When I was older, I got into all the trouble that you could possibly get into, because I lived in Houston at that time, so it wasn’t a small town. But when I lived in Fritch, I got in no trouble at all.

2. Did you inherit your quick wit?

Was that a question somebody wrote? “Did you inherit your quick wit?” How do they even know I have one? I’d have to say, if I have one, I did not inherit it. I don’t know who in my family thinks very fast at all, including me. The things that people see me do onstage are written, so it doesn’t have to be very quick if you have all day with a pen.

3. Do you write your own stuff?

Every artist has some level of collaboration. I don’t care who they are. As it turns out for most comedians, their friends are comedians. So if somebody says they write everything they do onstage, that’s usually a lie. Because if I’m talking to somebody on the phone and they go, “Oh, I would have said it like this,” or if they go, “Here’s a tag for that,” or if you’re sitting around a condo, that’s where stuff gets written. No, I don’t write all my own stuff, but the majority of it.

4. Do you have a lot more “old friends” now that you are successful?

Anybody that wasn’t on the list before I got wealthy, they ain’t on the list now. People do come out of the old woodwork, but I don’t make contact with them.

5. Who influenced you to get into the entertainment business?

Who influenced me to get into comedy? That’s kind of a weird question. I was influenced by a lot of comedians. I am a huge comedy fan and still have comedy CDs that are current and old. So, who influenced me? Pryor, Cosby, Kinison, Steve Martin, Cheech & Chong, Andy Griffith, Bob Newhart, Bill Hicks. I think if you listen to a lot of comedy, they all influence you. I don’t emulate anybody, but I’m sure I’m influenced by everybody.

6. Being a comedian and actually being funny, what TV shows do you watch that you would say are funny?

None. Well … actually that’s not true because I do like South Park. I like the Family Guy and some episodes of that. But anything that is actually on TV, especially mainstream television, I think it all sucks.

7. Was there a moment when you made somebody laugh and realized then that you wanted to be a comedian?

I remember the first time I ever made somebody laugh. I was like 4 years old, and I told a knock-knock joke that I didn’t get — but it killed. I mean, it brought the living room down. I’m sure, at that age, all I knew was they laughed, and it was fun to make people laugh. Now, the first time I ever got a big laugh in public, I was at a theater watching The Blue Lagoon, which was a movie with Brooke Shields and some blonde good-looking kid. There’s a scene where they’re laying together, they’re about to screw for the first time. And he goes, “I feel something funny down there,” and she goes “Me, too.” And I said, “Me, too!” and got a big laugh in the theater. That was the first time I ever got a huge laugh in public out of just pure timing. And then the rest is history.

8. Are you a big NASCAR fan and do you go to the races a lot?

I’m a bigger NASCAR fan than I ever was. I mean, if I said I was a huge NASCAR fan, then people would start asking me questions about that, and they would find out that I’m not. I’m not very knowledgeable. I do know a couple of drivers. … I’ve been to Talladega, I’ve been to Atlanta and I’m going back to Talladega this year. And I do find it engaging. And the thing that I enjoy about it is that my son, who is 15, and I kind of discovered it together. I was going to be the star at a Busch race last year at Talladega before the big race, and so he went. I wasn’t that big a fan, but I knew some drivers, and I had a bunch of drivers that were fans. He ended up having a blast, and I thought he was going to hate it. So we ended up coming back the next day to the big race. We took a plane back in, and we had a ball. He and I — since he’s 15 — don’t have a lot of common ground, so we’re kind of nurturing that.

9. What kind of music do you listen to?

No, I don’t play any instruments. My favorite bands are the Allman Brothers and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m 20 years late to every party. I don’t listen to a ton of country. I listen to some but not a ton. I grew up on rock ‘n’ roll.

10. Are you a good dancer?

No, I’m not a good dancer. I’m just not. You know, back in the day, I could get it going. But now I don’t have the interest or the drive that it would take to be a good dancer.

11. Doing the Blue Collar Comedy tour, did you meet any country singers who are actually funny … who could do comedy?

Absolutely none of them could do comedy. It’s a very difficult thing to do. I mean, it’s not difficult for me to do, and it’s not difficult for most good comics to do, but it’s impossible to learn. Some of them may be good storytellers, and that’s an interesting thing. And I could never ever even learn to do what they do. I can’t sing at all or play any instrument.

12. Are you going to have any more Blue Collar Comedy movies?

Yes. That’s the short answer. We were just in Nashville, and we broke all attendance records at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. They were previously held by Elton John and Billy Joel. That was supposed to be a warm-up gig — if you can call that a warm-up gig — for six shows that we are going to record in Washington, D.C., next month. And sometime, I guess in the summer, they will come out with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour III or whatever they are gonna call it. I’m sure it’s going to be creative. My suggestion was, because they wanted to know what we all thought, mine was Blue Collar Comedy Tour: Enough Already. But nobody bit.

13. How much do you drink and smoke per day?

I usually take my first drink of the day onstage with me. And I drink every day. Now, do I get smashed every day? No, I don’t. But most days, I will have a glass of scotch and a good cigar to wind things down. So if it’s a two-show night, I can get a little lit by the end of the second one if I’m not real careful. But my fans forgive me in advance for any drinking mishaps that I might run into. And I forgive them, also.

14. Have you ever booked a show in a city with a public smoking ban that would not allow you to smoke?

I heard that I was being fined by Lincoln, Neb. They were going to fine me $100, which would be absolutely devastating to my financial position right now, for smoking in their auditorium, but they signed a waiver. Everybody does. If I can’t smoke, I won’t play there. I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do with my hands. … Christian colleges will actually make offers but say we can’t smoke or drink. We say, “F–k you.” Now a few years from now, when people aren’t buying tickets, we might come back and say, “Unf–k you,” but right now, it’s, “F–k you.”

15. Does your wife like it when you get on stage and make cracks about her or about acting stupid in public?

She pays more attention to the income, and you can forgive a lot when you see what it generates. No, she doesn’t have a big problem with it. She is not a big fan of all the female fans, but the show she doesn’t have a problem with.

16. How did you come up with the catchphrase, “You can’t fix stupid”?

I don’t know how I came up with it. I was just, you know, drunk talking to somebody. It was the same way all my stuff is written. I never sit down and write something. I just talk about it and … come up with a line in conversation…. Like one time I called a blow job a “mouth hug.” I had never really given it that much thought, but then I thought, “That needs to go in the show. That’s hilarious.” “You can’t fix stupid” was just an observation I made when I was dating a girl that was really young — very, very good looking — but I realized that her basic problem was that she was stupid and that cannot be repaired. I didn’t want to go through life listening to this girl babble, so I looked elsewhere for a mate. And my wife is my age — and I’m 49. So I didn’t marry a young girl, but I did marry somebody I could talk to. She’s also very good looking, by the way. She was a Playboy bunny a long time ago.

17. What is your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve, I guess, is other comedians criticizing Larry the Cable Guy. … There are some [Internet banters] about how he’s not funny and they’re funny. Or a comedian really blatantly dissing some other comedian for whatever reason. I mean, it just doesn’t need to happen. There was some banter between me and some other guys because of things that were said about the Blue Collar tour and that we weren’t sophisticated or we weren’t whatever. But if we weren’t rich, nobody would give a s–t. Some stuff was said by Dane Cook and some stuff was said by David Cross. You know, I would just be real careful before I went around criticizing somebody else’s work. Basically what you say when you criticize somebody else’s work is, “I’m much much better at this than you are.” It turns out in most those cases, it’s not true. Dane’s hugely popular, and I’m sure it’s very frustrating to be David Cross right about now.

18. How is your dog, Sluggo?

This is Sluggo II. Sluggo I would be 16 years old if he had lived to tell the story, which he did not. Sluggo II is 5 years old and won’t quit farting and s–tting. He is the most ill-behaved funky animal on the planet, but I do love him.

19. Did you hear that you are dead? What did you think?

Yes, a full third of my e-mails that I don’t read — but my wife does to monitor my behavior on the road — are questions that people send me about me being dead, which I think is just absolutely hilarious. “Are you dead?” Literally, that’s what they say. And since I don’t respond to them anyway, I’m sure that some of them assume that I am since I don’t get back to them right away. And I died eight or nine different ways: Car crash, cirrhosis, liver failure, heart attack. Every one of them believable. Not one of them would you hear and go, “Oh man, how did that happen to Ron?” What do I think about them? They bother my wife. Spell the name right, and it doesn’t matter to me.

20. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the road?

Actually, a guy died at one of my shows — a New Year’s show in South County, St. Louis. Had a heart attack, fell over dead. Bring in the paramedics. Try to get him back. No dice, dead guy. So the next night when comics are going, “How did you do last night?” I’m going, “I f–king killed, man.”