Willie Nelson is always good for a joke.
He loves them, and before he and Katie Cook wrapped their CMT Hot 20 Countdown interview on his bus in San Diego, they exchanged a few clean ones.
“I went on this blind date and I told the guy I’d meet him in the bar,” Cook said. “I sat exactly where I would be, he comes walking over and he was like, ‘Are you Katie?’ I’m like, ‘Are you John?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I’m not Katie.'”
“That’s good,” Nelson said. “I’ve got a drop joke that you might like: Joke was on the second floor of this hotel, too close to the window and he fell out on the ground. This guy walks up and says, ‘What happened?’ He said, ‘I don’t know I just got here.'”
Humor is at the heart of how Nelson looks at life — and death. Rumors and hoaxes about the music icon’s untimely end have followed the singer since his 1980 No. 1 “On the Road Again” and he takes them all in stride.
“There have been rumors out there,” he said, “‘One day, Willie was out on the road singing ‘On the Road Again’ and a truck hit him.’ … Ever since then I’ve been hearing those stories. I thought it was really funny.”
At 84, Nelson shows no signs of stopping. In the last 60 years, he’s recorded more than 110 albums (not counting his live sets and greatest hits compilations), and he continues to tour all year long.
His latest collection, God’s Problem Child, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country albums chart. The lineup for his six-city Outlaw Music Festival tour starting July 1 in New Orleans includes Bob Dylan and His Band, the Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, My Morning Jacket, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Margo Price, Hayes Carll and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
When Cook asked Nelson if he saw age as just another number, he agreed.
“People do get old, that’s the way life is, and fortunately we’ve gotten this old. And hopefully we can get older.
“One of those heavy-thinkers, Seneca, said that you should look upon death and comedy with the same countenance. I thought that’s pretty interesting.
“You know we’re all gonna die one day,” he added, “It’s not not going to happen. So you have to have some kind of attitude about it, and I guess comedy is as good as any.”
The second part of of Cook’s interview with Nelson will air on an all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown on Saturday and Sunday (May 13-14) at 9 a.m. ET/PT.