It’s hard to complain about a job where you can smoke cigars and drink scotch on the clock. Then again, most people don’t punch in to work after 9 p.m. and consider a successful day one where they’ve offended, shocked and maybe, if they’re lucky, entertained their clientele.
Welcome to the world of Ron “Tater Salad” White. The comedian who made his name as part of the “Blue Collar” comedy tour that included such fellow stars as Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, set himself apart from the more schticky country personas of his former tour mates by doing one simple thing: just being himself and telling rambling stories of his often booze-fueled adventures.
“I don’t really understand how I do that exactly either,” White says of his ability to take his life experiences and turn them into (somewhat) true, hilarious short stories that he likens to a profane play rather than old school joke telling. “That’s what I’ve always been able to do.” Even as a kid, White says, he was the kind of person who could see a car wreck and spin a yarn about it that would make people laugh.
“Everyone is born with some weird ability, and that’s what I was born with,” says White, who performs Friday to a sold-out crowd at Tucson’s Desert Diamond Casino. “I guess that makes me a one-trick pony. For a long time, I thought I was a no-trick pony, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.”
While Foxworthy kept it clean and silly, and Larry’s country bumpkin image is a total put-on (sorry to burst your bubble, but the Cable Guy doesn’t sound like that in real life), White stuck to his bread and butter: f-bomb-filled observations told in a folksy drawl that might have made Mark Twain blush a bit.
Born in Fritch, Texas, the former bull rider signed up for the Navy at 17 and was honorably discharged two years later for a “medical condition” that included a drug habit that landed him on probation later in life. Once he got clean, White became a counselor with the drug abuse program, but he never quite gave up his vices.
Last year, White was busted for possession of a small amount of marijuana in Florida in what he has claimed was part of an extortion plot by a former employee. But rather than apologize for the indiscretion that netted him one of those classic disheveled celebrity mug shots, White says he’s turned the sour incident into comedic lemonade.
“I’ve been doing comedy for 23 years, and I don’t really do topical comedy because that’s tricky, and guys like (Jay) Leno or (David) Letterman have a room with 19 or 20 writers … and if I tried to write one of one of Dave’s top-10 lists, seven of mine will be funnier than theirs, and three will be funnier than mine, and I’m not interested in fighting them out,” he says. “I just live the way I live and tell the story. These days, a lot of it is about the drug bust.”
White says he recently had a conversation with his manager and they agreed that when some up-and-coming writer comes to them and says, ‘Hey, I can write for Ron,’ their answer is typically, ‘Well, no you can’t. It’s more than an accent. It’s Ron’s point of view, which you don’t know and can’t come up with.’”
While his first drink of scotch of the day typically doesn’t come until he hits the stage, White admits that his later engagements sometimes get, well, a bit loose.
It’s all part of a life plan that’s really no plan at all.
“This is just the way it turned out,” he says. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. My retirement plan is, ‘Maybe something neat will happen.’ It’s all a gamble. The fact that I ended up where I did is a pure (bleeping) mystery to me. I’ve put more effort into tubing a river than this career.”