Events: The Story of Ron

Comedian discusses his 20-year stand-up career

Oct 18, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Ron White

Puff on this: Ron White says he's been through "many, many years of behavioral problems."

Things are going well for comedian Ron White. "Yeah, it's seems to be going pretty well considering that five years ago I was living in my best friend's attic and had just gotten out of a relationship that was long and tired," he says. "(I was) broke, no furniture. I was 44 years old, and now things are different. Every show I do, just about, is sold out. It's more than I ever expected or wanted or thought could happen, (and) there's no one living in my attic. For that I'm grateful."

White, who has been a stand-up comic for over 20 years, first had an inkling as a child that comedy might be a career worth pursuing.

"I was always a funny guy," he says. "I don't think anybody that makes it to this level of stand-up wasn't a funny guy when they were young.

Most of it is un-learnable, I think. It's pace, rhythm and timing."

His family influenced him as well, but not just in developing a sense of humor.

"My uncle was a preacher and I used to go watch him preach," he says. "He was also funny, so I'm very 'preacher-ish' on stage, not by intent but because that's where I learned to talk in front of people. That's where it was learned, I guess, and also I was a huge fan of comedy when I was young. So it got set into my head pretty early."

It was The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, however, that caused his career to "blow-up," as the young people say.

"If that's what the young people say," he laughs. "We wouldn't be having this conversation if it weren't for that and Jeff's (Foxworthy) generosity. He's always believed in my talent, but not my work ethic, and it was his goal for a long time to make me a famous comedian. He truly sucked at it because it took him forever. I don't mean to sound ungrateful but I got things to do, Jeff."

These days, White's act is ever-changing. "The show evolves slowly," he explains. "Even the show I'm doing today won't be the exact show that I'm doing when I get to (Cincinnati) because if I write something I've got to take something out. I don't want the show to be too long. That's why I wait to come back to a town. By the time two years comes around they'll hear nothing the same, but the show is still strong because I change it one joke at a time, as opposed to throwing it all in the trash can and then coming up with a whole new act."

Of course, with a DVD out as well as constant exposure on Comedy Central and other TV outlets, new material is a necessity.

"I don't like to do material people have heard," he says. "Now, they like to hear material that they know, because that's the stuff that made me famous, and, unfortunately, I don't do a ton of it. I like to do the new stuff. It's (more fun) for me and (more fun) for them ultimately. They want me to do 'tater salad' and that's an eight-minute story that they know, and most of (them) can do a better job of telling it than I can."

As for coming up with new things to talk about, White has to look no further than his own experiences.

"My life has been wild enough to derive all of the stories you need out of it," he says. "I've been through many, many years of behavioral problems, so I don't really look outside for stories."

He does get a little help, though.

"My wife, who is also very funny, (will) say something and I'll turn it into a bit. My friends are all comedians, so if I'm stuck somewhere and I know I've got a funny idea but I can't go anywhere with it, I can always call Foxworthy and he's like the joke repairman. I don't think I could write two hours of great comedy by myself in two years."

RON WHITE performs 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday at the Taft Theatre.