Stand-up comedian Larry the Cable Guy never claimed his jokes inspired deep thought. And his new album, Morning Constitutions, proves the former Blue Collar Comedy comic isn’t about to change. Fans are rejoicing; critics, no doubt, are planning their next attacks.
By Dylan P. Gadino
For a guy who makes it a point not to surround himself with controversy, stand-up comedian Larry the Cable Guy, has Ã¢â‚¬â€œ over the last few years Ã¢â‚¬â€œ found quite a bit of it. His comedy has been called racist, sexist, homophobic and more. In fact, as contemporary comedians go, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably third only to Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia when it comes to taking shit from critics and other comics.
Two years ago, in an interview with Rolling Stone, comedian David Cross blamed LarryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s incredible success, in part, to the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s state of Ã¢â‚¬Å“vague American values and anti-intellectual pride.” In LarryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book Git-R-Done out later that year, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour star shot back. As a result, Cross wrote an 11-page open letter defending his own Rolling Stone comments.
Speaking of open letters, stand-up Doug Stanhope wrote one a year before Cross did asking Larry to die so that his catch phrase (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Git-R-DoneÃ¢â‚¬Â) would go with him. Finally, comedian and Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Hofstetter released an album in April of last year titled Cure for the Cable Guy. The cover boasts an action-figure likeness of Larry hanging by a noose.
This all seems a bit harsh for a guy whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s made a 21-year career, largely, out of delivering light-hearted, one-line jokes about his bathroom misadventures, ladiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ undergarments and NASCAR. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how popularity worksÃ¢â‚¬â€ especially when every DVD, CD or book youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve released has gone gold, platinum or has become a bestseller. Add to that being recently named No. 83 on ForbesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ ranking of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 100 most successful entertainers, and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re bound to find yourself staring down a long line of angry bloggers and bitter comedy elitists.
But instead of shrinking in the face of criticism, Larry (real name: Dan Whitney) has reaffirmed his place in stand-up comedy with his new album Morning Constitutions by giving his fans more of what they liked about the 44-year-old native Nebraskan in the first place.
Punchline Magazine recently caught up with Larry while he was backstage at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City a few hours before his performance. Days before the release of Constitutions, the comic was all too happy to chat about his new material, all those criticisms and some of the surprising allies heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got in the stand-up comedy business.
What did you set out to accomplish with the new album?
You know what. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t try to change much of anything. I know my fans like all that one-liner goofy stuff, so I kept it in the same vein. I actually think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably one of the better ones IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done.
Toward the end of the album you say, Ã¢â‚¬ËœA lot of comedians make you think. I make you think what the hellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wrong with that comedian.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Do you consciously write material that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t too deep or is that just natural for you?
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to tell you, if it makes me laugh, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m going to try it with my fans. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basically it. Like I did a joke yesterday and the only reason I did it was that I went fishing with my 12-year-old nephew and it made him laugh. So I go onstage and I say Ã¢â‚¬ËœI like fishing. You ever fish with peanut butter? I went fishing with peanut butter. I caught a jellyfish.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And then I go, Ã¢â‚¬ËœJust when you thought it couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get any dumber.
I pulled out that sumbitch.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And that actually got a bigger laugh than the joke itself. If I was sitting in a crowd watching a comedian and he did that joke and said that after it, I would find that frickinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ hilarious. I think I have a lot of really good, clever stuff and then I surround it by stuff thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just goofy and stupid.
Yeah, you definitely do keep things very light on stage. Are you ever tempted to joke about things that maybe bother you?
Well yeah sometimes it is. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to tell you, the one thing that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to do on stage is take myself too seriously. Because once youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on stage and you start taking yourself too seriously, then I think your comedy suffers– especially the kind of comedy I do. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just up there doing one-liners. More than anything, I just want to make people laugh. And I think if IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m up there pissed off about something, then I think it defeats what I do.
I do an Al Gore thing about global warming. When I first started doing it, I did about 45 seconds on it and I only had two laughs in it. That wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t gonna cut it. And so now all I really say is, Ã¢â‚¬ËœAl Gore and global warming. Ã¢â‚¬ËœYou seen him lately? Evidently global warming isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t melting his ice cream.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ So that gets a big laugh and it puts a dig in. But if IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to get a laugh with it in eight to 10 seconds then for me, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not worth doing.
Right. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit in with the rest of what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing on stage, I guess.
Yeah it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t at all. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s different styles of comedy and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not really that style. I just want to make people laugh. My style is eight to 10 seconds, get in, get out, get a laugh, give people their moneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth and let them go home happy. And definitely, whatever I do, I do not act like IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m better than everybody else or smarter than everybody else. Everybody has opinions and the last thing they want to do is pay money to hear mine.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re good friends with Lewis Black, right?
Lewis is a sweetheart, man. I really like him a lot.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strange. It seems like you two are from different worlds. How do you guys get along so well?
I met Lewis just working the road. Lewis and I are polar opposites when it comes to politics. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to tell you, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got a lot of friends that are polar opposite to me. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of my best friends in stand-up. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s totally on the opposite end and we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree on a lot of things. But what we do agree on are funny jokes. And if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny. Lewis has even said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœGod made us comedians because we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t frickinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ do anything else.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a politician going out there and changing policy on a joke that me or Lewis Black said, then that politician has got a lot of problems. We can both have our own feelings. He does a certain kind of stand-up and I do a certain kind of stand-up. We both agree, however, that our job is to make people laugh the way that we know how to do it and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll make our political ideas known at the ballot box.
Our job first and foremost is to make people laugh. Lewis gets what I do. Lewis thinks what I do is hilarious. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my wifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s favorite comedian and sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s to the right of Ronald Reagan. But she loves him. And so do I. And not just because he does great stand-up and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funny and his style is hilarious. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a nice guy. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m one of the few people, I think, that can put aside those differences and go see a comic because I think theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re funny.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good attitude to have.
Bill Hicks and I were friends, too. Bill Hicks thought I was hilarious. And if there was anybody that were polar opposites, it was me and him. But Bill Hicks was friends with all us Blue Collar guys. I know him and Jeff Foxworthy, as a matter of fact, were really good friends and he was a huge fan of JeffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. And so there are different styles of stand-up. And some comedians can be friends and disagree and some comedians canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m one of the ones that can disagree and be friends with people.
You mention disagreements. There was that thing with you and David Cross going back and forth at each other in 2005. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re familiar with Steve HofstetterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s album referencing you and putting your likeness on the cover hanging by a noose, which seemed a little bit over the top. How do you respond to something like that?
Well I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got more to worry about than that. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got my own career to think about. I just kind of write it off as jealousy. None of that stuff ever happens to a nobody. When I was selling out comedy clubs, I never heard that. But then when you start going to upper levels, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s when you start hearing about those things. So it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bother me.
Whatever. Hey, if you want to make money off me, fine. But the cool thing about that Hofstetter thing is that other comedians have stuck up for me. When I was working in New York at Radio City Music Hall, Louis CK, who is a genius Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I love Louis CK, I love his comedy. Louis CK came out to my show and we talked about that a little bit. You just write it off and move on. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got bigger fish to fry.
So it just comes with the territory of being a well-known comedian?
Well it comes with the territory. But fans stick up for you. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got awesome fans and they like what I do and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really the only people I need to keep happy. I could care less about critics. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not paying to come to my show anyway. My fans are. I love them to death. I think people just take things way too seriously. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a comedian doing goofy one-liners trying to make people laugh. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doing. And if somebodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jealous about that and canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t handle that, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s their problem and not mine. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not going to peoplesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ houses with a gun to their head and forcing them to go to my show. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re coming because they like me.
And let me just add, as far as the David Cross thing goes Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it really wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a battle. He had said something about my fans. I could care less what he says about me. But donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hammer my fans. My fans arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t all a bunch of back-ass morons. I got lawyers that come to my show. I got doctors that like my shows. I got all kinds of people. So my fans arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t all goofy. They just like a different kind of humor every now and then. And I never blasted David. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a nice guy. If I met him IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d probably get along with him and have a beer with him. I never once hammered him at all.
I ribbed him a little bit for getting on my fans. But I wished him the best of luck. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got a good career. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s doing what he does and I do what I do, bless his heart.
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done a few films already and you have Delta Farce coming out May 11. Would you give up stand-up comedy if it meant you could have a full-time movie career?
Oh, no, not at all. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing better than that gratification of writing a joke and having people laugh at it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so much fun. So no, I never would. Which explains why I think Leno and Seinfeld still do stand-up– because they like the craft. And so do I. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all I know. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been doing it since 1985. And those guys have been doing it since the late Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ70Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. You just love it. Movies are fun. But when it all boils down to it, nothing beats the live performing.
Morning Constitutions is in stores now. The premiere of Larry’s new special will air on Comedy Central June 3; the DVD will be out the same month. For more information, check out www.larrythecableguy.com