Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Larry the Cable Guy’s incredible popularity– and neither could the History Channel, who has now employed the stand-up comedian to host his very own weekly travelogue show, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy.
The hour-long show premieres tonight at 9 pm EST. In preparation for the big night, we spoke to Larry (real name: Dan Whitney) about the pressures of having his own show, his physical limitations and much more. Check it out.
You’ve sold out stadiums doing stand-up and you’ve starred in movies, but this is the first time that you and your name will have to carry a show week after week. Is this a new kind of pressure for you?
I just thought it would be a fun thing to do. I really don’t feel any pressure for it. If it does good, it does good. If it doesn’t, I know it’s a good show. I know that it’s funny.
Everybody I work with knows that it’s funny. And I think my fans will like it. But as far as if it does well or not, I don’t feel a lot of pressure.
Well, that’s good. What were some of the behind the scenes TV things you learned about that you never knew about?
How long it takes. [laughter]
I mean, how long it takes – it’s a whole different kind of deal. I mean, when I first got to doing it, I was thinking, ‘well, we’re going to film how many shows? Okay, we’re going to film this many shows, that’s 30 days. It’ll probably take, you know, 35, 40 days to get this done.’ It took 120 days! [laughter]
And then that’s not it. Then you have green screens, voiceovers. So the travel part of it, once you got done with that, you’re on the road, you’re burned out, you’re doing other projects, and you’re like, ‘Okay, this is the last day. Our last History Channel show, we finished it,’ we’re going, ‘Okay, here’s the martini— boom.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh man, that’s cool, we got the first show in the can.’
And then you get home and three days later, it’s like, ‘Okay, now we need to schedule the next four months for green screens.” I didn’t know this came with filming a show. You forget about how much work it takes to do it. It’s just amazing.
Is the show set up to be one-time thing or is the plan to try to keep on doing the series as long as possible?
If it goes good, and they want me to do it again, I will. ButI enjoy doing stand-up, that’s what I do.
I am completely content in going on the road and doing 130, 140 shows a year, and working half the year. I’m completely content with that, because I love doing stand-up. I love it. These are little things that come along where you’re like, “You know what, it’s something different, I think my fans might like this. Plus, it’s something I think I’d like to do. I get to travel around, I get to meet people – yeah, I think I’ll do it.”
So it’s one of those things where I take it because I think my fans will enjoy it, but because I’ll enjoy it too, plus it puts me in a different light. It’s a whole different way of seeing me that I think would be kind of cool for people. That’s one of the reasons why I did it. I enjoy that kind of stuff, but as far as this show going on for 15 years – I never thought that at all. Every time I do something, I think it’s a onetime shot. That’s because I don’t know if I want to do it again.
I’ve watched five or six segments of the show. You met tons of just regular, normal people. Did you meet one person or one group of people that you really felt a kinship with, someone that you enjoyed hanging out with the most?
I felt a kinship with everybody. There wasn’t any place that I went where I was like, “Ooh, boy. I don’t wanna hang around with these people.” Even when I went and did the etiquette lesson in Vermont. They were completely opposite of who you would think would be fans of mine. And that’s why we did the episode, it’s out of my element. It turned out that they were fans, and they liked what I did. I bonded with them great. I thought they were really nice people, and fun. Everywhere I went, I had a great rapport with everybody.
There’s no place that I went to that I thought, “Well, I’ll never do this again.” Not once. Every week was just like the last week, it was almost like home. They knew who I was, I enjoyed being around them, so it made for good shows. I can’t really point to any one particular person. They were all fun. I mean that sincerely. I really had a good time.
It certainly comes through in the show. Every once in a while, like during the etiquette episode when you were cracking jokes, I was almost hoping for them to cringe. But that never really happened.
Well, yeah, they really did. They were awesome. In that episode, I was really playing it up. I was really trying, but it was just funny watching their reactions. The further and deeper I went, and reached in for something else, I just wanted to see how far I could push the envelope. They seemed to really enjoy the whole thing. They were awesome.
Did the producers ever tell you to do something you didn’t want to?
I didn’t do anything where I thought it wasn’t safe. If I thought it was kind of safe, I would do it. We did an episode in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And when the tide goes out, these boats go out and they get clams. And so there’s some parts that they gotta wade in the water and they sink in mud all the way up to their stomachs. Sometimes it’s even deeper than that.
My cameraman was getting stuck, and my producer was getting stuck, and they wanted me to walk in that. I’m like, “I’m not doing it, guys! That’s dangerous.” But the guys who had done their whole lives were telling me, “Don’t worry, we’re here, nothing’s gonna happen, we’re in this all the time, we’re supervised.” Well, I gotta tell ya, everybody got stuck. And I got stuck all the way up to my chest in mud.
And I just started feeling the bottom. I had to grab onto these grasses on dry land over to my right and the tide’s coming in about three hours. And where we’re at would be filled with about 10 foot of water. It was rough. Then finally my producer said, “We have enough footage, this ain’t workin’.” I asked if they’d edited that up; they said it looks hilarious.
There were some pretty hairy moments. The only thing that I did not do was – I’m scared of heights – I did a lot of things that involved heights. But the one thing I didn’t do was with the Boy Scouts. They had a thing that was about a hundred feet in the air, and they hooked themselves with a rope and they jumped over the side of it and they’d scale down it. And I didn’t do that. The other thing I didn’t do was in Florida, the Crash-A-Rama.
They wanted me to participate in the trailer races. And the trailer races are basically just old race cars, or whatever kind of car you want to smash up, and you pull a trailer. Like five other people had trailers that they were pulling. One guy had a single wide. Four other guys were pulling campers. There were four other guys pulling jet skis, and there were literally like 25 people racing. They do about 15 laps, 20 laps, pulling trailers.
And, of course, they’d get smashed, and there’s cars jackknifing and slamming into one another, because it’s a Crash-a-Rama. And they wanted me to do that. And I was like, “Guys, I live down here, and I ain’t gettin’ in the same traffic with you sumbitches.” But they said, “They’re gonna let you win, they’re gonna rig it so that you win.” And I thought, “They ain’t gonna do that, are you kidding me? They gonna get me out here and go ‘Hey, look at Larry out here, we got the cameras rolling, let’s give him some bumps.’” You know? I knew that was gonna happen.
After it was over, my director came over and said to me, “Whoever at History told you to do that should be fired immediately.” Because you actually saw how dangerous it was, and they wanted me to do it. So those are the only two things I didn’t do. I didn’t drive in the Crash-a-Rama trailer race, and I didn’t scale down a 110-foot thing with the boy scouts. I did everything else, though.
I saw the episode with you and Bill Elliot. You gotta trust a guy like Bill Elliot, of course, but even so, I’d be scared shitless to be in that car doing donuts like that.
I get dizzy, I’m not a good roller coaster guy, and there I am with Bill Elliot. They would do stuff like that all the time. They’d have something planned that they wouldn’t tell me about. Which was fine. I never usually backed out. This was one of those things I didn’t know about, and we went to Bill Elliot’s and I’m like wow, cool, we’re at Bill Elliot’s. And then he said “Hey, come out back, I want to show you something.” I saw the car sitting there. So I’m like, “Okay, what’s going on?” And he didn’t even tell me he knew what we’d be doing. I saw that it was all camera’d up, it had cameras on it.
I said, “Bill, what are we doing? We’re not hauling ass in this thing, are we?” He said, “No, no, they just want us to drive around and that kind of thing.” I said, “Oh, okay, that’s reasonable.” As soon as I hopped in there, I said something about no seatbelts. He goes, “That’s right. Are you ready?” He floored it after that. Oh, dude, I was so pissed off. I was really, really pissed off.
It makes for good television, though.
Oh yeah, it makes for good television, but holy mackerel, there was some shit that I was doing that, in reality, on a regular day, there’s just no way I would do that.
I saw the episode with the moonshiners. How, is it that you were able to name these guys who are moonshining? It’s illegal, right?
Here’s a deal on that. They are actual moonshiners, or they were at one time. The still that was there was not a real still. The guy worked on that for two days, but it’s an authentic replica of a still that’s up in them woods not far from there. As far as anybody knows, he doesn’t do it anymore. He knows how to do it, his daddy used to do it, he used to do it, but he don’t do it no more. He’s got one or two up there but never would he ever show anybody, never would he say he does it. He built that one complete replica to scale just to show us how he does it.
Interesting, got it. At the end of the segment, you take a sip. Are you really drinking moonshine?
I was really drinking. He had some there that he just got out of a deal. He just got it from somebody. I gotta tell ya, it was pretty powerful. I’ll tell ya what, they were real good guys, I enjoyed hanging out with them.
What does moonshine taste like?
Kerosene. [laughter] Take a shot of Jim Beam and then make it about three times as strong, that’s your moonshine.
Yeah, it’s rough. The flavored stuff – they flavor it down and water it down so it won’t kill ya if you drink a decent amount. But that stuff that I took, that was just hardcore. That wasn’t watered down, that wasn’t flavored, that was just right off the stills. That was the shit. That’s what you get before they water it down and flavor it.
And how’s your family life going? You have two kids, right?
Yeah, I got two kids, little boy and a little girl. My little girl is three, going on four, my little boy is four, going on Ritalin. They’re about to start school, so I’m looking for day care with dorm rooms. Kindergarten with dorm rooms. But they’re a lot of fun.
Yeah, I have a two year old son.
Isn’t it great? It’s really awesome. I never thought it’d be like it is, but it’s amazing.
Yeah, it is. It’s a lot of fun. Do they know you more than Daddy? Do they know that you’re on TV and millions of people love you? Do they get that concept yet?
I don’t think they do. Both them have pretty much grown up on a tour bus, my little boy way more than my little girl. They’ve seen the stage, the people after, they kind of figure it out. They know that I tell jokes. I’ll write a joke on my hand, they’ll want a joke on their hands. Any time that I leave for a two-day trip they want me to take a magic marker and write a joke on their hand because they know I do that, which is kind of cool.
I think the older they get, they kind of figure it out. I think they think that everybody’s dad’s on TV. It’s kind of like no, not every kid’s dad’s on TV. The funniest time was with some commercial, I don’t even know what it was, but it was just a guy in his underwear, big fat guy in underwear. My little boy goes, “Daddy! Daddy! There’s Daddy!” And I go, “That’s not me, Wyatt.”
Now, for Cars, there was this crazy thing when they were both really little, they would hear the voice of Mater, and I would do the voice as he was doing it, and it made them cry. They were scared of me. They thought that was weird, they started to cry. And now that they’ve seen the movie a bunch of times, I tell them that Daddy is doing another one of those movies. Now when they see it, they don’t even call it Mater, they call it Daddy. It’s bound to be kind of strange for them. I have no idea what it would be like for them, but it’s got to be kind of strange.
Are there any additional projects or anything we should know about?
I’m doing some shows with Bill and Jeff, about twenty shows with Bill and Jeff. Other than that, I’m just going to do my regular shows. Cars comes out in June, and I’m filming in February a sequel to The Tooth Fairy. Another one of my bonanza blockbusters. [laughter]
They’re obviously working, or else they wouldn’t be doing them again.
It’s definitely a franchise movie, so I’m sure they know what they’re doing.
For more info on Larry, check out larrythecableguy.com.