As Ron White says, you can’t make this shit up.
The Texas–born comedian has a history of turning his life into material, from the quirks of ex–wives to his love (aka passion) for alcohol and cigars, to his dopey dogs, to his one great moment, many years ago, at the Sears Auto Center in Savannah.
It’s pithy observational comedy. Just look at his album titles: You Can’t Fix Stupid, Drunk in Public, Behavioral Problems.
Four years ago, life handed him this one: Acting on an anonymous tip, police in Vero Beach, Fla. met White’s private plane at the municipal airport. The comedian had a show in the area that night.
The caller claimed White was “running drugs,” and the plane was searched. With dogs. No drugs were found. White voluntarily handed over his stash — less than one gram of marijuana, in his coat pocket — and was promptly arrested.
The comic figured out that the call had been placed by a disgruntled former employee, a pilot who’d recently been fired.
White was given six months probation, and a two–year suspension of his driving privileges, and paid about $3,500 in fees. What he got in return was one of the funniest bits of his standup career.
Welcome to the wacky world of Ron “Tater Salad” White, where life and art are pretty much the same thing.
On Drunk in Public, you tell that story about an adventure you had in Savannah. Is it completely true?
Ron White: I haven’t done that bit in 10 years. It’s absolutely true — I was in Savannah doing some shows — at the Trolley House Theatre, I believe it was called. Back in the day, a long time ago. I had this van that I toured in. I had the tires changed on it, and the guy was sick on Lug Nut Day, and he didn’t put the lug nuts back on. Right outside the Sears. You know where the Sears is, right? There was like 10 lanes of traffic right next to it. And it was pouring down rain. The wheel fell off my van. I was in a brilliant mood.
I was one of the first people to talk to you after you got popped at the Vero Beach airport. I worked for one of the newspapers down there. You joked about it onstage a couple hours later.
Ron White: You really can’t make this shit up. I go out and live my life like a banshee, and then I just come back and report it. And that was just wonderful. The best thing about being me is, you can’t catch me doing anything that I don’t talk about already. So if I get popped with weed, it’s not news, it’s just Ron got popped with weed. He already said he smoked pot. I don’t really have the luxury of passing around secrets, ‘cause I gotta turn it all into fodder. I make no apologies, you know? I think the marijuana laws are ridiculous. I’ve been partying in Florida for years, I didn’t even know they had laws.
Once you get to the airport and figure out that it’s not a drug plane, there’s no reason, if you’re looking for rabid pit bulls, to shoot a poodle because you didn’t find one. So they used that phone call as probable cause. As soon as I figured out what they were doing, I gave ‘em the little old half a gram of weed. And they took me to jail. I couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t believe it either. The cops were fans, they didn’t want to take me to jail, but some dickhead lieutenant says “Bring him in!” They were mortified, the cops were, because they had to do this to me. But any time you get press is good.
It’s an election year. Is this a great time for you?
Ron White: Not for me, because I don’t get my comedy from television. So I don’t do topical humor. The reason I don’t is because every late–night talk show on television, there’s seven or eight of them, and every one of them has 20 writers working for ‘em. And they’re all staring straight at the same television, getting comedy from it.
If something funny happens on TV that I can make a joke out of, which is easy, Letterman will do 10 jokes about it that night. And he has way better access to the public than I do. Number one, I don’t even watch TV. I don’t follow the news unless it’s something really big. I just live my life and talk about that. It’s not more interesting, I don’t think, but it’s original, and my fans have grown to appreciate that over the years.
How true is it? How much embellishing do you do? Is your wife mortified? Because she ought to be.
Ron White: She’s sitting right here. We’re on our way to the airport. You can ask her. This is Margo Rey.
Are you mortified at what he says onstage?
Margo Rey: No, I’m not. It’s true to life. He’s been married three times, so I know which jokes are about me and which ones aren’t. I actually think the ones about me are a lot funnier.
Every day’s an adventure, I guess?
Margo Rey: Yes, there’s never a dull moment. He’s definitely the same person going to bed at night as he is talking onstage.
Is Ron the kind of guy that’ll wake up in the middle of the night and say “I got something,” and scribble it down on a pad?
Margo Rey: He doesn’t write it down. He just recites it like a Baptist preacher. He’ll walk around the house talking to himself, and I know that’s what he’s doing. So I don’t bother him. Then he’ll run it by me and see if it makes me laugh. If there’s nothing to remember it by, I just record it on my phone. We have a collection of these little soundbites.
Ron, what are you working on these days? Did I hear you started a record label?
Ron White: Yeah, that’s how smart I am. I started a record label in 2011! I was only about 25 years late. I own Organica Records — it’s a little boutique record company. I put my stuff out on it. And Margo writes with John Oates. She’s an amazing artist. John and Margo have hits on the radio right now. Gladys Knight is on the label. We’re going to grow into more artists, but it’s kind of like an owner–occupied building at this point.
We’re looking for answers, and putting out some quality stuff. And we’ll see what happens. We can’t really promote new acts, because that’s so expensive, but we’ll do a greatest hits record. That’s for sure.
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, 301 W. Oglethorpe
When: At 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30
Tickets: $46–$56 at etix.comAs