Larry the Cable Guy Interview: "If You Don’t Like What Somebody Says, Don’t Hang Out with That Person"
Image attributed to Larry the Cable Guy
Larry the Cable Guy (born Daniel Lawrence “Larry” Whitney) is a multiplatinum recording artist, Grammy nominee, Billboard award winner and one of the top comedians in the country. He has his own line of merchandise and continues to sell out theatres and arenas across the United States. Despite his stage name, he has never worked for a cable company in any capacity.
Larry was one of the members of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, a comedy troupe that included Bill Engvall, Ron White and Jeff Foxworthy (with whom he has starred on Blue Collar TV). He was the star of Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy that aired on the History Channel from 2011 until 2013.
“I’m defending free speech pretty much all over the place because you still have freedom of speech. I’ve always thought if you don’t like what somebody says, don’t hang out with that person. Why do you have to complain about it? Here’s the thing. I don’t hang out with, and I’m not friends with anybody that would offend me or I think offends me or lives a different way than I do. I don’t hang out with them. Therefore, I don’t have to deal with it (laughs). I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape over stuff people say.”
The Nebraska native has released seven comedy albums, and three have been certified gold by the RIAA. In addition, he has starred in the films Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Delta Farce and Witless Protection, appeared in the 2013 film A Madea Christmas as well as voicing Mater, a character in the animated Cars franchise. His book, Git-R-Done, debuted at #26 on the New York Times bestseller list, and Larry’s Git-R-Done Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2009 as a focal point for the family’s philanthropy.
Larry, along with Granger Smith (aka Earl Dibbles, Jr.), Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Easton Corbin, Kellie Pickler, Jeff Foxworthy and stars of Duck Dynasty, among others, will perform at a three-day festival on May 23-25, 2014, at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), a multi-purpose sports facility located on a 1,000-acre site in southeast Austin, Texas.
Larry and his wife Cara live in Lincoln, Nebraska with their two children: a son, Wyatt (born August 2006) and a daughter, Reagan (born October 2007).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How are you today?
Larry the Cable Guy: (In Larry’s Voice) We’re doing real good. You doing okay? (In Dan’s Voice) There. I gave you a little bit of Larry. Now I’ll go back to myself.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) Would you prefer I call you Larry or Dan?
Larry the Cable Guy: (laughs) Dan’s fine. Whatever makes you feel more comfortable, Melissa.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Dan it is. Let’s talk first about RedFest coming up May 23 in Austin, Texas.
Larry the Cable Guy: Let’s do! Jeff (Foxworthy) called me up and said that he wanted to start RedFest, just one big area, just everything outdoors and everything that a country kid would love. He asked if I would help him out. Obviously, I was in. He wanted to get this off the ground, and I thought it sounded like a good idea, a good place to take your family.
If you’re an outdoorsy person whether you’re country or redneck, you’ll like it. There’s the old joke, “What’s the difference between country and redneck? Well, that’s three hundred dollars.” So I’d say anything blue collar, anything you’d like to do outdoors whether it be working with animals or hunting or fishing, Jeff wanted to create just one big place you could go to, one big event for one weekend. He came up with RedFest, and I think it’s a pretty good idea. There are a lot of good acts that will be performing, but you can also bring your family and do other things.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you an outdoorsy guy?
Larry the Cable Guy: I sure am. I grew up on a pig farm in southeast Nebraska. When I started doing the Blue Collar Tour, I thought it was kind of funny because I faked my accent, so everybody thought I lived in an apartment somewhere. But I grew up on a pig farm. My whole life revolved around loading cattle. I wanted to be a cattle auctioneer when I was a kid. I’m more of a rodeo type guy; Jeff and Bill (Engvall) are more of the hunting types. I enjoy hunting, but if I had my choice to go deer hunting or bass fishing, I’d take bass fishing any day of the week. I enjoy both of them, but yeah, I’m a very outdoorsy guy.
We all have our things we like to do. I’m more of a livestock type guy. Anytime there are cattle, hogs or horses, I’m there. Wherever there’s deer, Jeff and Bill are there. Jeff likes to fish, too. We’re all country kids, so we all like that kind of stuff. I wanted to help Jeff out at RedFest, lend my support and perform down there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The Duck Dynasty folks also will be entertaining the crowd. Are you friends with Phil and Uncle Si?
Larry the Cable Guy: I am friends with the Duck Dynasty guys. I was a little disappointed when I went to their house to eat, and there wasn’t one hair in the soup (laughs). But I’ve known Willie forever. Willie plays in my golf tournaments. I’m actually going to see him in a couple of weeks right after RedFest. We’re all kind of one kindred, I guess you could say.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You defended Phil’s anti-gay comments.
Larry the Cable Guy: I sure did. I’m a person for free speech. Not only that, I’m defending his Christianity which is the same Christianity that I have. He was saying what it says in the Bible. Christianity is about forgiveness and about grace. Phil wasn’t saying he was better than anybody else. He was saying that he loves everybody, but was taught that certain things are wrong, and he thinks certain things are wrong. He’s not condemning anyone. I was defending that.
I’m defending free speech pretty much all over the place because you still have freedom of speech. I’ve always thought if you don’t like what somebody says, don’t hang out with that person. Why do you have to complain about it? Here’s the thing. I don’t hang out with, and I’m not friends with anybody that would offend me or I think offends me or lives a different way than I do. I don’t hang out with them. Therefore, I don’t have to deal with it (laughs). I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape over stuff people say.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I understand that you are friends with Lewis Black (actor, author, comedian), and you two are probably polar opposites as far as views on religion and politics.
Larry the Cable Guy: Well, of course we are because Lewis and I know that we can still disagree on things and still be friends. I don’t hate anybody. My character is one thing, but me as an individual is completely different. I don’t hate anybody. I disagree with a lot of things, but hey, what a person does is between them and their maker. I can disagree with somebody, and I can still be friends with them.
I am called to love my neighbor, which I do. I can disagree with my neighbor about several things, but I’m not going to hate my neighbor. It’s not up to me to hate anybody. It’s not up to me to judge anyone. It’s up to me to be nice, to be kind and to do everything I can to help somebody.
Lewis and I can have different opinions. I can have different opinions with anybody. I can still be a friend with that person. Do I hang out with them 24 hours a day? No. I do not. I hang out with like minded people 24 hours a day, people that are like me, people that enjoy what I enjoy and people that do what I do. Would I see him? Are we friends? Yeah! We’re friends. We’re buddies. We have a lot of memories. We don’t hate each other, and we never will. I can do that.
There are many people that aren’t able to do that. They’re hateful, and that’s ridiculous. I don’t want any hate in my life. I want to make people happy. I want to make people smile, and that’s what I concentrate on. I couldn’t care less what anybody thinks about it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of Christianity, your father was a minister, correct?
Larry the Cable Guy: Yeah. My dad was a non-denominational preacher, actually a Congregationalist which is really where all congregations come to congregate. That’s why it’s called a Congregationalist. Later on in life, he just became a non-denominational preacher, kind of a fire and brimstone type guy. That’s how I grew up.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was he strict?
Larry the Cable Guy: He was strict on some things and not as strict on other things. He was funny sometimes. Sometimes he was a jerk. He was a human being (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, they say that it’s the preacher’s kids who are wild. Was that true in your family?
Larry the Cable Guy: I was pretty subdued because I didn’t want to get spanked, and I didn’t want to go to Hell. So there you go (laughs). I was scared into being good. But I’m sure I did regular kid stuff. People always ask my mom what I did as a kid. My mom says, “He wasn’t a bad kid. He was never an unruly kid, always listened and obeyed.” I never complained when they asked me to do stuff. I wasn’t a troubled kid. I was a happy kid.
I’m a weird guy. One of my hobbies is I have Popsicle sticks and other kids of sticks for making stuff. I make replicas of livestock barns. That’s what I like to do. I do that, and then I think of jokes. I was obsessed with livestock barns, cattle and hogs. I still love that, and I still do that as a hobby (laughs). So I’m a strange person. When most kids were growing up and out at skateboard parks, I was in the back of a stock truck unloading hogs and writing up tickets and putting hogs in pens. I just enjoyed it, and I did that 24 hours a day. You can ask my mom. That pretty much kept me out of trouble (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): (laughs) It sounds like you were not a “wild” child in the traditional sense of the word. During your act, are there people who are offended by some of the subject matter?
Larry the Cable Guy: When you’re doing comedy, it is so subjective. What is funny to you is not funny to another person. What is dirty to you is not dirty to the other person. Comedy is one of those things you throw against the wall and see what sticks. Lemmy from Motorhead said, “Fly it up the flagpole and see who salutes.” That’s basically what I do.
I have a basic theorem as to how I do my jokes. Growing up, I knew when to cross the line and when not to cross the line. It’s the same with my comedy. I know what my audience will take and how much they won’t take. I can’t give you a formula for it. It’s my own personal formula inside my head. Somebody else’s might be different.
I know I don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain, and I don’t want to drop any F-bombs. I did a show one time in Arkansas. I think I said “sumbitch” and “bullshit” nine thousand times. Some guy came up to me with his kids, ages probably 10 and 12, and said that the reason he likes me is because he sat through an hour and twenty-minute show, and I didn’t cuss one time. So it just really depends.
When I started doing my act, I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids. I was probably 29 years old. Some people say that’s not a kid, but when you’re 50, and you look back to when you were 30, you were a kid. You look back on your 30s and think, “I was an idiot!” But I would just do things then I thought were funny. I couldn’t have cared less who thought anything about it. Then I got married and had kids, and there are certain things I look back on now, and go, “Boy, I shouldn’t have done that joke!” But you just go on with life. You grow with your audience.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And Larry’s beliefs are not the same as Dan’s beliefs?
Larry the Cable Guy: Larry says things that I never ever would say in public. When I look back at the character in the beginning, well, I would never hang out with that character. I only said that stuff as the character because I was trying to have this Archie Bunker type of character that I found loveable, funny and non-threatening.
As I get older, the character evolves tremendously because I’m married and have kids now and realize certain things are not funny anymore. I threw them out of my act. When I look at my audience, I can tell better who’s in the crowd and the kind of joke I shouldn’t do. It’s just complicated. When you’re married with kids, you just think differently. I guess I sift through to make sure these jokes are a little different with not such a harsh edge to them. That’s pretty much how I handle the crowd.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What offends you, and who or what makes you laugh?
Larry the Cable Guy: People get offended by everything nowadays. I have thick skin. I’m not a baby. Nothing really offends me. If there’s something I think might offend me, I don’t listen to it. I don’t put myself in situations where I might be offended at something. It takes a lot to offend me. It takes a lot to offend my wife. If it does, we just say, “Man, I can’t believe that somebody would actually say that!” But it’s not to the point where I’m offended, and I’m going to write a letter and try to get someone fired.
I think everybody is entitled to say whatever they want. I’m not going to call for anybody to be fired. That’s not what America is all about. I’ve never been the type to be offended at anything. Everything makes me laugh. When I was growing up, I loved All in the Family, Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore, Green Acres, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Benny Hill Show and Hee Haw.
The reason I do one liner type material is that when I was growing up, I was a fan of the vaudeville one liner guys. I loved Henny Youngman, Milton Berle, Charlie Callas, Dick Shawn, the guys before Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce was great, but I’m not one of those comics that try to change the world. That’s completely fine for the guys that want to do that. But there are all kinds of comedy – satire, one liner guys and storytellers. I like the one liner style because I like to be able to get a laugh off of 8 thousand people by saying something that takes 8 seconds to say. To me, that’s talent and a gift. That is a hard form of comedy.
In today’s world, everybody’s trying to change to world and do social satire. That’s fine. But those comics sometimes look down on other comics. Carrot Top is unbelievably good at what he does. Comics rail on him for doing a different kind of comedy. I never do. The comics that started with him never do. He makes people laugh which is why we are called comedians (laughs).
I love those early guys. I found Phyliss Diller hysterical. Jonathan Winters was amazing. I would take a Dean Martin Roast over a Comedy Central roast any day because I just found the jokes hilarious and not everything would go below the belt. You can pretty much predict what kind of jokes you’re going to get on Comedy Central, which is fine. I’m not knocking it. I was roasted by them, so obviously I’m not knocking it. But if I want to choose style of comedy, I’d go for the Dean Martin style because that’s the kind of comedian I am.
I love Steve Martin. He was irreverent and goofy. If you had a comedian going on stage today with an arrow through his head telling jokes, people would ridicule him. That’s the state of the world we live in. But Steve Martin is one of the greatest ever.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I don’t think comedians were worried about political correctness in those days, but people were offended by All in the Family. Some only saw a bigot, not the comedy.
Larry the Cable Guy: Were they offended, or was everybody just laughing?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Some people were offended because the show was banned in certain regions of the country in the beginning of its run.
Larry the Cable Guy: If people were offended, then hopefully they were not watching the show. I think everyone who loved the show was laughing because they either knew someone like that or they knew that Archie wasn’t going to take a gun and shoot someone. They weren’t violent people. The show was supposed to make you laugh and supposed to make you think, and it did.
The fact that you can’t have a show anymore that’s just there to make you laugh and make you think because it might offend someone is just ridiculous. It’s a shame. It really is a shame that nobody can handle comedy anymore. We grew up with All in the Family and The Jeffersons. We didn’t have to agree with everything they said. It wasn’t about that. It was the conversation between the two that was funny.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you already confirmed for Cars 3?
Larry the Cable Guy: I will be in Cars 3. I just don’t know much else about it other than they have announced it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Mater is such a great character.
Larry the Cable Guy: Mater is awesome. My wife says if she had to decide between Mater and Larry the Cable Guy as to who was closer to how I act in real life, it would be Mater. So Mater is definitely close to me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Any other upcoming projects?
Larry the Cable Guy: I’ve got a movie coming out for Christmas called Jingle All the Way 2. I’m doing some stuff for Fox Home Video. I’m touring. I had a ton of projects that I just wrapped up and a bunch of commercials. We’re working on a couple of other things.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you worry that you’re not spending enough time at home with the family?
Larry the Cable Guy: Well, next May will be my 30th year in comedy. My kids are getting big before my eyes. I quit doing the show on the History Channel because I was never home, and I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up. I’m cutting my schedule in half and kicking back and helping my kids with school and doing stuff with them. I’m going to go from about 240 days on the road every year to about 170.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about the Git-R-Done Foundation.
Larry the Cable Guy: We founded it when my little boy had hip dysplasia. They told us he needed surgery, but there was a doctor in Orlando who said that with a certain harness he invented, he could cure it without surgery which he did. We started the International Hip Dysplasia Institute in Orlando, Florida, through the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital.
That was the original goal of our foundation, and then we realized there were other things we could do. We give to organizations that help families, soldiers, veterans and children. We still give to individuals, but we don’t post a lot of it. We feel if we give to a foundation, they can reach more people than we can. We’ve done a little over $8 million in the four or five years we’ve been around.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That’s awesome.
Larry the Cable Guy: The International Hip Dysplasia Institute got a donation of $5 million through our foundation plus several golf tournaments, and I’m sure they were up around almost $6 million. I loved in Florida and wanted to do something for the folks that lived there. The Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital helps all kids.
In Nebraska, we have the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital that helps kids and veterans with traumatic brain injuries. We built them a new hospital wing, and that was about $1.1 million. Then there is the Child Advocacy Center for abused kids in Lincoln, and they got a million dollar donation as well. Those two organizations are in Nebraska where I live, but they reach the entire country and world. It’s a great foundation, and I couldn’t do it without really great fans.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Larry the Cable Guy is a very popular fellow.
Larry the Cable Guy: Larry enables us to do some really great things. I enjoy writing for the character, and I enjoy doing the character. People need to realize the character is here to make them laugh. It’s here for entertainment purposes, and you either like him or you don’t like him. But the person behind the character is very thankful for the character because he enjoys helping people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I imagine the reason he resonates so well with people is that so many of us knows or have known someone similar to Larry.
Larry the Cable Guy: I created the character when I was sitting with Jeff at an Atlanta Braves baseball game. Larry is just that guy that everyone knows who is harmless, but he’s your buddy. He goes to a nice restaurant in cutoff shorts in a Skynyrd shirt smoking a cigarette. Larry doesn’t have the manners or the talk down, but he kinda makes some good points (laughs). When I created him, I just wanted to make people laugh.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Thanks for the great chat, Larry, and continued success to you.
Larry the Cable Guy: (In Larry’s Voice) Well, thanks a lot. I used to date a girl in Montgomery, Alabama, when I went to college in Decatur, Georgia. If you see Jennifer, you tell her I said, “Hey!”
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