RON WHITE, 8 p.m. Sept. 14, The Venue, Horseshoe Casino Hammond, 777 Casino Center Drive, Hammond. $39-$69. horseshoehammond.com
Updated: September 11, 2013 3:00PM
With a wind chime sweetly singing in the gentle breeze blowing outside his “modest home with an immodest view,” just over 900 feet above Montecito California’s majestic Channel Islands, Grammy Award-winning comedian Ron White can’t help but make a joke.
“The way my brain processes information is quite odd,” he starts. “I mean, I have Attention Deficit Disorder and another learning disability I can’t even spell. I don’t even have a high school diploma. I’m smart but you can’t prove it on paper.”
Laughter ensues, but the contradictions to the personality of White are becoming more and more apparent as his career continues to progress. Because between the f-bombs and swigs of alcohol during his live show, White is a man who plays golf with Dr. Phil, a husband triumphantly supporting his wife Margo Rey in her most recent fight against breast cancer, and a co-executive producer of the film “Bridegroom” (a winner at the 2013 NYC Tribeca Film Festival) that explores gay marriage in this country.
“My wife’s background is Broadway, so we literally have 9 million gay friends. I actually counted them last week,” White chuckles despite the serious topic. “I saw those issues firsthand, so when I heard the story and just how unfair it is to not be able to make that person your partner because of some governmental law, it moved me to do something.”
Known best as the cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking funnyman from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour phenomenon, it’s who White is — away from the bar stool — that might be the most intriguing. Nevertheless, he admits that he always is on a search for new material that will result in gut-wrenching laughter for his audience.
“I’ve been doing this for over 27 years and have done 11,000 live shows, so I pretty much know when I write something exactly what is going to happen when I deliver it,” says White, who will appear Sept.14 at the Horseshoe Casino Hammond. “I’m wrong sometimes though. I’m definitely guilty of thinking something is funny but thinking the audience won’t. Then three years later I will finally try it and it’ll kill them. I got to give them more credit.”
The support of his fans in Chicago and across the country has resulted in quite an impressive run for the Texas-born comedian, selling over 14 million albums and becoming one of the top three grossing standup comedians on tour in America for the past nine years.
“Sometimes I try to figure out why it all turned out so good,” remarks White. “I really think it’s because I speak directly to the largest segment of the population. The bulk of my fans are my age, and I’m aging at the same rate they are. That makes me relevant. They like hearing what I have to say. I work hard at it, but it’s addicting really.”
And that lit cigar and glass of alcohol lying carelessly on the bar stool next to him in his live show? Well, maybe that’s not as addicting as once thought.
“They are certainly not a crutch but definitely a prop,” White says. “I’ve never done [my live show] without it. It’s a reason not to be talking and the same reason old school comics smoked on stage. It’s a great way to have a pause.”
White himself takes a pause, then another joke ensues.
“It used to be a beer and a cigarette back in the day, but as my budget evolved, those things evolved too,” White laughs. “Plus, the fact that I drink and smoke always just seemed like a great thing to write into the show.”
Tricia Despres is a Sun-Times freelance writer.