Ron White on gay marriage, marijuana and opening acts -- including Josh Blue
While many comics will play to their political or cultural bases, Ron White is virtually impossible to pin down to any one audience. First rising to fame through the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy, he became a hero to conservatives with his pro-death penalty and support-the-troops material. White is far from a right-wing pundit, thought, speaking openly about his drug use and belief that everyone -- including himself -- is a little gay. The 27-year veteran of standup backed that up as the producer of the documentary Bridegroom, a story about the struggles of unmarried same-sex couples dealing with the death of a partner -- which recently won the Tribeca Audience Award for Best Documentary).
When Ron White is at the Temple Buell -- this Friday, when he'll be joined by local comic Josh Blue, he'll bring together an eclectic mix of comedy fans who enjoy his brutal honesty. In advance of that gig, we spoke with White over the phone from Texas, and he shared some stories of his early days as a comic, discussed his crossover appeal, and congratulated Colorado for legalizing marijuana.
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Westword: You play to a lot of conservative audiences all over the country, while discussing some liberal issues -- in your experience, are these kinds of crowds becoming more open to marijuana legalization?
Ron White: My audiences are sometimes conservative, but I openly smoke pot at my shows. I mean, I don't smoke pot while I'm on stage, but I do talk about marijuana as an advocate, and talk about how ridiculous prohibition his. We'll look back twenty years on these ridiculous laws and laugh real hard. They put people in jail, really? For smoking a plant that grows naturally in a ditch? The more conservative people die off and more young people come in, it will change. But it takes generations to change anything.
Congratulations to you guys for changing your marijuana laws, leading the country in a sane reaction to the old prohibition. I have a sister that lives up in the mountains over there, so we visit Colorado a lot, and it's tempting to move up there.
It's looking like we could soon see retail marijuana shops opening up.
That's fucking great, innit? It'll be like Amsterdam. But you know, Amsterdam makes pot smoking boring. A lot of fun of pot smoking is going and buying it, having it. It was an ordeal. The thrill of the chase is over-with.
Along with marijuana, you've also been an advocate for gay rights. Do you think something similar is occurring in conservatives with their attitudes toward gay marriage?
Yeah. Again, it's generational. The next generation is going to be more tolerant of it, and I'm sure gay marriage will be legalized. I just produced a film that won the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary last week. It's called Bridegroom, and it's about gay-marriage and the injustice of two guys living together: One of them dies in an accident, and the other has no rights to anything. So this movie is going to raise a lot of awareness, let people see first-hand the pain and suffering gay couples go through -- you can't even walk into the hospital and see your partner. A lot of the time you can't go to the funeral because of their parents. No rights at all, and that's gotta change.
Do any of the conservative audiences you perform for ever balk at your pro-gay stance?
I do a lot of gay-friendly stuff in my show, and men, women, they all love it. I practice non-judgment in my daily life, and hope other people do the same thing. So they laugh right along with me, and if they don't believe those things they understand that I'm different than they are, and that's okay -- because I can still gut 'em. And when I say it, it makes it palpable for them to taste. And I'm pro-death penalty, too, so they like that.
You're proudly a Texas native, and it's always been a wonder for me that comics always put on a Southern accent when they want to caricature ignorance or foolishness, whereas most any other foreign impressions would be considered edgy or offensive. What is it about that inability to take a Southern accent seriously?
What, like Clinton?
Well, Clinton didn't have the thickest Southern accent. I'm talking Deliverance style accent.
He sounds like everyone else from Arkansas. I just played golf with him the other day -- he introduced the film we did Tribeca.
But I don't know. First of all, I don't watch much standup comedy, unless it's the show I did the night before, or someone that's caught my eye. I've been doing standup for 27 years, so watching other people do it is pretty boring. I watch myself do it so I can tweak it. So if people are still doing that [mumbles gibberish in Florida drawl] that's pretty old-fashioned stuff.