When a single spotlight illuminated the bottle of Black Grouse whiskey resting on a bar stool center-stage, the 2,800 people in the audience at the Temple Buell Theatre rose to their feet, their deafening applause seemingly cheering the bottle of booze itself until Southern sass-man Ron White casually materialized out of the dark to a generic blues soundtrack. Performing for a mixed audience of pro-military, anti-tax suburban conservatives and city-based, grass-loving comedy fanatics, White exuded a fun-loving poise as he casually delivered his arsenal of anecdotes on sex-toy conventions, getting fucked up with Dr. Phil and dropping a heavy dose of Viagra before his pat-down at the airport.
See also: - Comedian Josh Blue on the pros and cons of being an "inspiration" - Ron White on gay marriage, marijuana and opening acts -- including Josh Blue - Comedian Chris Hardwick on hipsters, sobriety and the true meaning of being a nerd
Denver native Josh Blue's opening set was a strong hit as he made self-deprecating jokes about cerebral palsy. "People like to ask, 'Oh, you have an Asian-wife, huh? What do you have some kind of fetish?'" he related while pacing the stage. "Well, let me ask you this: What kind of fucked-up fetish does she have?"
While there were a limited number of people who could relate personally to Blue's CP disability, the domestic humor definitely struck a chord with a number of married couples surrounding me in the front row. Visiting his in-laws in Japan, Blue's unique bodily challenges made for a refreshing comedic twist on the age-old, fish-out-of-water story: "In Japan they eat their meals sitting on the floor at little tables, which I think is a beautiful cultural experience. But people with cerebral palsy, we don't fold well. It's like trying to make origami out of plywood. The table's too low for me to put my stiff-ass legs underneath it, so I just go length-wise, taking up five seats. They're all on one side of the table, and I'm just kicking it over here, like I own the motherfucking restaurant."
Remembering the surreal fight the Jersey Boys musical endured in trying to get on on-stage cigar approved back in 2007, I was surprised to see Ron White happily puffing away on a lit stogie during his entrance, and he continued to smoke throughout the show -- while also making timely references to another crop he loves to burn. "I've been smoking medical marijuana in hopes of getting off...regular marijuana," he said, to a mixed reaction of hoots and shrugs from the crowd. Referring to his 2008 Florida bust for 7/8 of a gram of pot, White recalled how the arresting officer asked why he was given a prescription for cannabis: "The doctor asked if I had any symptoms that marijuana helped alleviate. I said, 'I get bummed when I run out of weed.' And marijuana cures that."
For his 2006 special You Can't Fix Stupid, White's booze was kept in a clear decanter; he explained that if the whiskey manufacturer paid him, he'd have their bottle on stage with him. So judging by the clearly visible liter of Black Grouse at his side last Friday night, that endorsement deal has apparently been settled. "This is the part of the show where I prove my job is better than yours," he said, refreshing his glass as the audience roared their approval like they were at a Bukowski reading in 1978.
But the night wasn't all bohemian indulgence and anti-authoritarian revelry. Characteristic of White's Blue Collar Comedy roots, a significant portion of the audience got their moment to hoot and holler when he'd bring up issues like taxes and the killing of Osama Bin Laden (the former bringing cursing and hisses, the later receiving rapturous applause and fist-pumps). "When we found Bin Laden, he was in a little house with five wives . . . I would've shot myself. I'd a been running outside screaming at drones 'come here and get me!'"
In the hands of another comic, White's rat-pack class and I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude could easily come off as arrogant douchebaggery. But he carries himself with a relaxed charm that easily convinces all that he's a genuine fellow with no self-aggrandizing agenda (particularly when he makes jokes about his small penis). And this grace allows him to transcend political lines, bringing liberals and conservatives together in laughter over the one issue that unites us all: Sex.
"My ex-wife busted our son with porn when he was fifteen," he remembered, "and she started squawking about it. When I was fifteen I was so horny I could get off to the Sears catalogue. I can't imagine being fifteen and having an unstoppable stream of high- definition pornography straight into my bedroom. When I was a kid you had to earn porn. You had to wait until your friend's dad went to the grocery store and root around in the dusty attic until you found a reel -- then learn how to run a fucking projector. The sound would be all fucked up and you'd be like, 'Did she say stick it in her ear?' 'No, it was penis in her rear.' And you had the friend who was a few years younger, he'd cover his eyes and say, 'She put it in her mouth! I didn't know she was gonna put it in her mouth!'
"So my ex-wife told me I had to talk to him about sex, so I said to him, 'Turn off those stupid fucking video games, they'll never get you anywhere in life,'" White continued, referencing an earlier part of the show where he'd revealed his son went on to work for World of Warcraft. "'Those games invent themselves and nobody works there. So I need to talk to you about sex.' And he was like, 'Oh Dad, come on.' And I said, 'You're fifteen years old and it's time we had this talk.' He said okay. And I told him... 'The clitoris is as sensitive as an eyeball.' [Long pause. Crowd falls apart.] 'Is that it?' 'That's all I got.' And he said, 'What about safe sex, Dad?' I told him 'there's no safe sex; her husband always comes home.'"
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.