Arts and Culture

Ron White on gay marriage, marijuana and opening acts -- including Josh Blue

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You comment on social issues like pot and gays, but you pretty much stay out of politics for the most part. You're not a Bill Maher or Dennis Miller type who comments on the legislators.

Oh god, no. I don't even do topical humor. Every show on television, like Bill Maher, has got twenty writers, every one of them just staring at that same television. So if you're going to get your comedy from that television, you're not going to be doing it at the same level that I do it. It's going to be similar to everyone else. I pull from my own life, so it has an original feel. Their stuff feels clunky and boring, they have structure writers that can sit around and do that shit all day. But not me. I'd rather smoke pot, watch cartoons and play some golf.

Like you said, you've been doing comedy for 27 years, so surely you've seen a lot of changes in standup. Obviously there have been technology changes; you took to the Louie C.K. route with putting your last special up for $5 on your website. Have you also seen any cultural changes over the years? Has it become more intelligent?

The evolution right now seems to be that you don't have to say anything funny -- and that's not a very big step forward. These esoteric young comics that avoid a punchline or a premise. I saw Janeane Garofalo on a show saying that if you do a premise, a stock premise, that you're a hack. And then the next night I saw her on TV and she was like, "So I had this this boyfriend--" Boom! Stock premise! Fuck you.

There's no idea or concept in comedy you could do that hasn't been attacked from some angle. But if you start leaving punchlines out so you'll look cool, I don't get that. But I don't watch standup, anyway, so I don't know what they're doing. I don't watch Comedy Central. I don't enjoy it.

There are some guys I like. I'm doing these shows with Josh Blue, who was in my Salute to the Troops thing, that we do to raise awareness for soldiers and the Armed Forces Foundation. He's a different boy. I'm looking forward it. He's great.

Do you think that a comic like Josh Blue would have been as accepted by comedy audiences twenty years ago?

I don't know. Chris Fonseca had cerebral palsy and was on stage doing comedy at least twenty years ago. But he doesn't have the wit that Josh Blue does. He's just a great comedian, I love him to death. I hope I can follow him! He's real strong. I may let some time pass and let things cool down.

I actually just spoke with Josh Blue yesterday about opening up for you. He said that he only wants the best possible comics opening up for him, saying that it raises the bar for his set and keeps him improving. Do you do anything similar to keep your act strong and avoid a routine?

I just continue to write. My opening acts are always really strong, because I need a guy who can take on a big, big crowd. Which is not that easy to do. I like to have Robert Hawkins open up for me, there's no one funnier than him. I'm not afraid to put somebody really good in front of me. They're all friends of mine, that's the one common denominator of all my opening acts, that we all hang out. That's the only way to get in -- you can't submit a tape, I have to know you. Otherwise it doesn't cross my mind.

That's interesting. Chris Rock once said that you can asshole your way out of any success, that it doesn't matter how funny you are, if nobody likes you you're not going to go anywhere.

That's funny. Chris Rock is great. But yeah, like Richard Jeni, god bless him, one of the funniest comedians that ever lived -- but he was a genuine prick. It turns out it was part of this big ole disease he had. But he was a prick to me specifically. But I loved him. One night I showed up just to watch him -- I was headlining the club the rest of the week -- and I came back to the green room, and I said, "Hey Rich, I just wanted to tell you, man, I think you're the best." And he looked past me at his manager and he said, "How long's he gonna be here?"

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse