By Caroline Fontein
Known as the cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking funny man, Ron White brings big laughs to audiences in Vegas with his shows at the Mirage. He’s also known as “Tater Salad,” a nickname he picked up when he was in the Navy as a result of his love for eating potato salad. After he returned home from the Navy, White worked as a window salesman in Arlington, Texas. A naturally funny guy he always considered doing comedy but didn’t know where to start. One of his co-workers who had just attended an open-mic night at a nearby comedy club suggested that White give comedy a try.
“I wrote four minutes of rip-snortin’ comedy and went down there and gave it a try and here we are,” said White.
White got his big break when he joined comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry The Cable Guy as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. From 2000 to 2003 the tour performed in more than 90 cities across the United States.
The comedian went on to release several comedy albums, which have earned him two Grammy Award nominations and gold and platinum record certifications for the high number of units sold. White has two of the top-rated one-hour specials in Comedy Central history and is the author of the book “I Had the Right to Remain Silent … But I Didn’t Have the Ability,” which appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List.
He continues to tour and perform to sold-out audiences across the country amusing audiences with his storytelling and candid observations on life. After his shows in Vegas you can find White at B.B. King’s Blues Club at the Mirage watching his wife, singer/songwriter Margo Rey, perform.
The two first met more than 20 years ago through Margo’s brother Alex Reymundo. Reymundo is also a comedian and happened to be serving drinks at the comedy club where White did his first stand-up routine when he was 29 years old. To calm his nerves White got a beer and a shot of tequila before he performed and Reymundo happened to hand White that shot. Reymundo and White became friends and one night Raymundo asked White if he wanted to see his sister’s all-girl rock band perform. White reluctantly attended the show but when he saw Rey wearing a leather mini-skirt and belting out a rock song on stage he was happy he went. Twenty-two years later White asked Reymundo for Rey’s phone number and the couple has been together for more than three years.
While Rey no longer performs in an all-girl rock band she continues to write and record music. She describes her unique music style as adult-alternative-pop that’s very lush and sexy. Her shows in Vegas take place following White’s shows and feature original songs along with her rendition of songs by some of her favorite artists including Carol King, Bill Weathers and The Zombies.
Rey gained recognition with her critically-acclaimed 2008 album “My Heart’s Desire.” Her dance single “Habit” reached No. 1 on perfectbeat.com, the largest dance music website in the world. Her most recent single “Get Back” is also at No. 1 on perfectbeat.com. Her upcoming album “Saturn Returns” will feature a track composed by Rey and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame.
“She has more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole body,” said White.
Audiences are also invited to join White at B.B. King’s after his show where Rey will be performing starting at about 11:30 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.
VEGAS.com had a chance to talk to the whiskey-swilling Southerner about his show and why he loves performing in Vegas.
Q. You’ve been in the Navy and worked as a window salesman. What inspired you to pursue comedy as a career?
A. “I didn’t see comedy and say, hey there’s a career for me. Somebody opened a comedy club between where I lived and where I worked selling windows, and I was a real funny guy and had been all my life since I was a little kid and always had good timing. So I’d always kind of wondered, but I really had no idea what the process was, if you just woke up one day and could just do all that stuff, and that wasn’t me. So I went to an open mic night because a buddy of mine named Sam Bartholomew, he went to one and he came back the next day into the office and said, ‘you’re funnier than these guys, you should go try this,’ so I wrote four minutes of rip-snortin’ comedy and went down there and gave it a try and here we are.”
You’re known for performing with a glass of scotch and a cigar in your hand. How did that become your trademark?
“Well I never could figure out what to do with my hands so for years it was a beer and a cigarette, and it wasn’t so planned. Usually when they called my name I was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette so I would just walk on stage with it, and then I found out that I could get away with it, that I could bill my show that I drink and smoke and this is part of it and we can’t even negotiate. I got to drink and smoke on stage. It was brilliant really, and we still hold to it today that anytime I’m on stage you have got to approve this or I can’t do it.”
What is your favorite brand of scotch?
“Yeah I drink more the probably 18-year-old Macallan than anything else.”
What do you think it was that people saw and could relate to when you started performing with a drink and a smoke in your hand?
“I think that a lot of people were telling me that you need to be a clean act so you could get on television more and the cleaner the better and you should be more like Foxworthy, but the fact of the matter is … you should be like who you are. You should be true to your nature like Foxworthy is to his, but my nature and Fox’s nature are not the same, and I really thought, you know, I go to comedy clubs everyday almost, I’m touring in comedy clubs, and it looks to me like those people smoke and drink and cuss and like having a good time so I didn’t feel like I was pigeonholing myself into anywhere by being true to my nature and I was right.”
What can people expect to hear from you at your upcoming show in Vegas?
“Well they’ll just, ah, they’ll get the full tater swat. I’m working on an album called ‘Moral Compass’ so almost ninety percent of the things you’ll hear are off that album so it’s mostly all new stuff and they’ll be a little bit off of ‘Behavioral Problems’ … So it’s a process writing a new show. I did this same show in Vegas about a month ago so now it will evolve just a little bit further toward being the new record, but it’s a fun show.”
What is your favorite thing about performing in Vegas?
“My favorite thing about performing in Vegas is I work that Terry Fator theater, and that’s a perfect room. It’s 1,250 seats I think and the acoustics and the sound system, everything is perfect and that’s where it starts. You know you got to be able to hear me and see me and that and then the Mirage they treat me like I’m the King of Siam. I stay in a big, huge high-roller suite with a private pool. I play golf. I eat at all the restaurants at the Mirage and they’re great restaurants at the Mirage. That Japonais sushi place is just off the chart, best hamburger I ever had in my life was at that Japanese place. There’s something about this Kobe beef, smoked ketchup thing… give that a try and see if it doesn’t change your world, but then I get to play golf at Shadow Creek, which is like heaven but they let me in.”
What else do you like to do in Vegas when you’re not performing?
“Well it’s usually just eat and then golf. We go to some shows but usually the shows are the same time my show is… What my favorite thing to do is to come and go to the concert and watch my wife. We’ve done it a couple times and we’re doing it again this time that after my show my wife, Margo Rey, will be at B.B. King’s, and she has more talent in her little finger than I have in my whole body.”
For someone who likes to drink do you find that when you perform in Vegas it’s harder to stay sober for your shows?
“Here’s the beautiful thing about Vegas. I can go play golf in the morning then I can go out to lunch with Margo, have two bottles of wine, go back to the hotel room, have sex, pass out, sleep for five hours and I wake up refreshed and ready to go. It’s like I’ve been planning it all week, but it just turns out I just woke up from a long, long nap so then I get a shower, I go do a show, then I’ve got the whole night in front of me.”
How similar are you in your everyday life to what people see on stage?
“I would say it’s almost a dead ringer because that’s what I was talking about being true to your nature. I mean if you look at the common denominator of any really successful comic, that’s basically the only common denominator is that Kinison was Kinison and Pryor was Pryor and Cosby was Cosby. You know Foxworthy doesn’t cuss in real life so he doesn’t cuss in his show, and he goes to church and raises kids and I’m a banshee but that’s how I am so if I try to do it any other way I just don’t work.”
Do you still like eating tater salad and what’s your favorite recipe?
“I don’t have any recipes. I am a recipe-free man. My only goal when Margo’s not in the house is to not get any dishes dirty, and the other day I made macaroni and cheese and I was eating it out of a skillet with a spatula. I just don’t want to get anything dirty because I know I’ll have to wash it. So my mother’s potato salad is the only one I really eat, and it’s a mustard-based potato salad. So if you’d like to call my mom she’ll tell you how to make it.”