For stand-up Ron White, comedy is a trial of endurance. "Expect to laugh real hard. Not just chuckle, but gut laugh for an hour. It's really physical. I can't stand it any other way." Houston audiences up for the challenge can catch the Blue Collar Comedy alum working two shows at the Bayou Music Center on Friday. Houston has always been kind to White, who claims to have "worked every comedy club in the whole damn city" over his 27+ years touring the country.
A Texas native, White has many connections to the Lone Star State. "I'm never far from Texas. My mom still lives in San Antonio and my son lives in Austin. Of course, I was raised in Deer Park, which is like Pasadena without all the glitz."
White says he likes the challenge of Houston crowds, because you never know who will show up. "[Houston's got] a pretty big spectrum of people. There's doctors and oil workers. [Last time I was here] somebody said it looked like the crowd had just walked off a very nice municipal golf course."
People unfamiliar with White's saucy take on family and the working-class lifestyle will be treated to the efforts of a seasoned pro. "I really like to let jokes ripen on the vine. Folks wanna come out and see it live, 'cause that's the best presentation of it." White, a lifelong comedy fan, seemed predestined to join his nightclub favorites: Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson. When pressed for advice to young comedians, he insists you look to the greats. "You look at the common denominators of the most successful comedians and that's the only aspect you'll find that's similar: They were all true to who they were." White says, before quickly adding, "and you better be funny or it's gonna be painful."
White credits a number of things for his success, one of which was an early friendship with fellow comic Jeff Foxworthy. As White tells it, after his first onstage appearance at the Arlington Funny Bone, "Foxworthy approached [me] and said, 'Man, you are really funny. But you need to put the punch line at the end of the joke.' Now I can't even remember how to do it wrong, it seems so obvious."
Moreover, White feels his ability to talk to people from onstage was learned at a very early age. "My uncle was a preacher, which is exactly where I developed my cadence." Also developed from an early age was a case of attention deficit disorder, which for White made a perfect cocktail for a life onstage. "Those things are good for comedy, but not so good for life."
While most comics use stand-up "as a stepping-stone into movies and television," the 57-year-old says being a comedian is the end-all be-all for him. "I never do television because they edit me and I can't let them edit me. I can't let them decide what I say. It's my commitment to the art form, and I'm very serious about that."
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White also is willing to go on record that his most recent special, "A Little Unprofessional," will indeed be his last. "I usually go into [each special] saying I'll never do another, which I'm saying now. I've done my last. I just wanna tour."
Joining White for his shows in Houston and Austin will be Original Latin Kings of Comedy star Alex Reymundo. He and White go back together 27 years. "That first time I ever went into a comedy club as a stand-up, I went straight to the bar and ordered a beer and a shot of tequila. Alex Reymundo handed me the beer and the shot." Since then, White and Reymundo have toured the world together and have even become family: last year, White married Reymundo's sister, singer Margo Rey.
All things considered, White hopes his February visit to Houston will be better than his last. "[My first show of the night], this lady falls from a 28-foot balcony and lands on another lady...while I'm onstage! Then the next show, the same night, a guy dies of a heart attack! It was a pretty awkward thing," White recounts, "but I killed!"
Ron White performs at 8 and 10 p.m. on February 7. Bayou City Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, visit livenation.com. $62.83 to $83.72.