Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gittin' his priorities straight

Larry the Cable Guy puttin' family ahead of funny

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LARRY THE CABLE GUY is still "Gittin'-R-Done."

The difference these days, however, is in what it is he's doing and where he gets it done.

"My priorities have changed a bit," the 50-year-old comedian said in a recent telephone interview. "Instead of trying to be the best comedian in the world, my goal is to be the best husband and dad in the world. That's what I work the hardest at now; the comedy is kind of secondary.

"I still love comedy; I still love writing jokes, and people still seem to like them, so I really do enjoy that part of my life. It's just not the main part of my life any more, and if it started interfering with my family, I would give it up in a second."

That said, however, Larry the Cable Guy's strategically diminished touring schedule will bring him to Winnipeg this week for a one-night stand (Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Centennial Concert Hall; tickets $69 at Ticketmaster). And for those who choose to brave the cold and venture downtown for a couple of hours of redneck-flavoured laughter, the message is simple: what you've always seen is what you're still going to get.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," he said of his trademark character's familiar series of simple setups and regular-guy punchlines. "I like what I do. As far as material is concerned, I'm always writing new jokes and one-liners, but it's the same kind of stuff. It's boom-boom-boom; people have short attention spans -- heck, I've got a short attention span -- so the kind of humour I do is the kind of humour that has always made me laugh. I like that fast pace; I like seven punchlines in a minute. I think you hold people's attention better that way, and if they're paying good money to spend a night listening to a comedian, they want to laugh. And I make sure I give them their money's worth."

Born Daniel Lawrence Whitney in Pawnee City, Neb., in 1963, the man who would become Larry made his first foray into comedy while enrolled at the University of Nebraska. But it wasn't until he began contributing phoned-in bits to radio shows in the early '90s that he began to hone his craft and explore his knack for creating character voices.

One of them -- a guileless hick named Larry, whose deep-south accent was inspired by a couple of Whitney's college roommates -- gained quite a following. Before long, a fully formed comic persona, a catchphrase and a booming one-man industry were born.

Since barreling into the comedy mainstream in 2000 as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour (alongside founder Jeff Foxworthy and fellow rednecks Bill Engvall and Ron White), Larry the Cable Guy has released nine top-selling albums, starred in several TV shows (including Blue Collar TV and Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy) and movies (including Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Delta Farce and Tooth Fairy 2), done voice-over work for animated features (Cars and Cars 2) and toured almost incessantly whenever his schedule allowed.

"I was swamped the last three years," he explained. "I finished all of my projects in May of (2013) -- my TV show, my movies, everything -- so I took the whole summer off and most of the second half of the year off, too, because I hardly ever got to see my kids. I was only home 26 days between Aug. 1 and Christmas (in 2012), and it was like that the two years before that, too.

"I just decided to take a bunch of time off, and to pick and choose what I'm going to do. I basically cut everything in half so that I'm working way less. I enjoyed what I was doing, and you do have to strike while the iron's hot, but back then I didn't have a wife and kids. When I did, at first they would come with me on the tour bus, but when they got to the point that they were going to school, I started missing them and I didn't want to be on the road as much. As soon as they started school, I adjusted my schedule so I could spend more time at home."

After living for three decades in Florida, Whitney/Larry decided to return to his Midwestern roots. These days, the Cable Guy family (which includes wife Cara, whom he married in 2005, and two youngsters under 10) resides on a farm near Lincoln, Neb.

Which is why, he insisted, he didn't hesitate at all when the possibility of a Canadian Prairie date in February was proposed.

"I like this climate," he said. "I lived in Florida for 33 years; I'm more acclimated to that climate, but I grew up here (in Nebraska), so I'm used to it and I know what it's like.... I like the changing seasons, and the winter and the fall. To me, Christmas is still snow coming down and cold and winter coats."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2014 C7

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