Veteran funnyman Ron White knows how to deliver salty story with a Southern twist and a slightly boozy swagger.
With his trademark cigar and tumbler of scotch on the rocks in hand, the Grammy-nominated comedian and actor can get down and dirty at times, but there's a good-natured sweetness within the vulgarity.
White's the kind of performer who pulls it off without being chauvinistic or arrogant. He makes fun of his own peculiarities, misadventures and character flaws as much as he aims at his family, friends and the oddest facets of modern American culture in general.
Many of White's most loyal fans latched on to the comedian's style during his days as part of the highly successful "Blue Collar Comedy Tour," a down-home stand-up showcase starring White, Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy between 2000 and 2003. Others caught on over the last decade via White's appearances on the WB Television Network's "Blue Collar TV," his chart-topping 2003 comedy album "Drunk In Public" and his numerous top-rated Comedy Central specials, including 2006's "You Can't Fix Stupid" and 2009's "Behavioral Problems."
White, aka "Tater Salad," hit the road hard last summer in support of his concert DVD, "A Little Unprofessional," performing a series of shows across North America, including a stop in North Charleston last January. That same month, "A Little Unprofessional" was nominated for Best Comedy Album for the 56th annual Grammy Awards.
The comedian's current national road trip, named the "Nutcracker" tour, includes a return to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Saturday.
White, 58, was born and raised in the blue collar oil town of Fritch, Texas, not far from Dallas. After serving in the Navy near the end of the Vietnam War and doing a brief stint of work in Mexico, he settled in Arlington, Texas, and sold windows for a living.
White had developed a love for comedy as a youngster, and he eventually pursued a proper career as a stand-up performer. It wasn't easy. Throughout the late 1980s and '90s, he toiled and struggled on the crowded comedy club circuit.
White shared stages with legendary comedians Sam Kinison and Jeff Foxworthy before becoming a headlining act on his own in the late '90s.
The first major break for White came in 2000 when he was to join the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" alongside Foxworthy, Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. White's drawl, storyteller demeanor, and slightly inebriated and blunt style fit in well with the team's amusingly redneckish theme, but his uproarious material stood out as some of the most sophisticated and clever of the four.
The "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" traveled for more than three years to sold-out audiences in more than 270 cities, eventually grossing more than $35 million.
Warner Bros. documented the showcase on film as the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie" in 2003. It premiered as one of the most-watched specials in Comedy Central's history.
That year turned out to be a pivotal one for White. On the heels of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour's" success, he starred in his first one-hour comedy special, "They Call Me Tater Salad." It was Comedy Central's highest-rated Sunday in its history that year, and the DVD version eventually went multi-platinum. White also issued his first major label solo comedy album in 2003. "Drunk In Public" went on to sell more than 500,000 copies and was certified "gold."
Fans learned the stories behind White's nickname "Tater Salad" on these early releases. According to White, the moniker has its origin in a brush with the law years ago in which he made a smart-aleck remark to an arresting police officer, noting his longtime alias of "Tater Salad." The cop believed him, and the name has remained on his arrest record ever since. White later shared the fact that he picked up the nickname while serving in the Navy, but his continual spin on the tale involving the cops and his flippant attitude remains a part of the act.
After starring in the short-lived "The Ron White Show," a comedy special for the WB network in 2005, White concentrated on solo work, occasionally making appearances on TV shows and a few motion pictures ("Sex and the City 2" and "Horrible Bosses"). Mostly, he focused on touring and performing, traveling all around the world as a solo comedian, cigar and scotch in hand.
He also became a top-selling author with the release of "Ron 'Tater Salad' White: I Had The Right To Remain Silent But I Didn't Have the Ability." The raucous autobiography debuted at No. 15 on the New York Times' best-seller list. As an expert storyteller on stage, White knows how to deliver and relate a tale from his real life, and his book covered just about everything from his childhood in a small town in Texas to stories of his family life and massive success as an American comedian.
In 2012, White launched a fan website called "The Rontourage," replete with interactive contests, updates, video footage from road trips and from backstage at shows, and other special features.
Designed as a fan appreciation site giving White's biggest supporters a VIP "backstage" experience, "The Rontourage" offered prime ticket pre-sales, weekly reality show-style clips from the road, fan-generated Q&A sessions, special merchandise offers, and a contest to win access to White's private tour jet ("Tater Air") as well as invitations to share a stiff drink and a nice cigar with White before concerts and at meet-and-greets.
"I want my fans to feel like we're always in touch," White stated in a recent press release. "Because without 'em I wouldn't be able to do any of this. Think of 'The Rontourage' as the Ron White Channel, where you can see us getting into trouble in all kinds of different places.
"Let's face it, a lot of my material comes from the stuff that happens to me on the road," he added. "With these videos, we have a chance to show people where the jokes are born."
Currently, curious admirers can access "The Rontourage" via White's official website, www.tatersalad.com.