Q&A With Ron White
Ron White, 54, was part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour 2000-'03, which grossed more than $15 million. White loves to smoke cigars, drink scotch and play golf.
What's your first memory of golf?
When I was about 12 years old back in Houston, my Dad used to take us to the driving range. He was a wonderful golfer and a good athlete and we played golf at this refinery where he worked. They had a 9-hole course that was just awful, but I didn't know it was awful. It was the only golf course I had ever played. They'd drop me off with my buddies and we would play golf all day with balata balls that had big smiles in 'em. I didn't play a ball without a cut in it for years.
Did you stay with the game, or did you go away from it for a while?
I never really left it. There have been times when I played more than others, but I've been a road comic for a quarter of a century, so I've always played golf on the road because you have a lot of time to kill. You work 45 minutes a day, so you're looking for something to do. Golf fits in great. And usually, when I didn't have any money, I could trade golf for tickets to see my show. We still do that.
Is there a subculture of golfers within the world of comics?
Yes, absolutely. In the entertainment industry in general. They have the same problem as I do. We have a lot of time to kill. In my camp, we usually tour on a bus. I'll do a show at night, and I'll walk off stage, get on my bus, hang my suit up, make a drink, plug in a movie; my road manager has been my best friend since I was 6 years old, so he schmoozes the golf and gets it set up for the next town. So we drive all night, I usually wake up in the parking lot of a golf course every day I'm on the road. There are no cabs, no hotels, it's like I was FedExed straight to the course. Crawl out of the box and boom, here we are.
You just told me you had one of the best rounds of your life today. Why?
I've been working with Don Parsons from Santa Barbara who teaches a pretty simple V-shape move. Hands never get higher than the shoulders, great for a guy my age, but still powerful. So I've been working with him, trying to get ready for the Hope. I came out to Palm Springs on Tuesday, they have a five-star pro-am, which is for the people who pay the big money, and I played awful. I was so disappointed. My back was very tight and I wasn't turning on the ball. The next morning my wife came in, and she's a yoga master, and she stretched me a little bit and I played a little better. Then I had a Thai massage guy come in and he really stretched me hard. Then I was much better. He came in the next day, stretched me again, and I put a Demorol patch on my back, and I played like a 9 year old. I could coil up and let it go. I don't know what I'll feel like in a few days, but it was worth it.
Who sits around and writes the kind of jokes we hear on a golf course?
As in joke jokes? I don't know where most of them come from. Everybody I know is a joke writer. If their goal was to write that kind of material, which is the kind of stuff that comedians used to do, go up on stage and tell jokes: "Two guys walk into a bar ..." You can't get away with that anymore. I don't know who still gets away with it. Maybe guys in the Poconos, I don't know. But you can't do standup like that anymore. You have to talk about yourself, what's going on with your perspective on life; I don't know who writes those jokes.
How much time do you spend working on new material? And do you have people you work with and write with who are on your level?
All of my comedian friends are some of the best joke writers in the world. Robert Hawkins, David Attell, Lewis Black, Kathleen Madigan, Robin Williams; Jeff Foxworthy is an amazing joke writer. If you get stuck, and you're trying to write something, you call Jeff and he'll get you out of it. He's a prolific writer.
I believe everything creative is somewhat collaborative. If you're a painter and someone stretches your canvas, it was collaborative on some level. Ultimately I'm the writer for me, but also anytime one of my friends gets stuck with a bit, they can call me and I'm pretty good at helping them get there. I think we all work together on some level, but for the most part, we're on our own.
That's like golf. If I'm stuck with my swing I can turn to one of my golf buddies to help me out.
Absolutely. David Duval helped me out yesterday. I really played good early and then I got quick in the middle of the round. My only swing thought was, Don't get quick. And of course, I got quick. I started spraying everything. David said, "Do a little countdown before you swing. Go: four, three, two, one, back and through." Just to slow it down and to take my mind off it a little bit. And then, at the end of the round, I made some great pars coming in. And then I had that same swing thought all day today. If it goes sideways on you you've got to do something.