Larry the Cable Guy
Larry the Cable Guy was born February 17, 1963 in Pawnee City, Nebraska. Armed with a thick southern accent, and sporting outfits that favor baseball caps and cut-off shirts, Larry has parlayed his "regular Joe" shtick into sold-out stadium shows, popular TV spots, and an early, but successful movie career. He has become one of the top grossing stand-up comedians working today.
Comedian, actor. Born February 17, 1963, in Pawnee City, Nebraska. Larry the Cable Guy has successfully marketed his blue-collar-based humor to become one of the top grossing stand-up comedians working today. Armed with a thick southern accent, and sporting outfits that favor baseball caps and cut-off shirts, Larry has parlayed his "regular Joe" schtick into sold-out stadium shows, popular TV spots, and an early, but successful movie career.
He's no stranger to the material that he draws from. He was born Daniel Lawrence Whitney and for the first 16 years of his life grew up on a family farm, raising pigs. That's not to suggest, however, that Larry was too far removed from an appreciation for stage life. His father, a preacher and guitar player, had played with the Everly Brothers, while his mother liked to fill out her weekends as an Elvis impersonator.
In 1979, Larry and his family relocated to West Palm Beach, Florida, where his quick observations and even quicker one-liners earned him a comedic reputation among his friends, so much so that on a dare in 1986, he stepped into a comedy club and tried out his act. The chance to perform appealed to Larry and, two years later, he gave up his job as a bellhop at a local Ramada Inn to make comedy the focus of his life.
That didn't mean an instant morphing into Larry the Cable Guy, though. Instead, Whitney was like a lot of comedians trying to scratch out a living. Clean cut, sporting kahkis and tucked-in button down shirts, his subject matter was the usual kind of stuff: family, ex-girlfriends, day-to-day life.
Developing his Persona
To make it work, and make a name for himself, Whitney pounded the pavement, hitting small clubs and eventually finding steady work as a radio DJ. In 1991 he started to gain some notoriety as a regular caller on radio shows across the country, where he played out various characters that he'd developed for the stage. One of them was a blue-collar southerner whose line of work was installing television cable. On a bit of a whim, the comedian introduced the character on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom Show radio program, where he closed out the short segment with a line that's as branded as the character itself: "Get 'er done." Larry the Cable Guy was born.
"It was a about a three-minute bit of my act and it was killing," the comedian recalled. "So I started doing it on the radio. And when you're a comedian, you wanna sell tickets. So that's what I started doing. I found something that I could do onstage and I could do good. I started going out as Larry the Cable Guy, because it was fun for me to write for because I grew up that way."
Dan Whitney had found his voice. He'd also found some like-minded comedian friends, including another up-and-comer named Jeff Foxworthy, whom he'd met in the mid 1980s. Together the two "riffed on old country accents" and told "jokes to each other that way."
As Foxworthy's career blossomed, so did his friend's. Larry became a regular on Foxworthy's Country Countdown Show, and eventually the comedian syndicated his act to radio markets around the country. Real success and real wealth came about in 2000, when Foxworthy invited his friend to join him and fellow comedian Bill Engvall on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.
The show turned into a smash success, grossing $15 million, and selling another 1 million DVDs. The following year, Larry released his full-length CD, Lord, I Apologize—the name comes from another signature Larry the Cable Guy line—which went on to sell more than 500,000 copies.
Soon, Larry the Cable Guy (his face, his voice, his shtick) was everywhere; on The Tonight Show, on Live with Regis and Kelly, on Comedy Central of course, on the big screen as the voice of Mater in the 2006 animated movie hit, Cars, and in stadiums across the country. His DVD special, Git-R-Done, which was released in 2005, sold more than 1 million copies and went platinum. That same year, the audio CD, The Right to Bear Arms hit stores, and captured Billboard's comedy album of the year. Even better: It debuted at No. 7 on the charts, making it the highest selling comedy record since Steve Martin more than 30 years before.
The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, too, has been resurrected several times for many big-ratings TV performances, including a 2006 Washington, D.C., show that later earned a Grammy award.
Whitney's stadium shows—he does a number of them throughout the country each year—now earn the comedian a healthy six figures for each performance. This despite the fact that the comedian hates to fly, and instead travels to his shows by a bus that's been dubbed the Larry Mobile. In 2007, Forbes estimated overall income of the comedian to be in the neighborhood of $20 million.
Criticism and Success
Clinging to his Nebraska roots (the Orlando resident is a huge Huskers football fan) the Larry character is one that his fans claim centers on the everyday life of the working American male. But what's funny to some, hasn't exactly left everyone laughing. Critics, most notably Rolling Stone magazine, which called him out as a "racist" and "slightly dim," have countered that his material caters to a comedy consuming public that's not exactly politically correct.
Larry's response: Lighten up. "I have things that make me laugh things that don't make me laugh," the comedian told 60 Minutes. "Retarded kids do funny things and I'm sorry if it makes me laugh. That's just insane that people would get angry about that."
Whitney's comedy hungry audience seems to agree. In September 2009, Larry the Cable Guy released his fifth audio CD, Tailgate Party, a live performance that was recorded at the University Nebraska's Memorial Stadium before a packed house of 53,000 fans. The show's location was more than a little bit of a big deal. Since 1987, school officials had refused to let the stadium be used for anything but football games. But when you're a hometown boy with the kind of success Larry's had, rules can be changed.
Whitney currently resides in Orlando, Florida. He lives with wife, Cara, and children Wyatt and Reagan.
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