When stand-up comedian Ron White rolls into Toledo, he will do so in a bus filled with alligator-skin recliners, Roman curtains, a humidor, a wine cellar, two Scottish terriers, and bathroom walls of fine Italian stone.
This is not a vehicle built for drag racing. It is a home, one where the sun rises above a different Cracker Barrel restaurant each morning.
"The travel is grueling, but we do it as softly as we can," White says.
The scotch-sipping cigar aficionado prefers his comedy loud and profane. He toured with "You Might Be a Redneck" Jeff Foxworthy, but White's routine is no church picnic. Don't bring kids, he warns.
White will perform two shows tomorrow night in the Stranahan Theater.
"It's a big hodgepodge of crap right now," he says. "The show has no rhyme or reason. There's some bear stuff. There's some war stuff."
Of course, he says children were his first audience. White, 49, returned from Vietnam with a "pretty respectable drug habit." After rehab, he became a speaker at elementary schools.
"I just got funnier and funnier until the principals claimed that drug addiction shouldn't be that funny. And I said, 'Well, tell them YOUR addiction story.' "
On stage and off, the scotch and cigar trademarks are a habit. Inside the bus are Cuban Monte Cristos, four bottles of Johnnie Walker Black (the more expensive Blue and Gold varieties are too smooth), and a neglected handle of Macallan 12 year.
"I don't know how that got in here," White says. "That will never get drunk."
At about 6 feet, 2 inches, White cuts a larger-than-life figure. He doesn't tell jokes. He doesn't comment on the day's headlines like Jay Leno or David Letterman.
"That kind of comedy bores me," White said, explaining that the only common denominator for a successful comic is to be true to his own nature.Instead, he spins stories with punch lines. He accents those lines with a half-smile, half-grimace that is all mischief.
At 17, White got pulled over for drunken driving on a sidewalk. The arresting officer, a next-door neighbor in a tiny Texas town, asked if White had any aliases. "They call me Tater Salad," White replied. The nickname stuck.
At least, that's how the tale goes from behind the microphone. The Internet Movie Database claims that "Tater Salad" came from his time in the U.S. Navy.
Either way, the "blue collar" comedian has a loyal following. His fans' money paid for the bus. Off tour, he and his wife live by the fourth hole of a Greg Norman-designed golf course near Atlanta.
There are the albums and television shows. His 2003 record "Drunk in Public" sold 450,000 copies. He made pilots for Fox and Warner Brothers, in addition to two Comedy Central specials.
"TV is a hard job," he says. "You work 15 hours a day. People tell you what to do. I hate to do it."
Stand-up is different. There is the immediacy and rawness of a live audience. And after the show, White can retreat to his bus, eat dinner, watch a game, smoke a cigar, down a scotch, and be in bed by midnight.
"That is who I am," he said. "I don't have to put on a face."
Ron White performs at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns. Tickets, $39.75, are available from the box office, www.ticketmaster.com, or 419-474-1333.
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