Comedian/actor Dan Whitney, who has made a career of playing a comical, blue-collar red-neck named Larry the Cable Guy, says his role in Tyler Perry's new movie "A Madea Christmas" is a bit of a stretch.
"I play an old redneck man," he says with a laugh, over the phone from his Nebraska home.
If that represents the breadth of his character range, the comic's just fine with that.
Larry The Cable Guy, with his catchphrase "Git-R-Done," has been a lucrative franchise for Mr. Whitney. Seven of his nine comedy albums have hit No. 1 on Billboard's Comedy chart, and three have gone gold.
The character has starred in films such as "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," "Delta Farce" and "Witless Protection," as well as in three movies with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, with fellow comics Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Ron White.
He's even starred on the History channel TV show "Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy."
And, of course, his popular stand-up comedy routine, which he'll bring to Heinz Hall on Saturday.
In "A Madea Christmas," he plays Buddy, the foil to Mr. Perry's Madea, and his character truly is essentially Larry the Cable Guy. In fact, Whitney is listed that way in the movie's credits.
Even when he steps away from Larry the Cable Guy, it's not very far. Perhaps his biggest role aside from Larry is Mater, the lovable tow truck in Disney's "Cars" series, and it's essentially Larry the Cable Guy toned down for children.
Mr. Whitney talked about his career in a recent telephone call from his house in Nebraska.
Hey, I was at the movies and I saw a preview for Tyler Perry's "A Madea Christmas," and you are in that.
Yes, I am in that.
So tell me a little bit about that.
You know, it's awesome. Tyler, he called me up and he said, "Hey, this will be hilarious. I just had an epiphany -- Larry the Cable Guy meets Madea. And I'm like, "Yeah, awesome." So he was, like, a lot of fun. A funny movie, had a great time. I play kind of a stretch of a character. I play an old redneck man.
You're going to have to reach down deep inside of yourself for that one. All right, now tell me about the show you have coming.
It's just my regular show. I do have a lot of brand-new jokes every time I perform I like to have a bunch of new jokes. I'm a one-liner comedian, so ... but really, there's really no Christmas theme, other than I'm fat like Santa Claus. That's about it."
Hey, speaking of that, what happened to the Weight Watchers thing?
Man, that was four years ago. [Laughs]. You know what? I always gain weight in the winter and I lose it in the summer. I've done this for the last 40 years. I always start after my birthday in February and by the time July gets here, I am down about 45-50 pounds, four years in a row.
Hey, you turned 50 this year, right?
I did turn 50 this year. But I have the a-- of a 20-year-old.
Where do you keep it?
People ask me how I stay so young. I say, "That's easy. I read at a third-grade level."
Let me ask you, is your show "Only in America" going to have another season?
No, I quit doing that show.
What caused you to end it?
Well, about midway through the thing, they were going to kill me. [Laughs.] They were going to have me doing things a 50, out-of-shape guy shouldn't be doing.
But, you know, I did three seasons, but I was never home. ... Sometimes I'd be able to come home on Sunday, but I'd leave again on Monday. And it was just too much. ... So I basically just said, "You know what? I'm pretty much done with that. So now I'm back to doing what I like -- I like doing [stand-up]. And chilling out and hanging with the family."
And I have no doubt that "Tooth Fairy III" is in the works, right?
Oh, boy. You know, my kids loved that because it was the only project they've ever seen me do with a "2" after it.
I said to somebody, I said, "The best thing about that movie is that if you don't like it, you can put it under your pillow and get your money back." So I had all kinds of jokes about it.
No, you know what? In all honesty, people like that movie and it got ... they sold a ton of DVDs.
Hey, let me ask you a question: Do you have cable at your house?
No, I have a dish. I have Direct TV.
Shame on you. Do you ever have encounters with cable guys?
You know what's funny about that, though. Way back in the day -- this has been going on for a long time -- I mean, I was saying "Git R Done" on the radio back in Florida way back in early '90s. And I was dating this girl -- we had just moved up to Sanford from Palm Beach. I was working on the radio and doing so much work in Orlando, plus the whole 'Git R Done' and Larry the Cable Guy was going through the roof. So I just moved up there.
So I went to my girlfriend's house -- this is probably 1993 -- and the cable guy came to her apartment. And I go, "Hey, are you Larry the Cable Guy?" And the guy goes, "Aww [damn], if I had a dollar for every time I heard that" [laughs].