“I still love being on stage,” Whitney said, “but you get sick of the travel.”
Whitney will be making his first stop in Atlanta since the pandemic at Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday, June 16. There are still seats available from $25 to $59.75 at Ticketmaster.
For 15 to 20 years, Whitney said, he was on the road an average of 287 days a year. He has since reduced his workload to a mere 24 dates a year, spending most of his time at his Nebraska farm.
“My kids grew up on the tour bus,” he said. “They got baths on the bus. We toured so hard from 2003 to 2015. I have since started slowing down as my kids get older.” (He has a son and daughter, both teenagers.)
He took advice from Atlanta’s Jeff Foxworthy, who ignited his career by placing him on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour in 2000.
“He’s always a good mentor to me,” Whitney said. “He told me a long time ago that you only get to see your kids grow up once. If you don’t have to be somewhere, don’t do it. I have taken that to heart. Once they started middle school, I completely changed my schedule.”
While this cuts his income quite a bit, he saved his bucks wisely during his peak years. “I didn’t buy gold toilets,” he said. “I have an awesome wife [Cara] who is good with finances. We did all the right things.”
Whitney also spends a lot more time on the golf course. “I love playing golf,” he said. “At age 60, it’s one of those activities you can still do. I played softball but I can’t get down on ground balls or throw hard anymore. I can still be competitive in golf. I love going to charity events. I generally book my dates around golf tournaments.”
He worked this particular date around the recent BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, South Carolina, which also included Westminster Schools grad and “The Office” star Brian Baumgartner, fellow “Office” star Andy Buckley and Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr.
Whitney created Larry as a redneck character calling into radio morning shows in 1991 but didn’t start using it on stage until 1997, nearly a decade into his stand-up career. Whitney turned Larry into a lovable drinking, partying divorced dude even if he wasn’t married at the time and was not a big drinker or partier.
He said Larry incorporates elements of himself and country folk he knew growing up.
Whitney was raised on a pig farm in Nebraska before moving to Florida at age 16 wearing plaid sleeveless shirts. He later spent time at a small Baptist college in Decatur that closed in 1987. “That’s where I picked up my Southern accent,” he said.
The character is so enmeshed in his being, he said, he answers to either Dan or Larry.
“The more I did the character, the closer he got to me,” Whitney said. “I began throwing more of my personal experiences into the character.” But only maybe 20% of what he says on stage is true.
His fan base, he said, may or may not know his real name or actual background. “I don’t think most of them care,” he said. “They come out to laugh. I don’t think they look into it that much.”
And his on-stage comedy hasn’t changed: it remains a string of laser quick one liners: “I’m still that set up, punchline comedian. Within the first five minutes, I’m going to pop out 25 punchlines.”
Of the four Blue Collar Comedy tour comics, only he and Foxworthy plan to remain active on the road. Both Bill Engvall and Ron White announced their road dates last year were their final ones.
“I’m older,” Whitney said. “My memory isn’t as good as it used to be. Sometimes, I lose my place. Sometimes I’ll even bring cards up with a few jokes on it to remind me. Sometimes that gives me an excuse to make five jokes about getting older!”
He also does a weekly Sirius XM show called “Larry the Cable Guy and the Fun Bunch” every Wednesday. “We used to do a week in review but the news got so crappy,” he said. “People are so divided. We didn’t want to add to the hate and division. So we just talk nonsense. We want people to tune in and laugh.”
It has been six years since the last “Cars” film but the franchise lives on with animated shorts, toys and games. “I’m always doing voiceover work for some sort of video game or talking toy somewhere,” he said. “We did ‘Cars on the Road’ on Disney+ last year which was kind of like ‘Cars 4.’ It’s Mater and Lightning McQueen on a road trip. It could have been a movie but instead, it’s nine 10-minute segments.”
IF YOU GO
Larry the Cable Guy, 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 16, $25-$59.75, Atlanta Symphony Hall, 280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, www.ticketmaster.com