Want to see the true cultural make-up of the United States? Well, avoid the cinema and ignore the Billboard Top 40 and look at what passes for stand-up comedy these days. There is a literal triumvirate of types, a clear distinction between slacker humor (the consistent norm), ethic oriented/specific wit (The Kings of Comedy, The Latin Kings of Comedy, etc) and the latest incarnation, the Red State/Neck brand of hilarity. Each one has a legion of undying fans frothing over the latest concert/CD/DVD/TV incarnation, and all have their superstars and signature acts. When it comes to sons of the soil silliness, you can't beat the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Featuring a line-up reminiscent of the judges at a Miss Tractor Pull competition, these risible rubes sell out everywhere they play. One of the most compelling comics in the group is Ron White. Every since his hit concert recording They Call Me Tater Salad, White has crafted a career that, after 20 plus years, seems only now about to take off. His latest multimedia presentation, You Can't Fix Stupid, will probably propel him to the top of the humor hierarchy.
Filmed on location at the Majestic Theater in Dallas, Texas, You Can't Fix Stupid is a coming home of sorts for Ron White. A true Texan with a wealth of stories as large as the Lone Star state itself, this unedited, uncensored presentation of his latest live set is structured around the Southern suave shtick the comedian does so well. Over the course of 45 minutes, we learn lessons in what it's like to be famous, the tribulations of the newly married, and how a certain section of White's body resembles a cheese wheel. An adult beverage in his hand and a smoldering cigar in his fingers, White reminisces about growing up, discusses his penchant for performing, and offers his wife's cure for sexual inadequacy (it has something to do with chocolate-flavored sperm).
In the world of Blue Collar comedy, Ron White is the boozed-up bastard stepchild. A regular on the localized comedy circuit for over 20 years, his unreal rags to riches story sounds almost like a made-up attempt at some true white trash cred. Jobless and penniless, a young White snuck out of his apartment in the middle of the night, loaded up a U-Haul, and skipped town. While selling windows (and eating $.75 hotdogs at 7-11), a co-worker suggested he try out the local laughter factory's open mic night. "You're funnier than they are" the pal chided. Almost two decades, a chance encounter with Jeff Foxworthy (his advice – put the punchlines at the END of the joke) and a couple of bestselling videos later, White is the toast of the new NASCAR circuit of snickers. While other ethnicities have tried to tap into the amazing market exposed by the all African American Kings of Comedy, it appears as if the aforementioned urban showcase has a hokey hillbilly doppelganger. Hugely successful, the Blue Collar Comedy tour has turned Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and White into beyond-the-hick household names.
Yet of all four comedians, White seems to be the most out of place. With one foot in the goofy good old boy dynamic the demographic demands, he often seems a mere catchphrase away ("Git R Done!", "You Might Be a Redneck…") from turning into a country cliché. But then there's the ever-present bottle of scotch, and the oversized stogie, and we suddenly see the dude they call "Tater Salad" in a totally different light. White works very blue, something almost unheard of in the world of cornpone comedy, and his act is less joke-oriented and more centered around the funny if filthy story. He loves to discuss sex, pokes fun at his penis (and the wangs of others) and uses the F-bomb for everything – from emphasis to scatological fun. Looking caught somewhere pre- or post- bender and flashing a grin that says both 'expensive dental work' and 'psychotic serial killer', White wants to be the link between cosmopolitan and Cracker Barrel. And even though his humor is very hit or miss, he more or less succeeds with straddling the country mouse/city mouse fence.
White is best when he's cruising in cursing storyteller mode. The saga of his honeymoon to Greece is filled with wonderful bits about old men in small bathing suits, the human inability to ride a scooter, and a visit from his wife's 'Aunt Flo'. But then there are the times when he tosses off poorly conceived one liners, like when he says he was kicked off the debate team for saying "F**k you". He thought he won. White's other flaw comes from a personal desire to overcompensate. He will get off a wonderful quip – like how people should marry smart, not pretty. There's plastic surgery and all manner of health regimes to regain beauty, White argues, but like the title says, you can't 'fix' stupid. It's a great line. Then he goes and ruins it by adding a few additional elements, almost as if he's explaining or exploring the joke. Suddenly, we're no longer laughing but wondering why he continues to mosey on. Indeed, White seems in need of a performance manager. His routine rambles, never building to a true comic climax. He's scattered and occasionally seems to say the first thing that pops into his pickled brain. The cigar and Scotch concept is incredibly hip, but White does little with it. They may hint at a certain type, by they remain unimportant as props.
Still, Ron White deserves a lot of credit for sticking to his comic guns and finally achieving what so few in his business get. Without a sitcom to secure his future (he doesn't even work with his fellow Blue Collar chums on their own TV show) he has a devoted contingent of fans who will fill arenas just to see him perform familiar routines. He has a real presence on stage, a kind of corrupted cool that exudes from every pore like the stale liquor he gulps down. Though he claims to be a careful, controlled drinker, White does give off the air of being a know-it-all two sheets into the inebriation process. It gives his humor a kind of off-the-cuff quality that some may confuse with honesty, and it makes what is otherwise insular readily approachable. While Foxworthy, Mr. Cable Guy and Engvall all preach about the wit and wisdom below the Mason-Dixon line, White appears to have bigger catfish to fry. His views move beyond the kissing cousins conceit to address universal truths and troubles. Ee still gets lost in his Confederate creations, yet Ron White is a comic with a clear future. You Can't Fix Stupid is a perfect example of why.
Presented in a bright, dynamic 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image, the transfer of Ron White – You Can't Fix Stupid is terrific. There is a real high definition quality to the picture, and the details are incredibly dense. We can even see the twinkle in the comic's eye as he prepares to deliver a punchline. With nice color correction and a directorial style that provides both intimacy and spectacle, this is a very good looking DVD.
There is not much to complain about on the sound side, either. Both aural offerings – the Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 and the far more impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround – deliver White's wit with clarity and crispness. The multi-channel option is the true way to experience this concert – the theatrical setting and all its acoustical ambience really comes across in this mix.
The only added content here is a wonderful 10 minute Behind the Scenes featurette that functions as a primer on White, his background, and his overall career arc. Starting with the story about sneaking out on his lease, and ending up in a 7-11 parking lot resampling the hard times hot dog he relied on to live (he remembers them tasting "better"), White is warm and open, pulling no punches over how lucky he is. In some ways, this material is better than the performance, as it allows us to see White for what he truly is – a grateful man having a great time doing what he loves, which is making people laugh.
If there is a single downside to this presentation (other than the critical comments of White's style) it's that there is under an hour in overall content offered. While this may not be a stumbling block for some, others will wonder why the digital domain here wasn't more fully utilized. As a result, this disc hovers between the Highly Recommended rating and its single step down brother. After much commerce-based soul searching, Ron White – You Can't Fix Stupid earns a healthy Recommended score. Of the current crop of Blue Collar comedians, White does seem to be the one with the most mainstream staying power. While Foxworthy's already proven he can come and go like a summer cold, and Larry and Evengall should be happy they now have a steady paycheck, don't be surprised if White transcends the trailer park to become a fixture within the conventional cavalcade of comedy. You may not be able to fix stupid, but it's equally impossible to deny talent. Ron White is one occasionally funny guy. When he becomes consistent, the rest of his laugh tracking buddies better watch out. He is perfectly poised to move from star to staple.
Want more Gibron Goodness?
Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here