Whether you like his brand of humor or not, there’s no denying that Larry the Cable Guy is one of the hottest comedians around. Daniel Lawrence Whitney, better known as Larry the Cable Guy sells out nearly every venue at which he performs, and his newest special, “Tailgate Party,” is no exception.
The special, which airs on Comedy Central at 9 p.m. on Sunday, was performed in front of an audience of more than 50,000 people at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. He wanted to give a little something back to his loyal fan base, so he set ticket prices at the unprecedented low price of $4 per ticket. In addition to being a wildly popular comedian, he is also a philanthropist – He is the founder and figurehead of his own charity, the Git-R-Done foundation. All proceeds from the show went to his foundation. This week, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian got a chance to pick Larry’s brain on his upcoming special, his charity, making movies and what’s on the horizon for this shining star.
It’s no secret that he draws the bulk of his popular support primarily from the South and the Midwest. Whitney was born and bred in Pawnee City, Nebraska. When asked how it was performing for a Midwest fan base in his home state he explains, “It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget. I originally thought it was going to suck, but we ended up selling out the stadium. Three days after we opened up the tickets to the general public, we had sold 37,000. We actually had to add another section to accommodate 53,000 people. It seemed like all of Nebraska came out for me. The show went off without a hitch. It was a blast.”
What stands out the most about his show, is the fact that he made the ticket prices so low. To go and see a similarly popular comedian like Jerry Seinfeld, seats would run about $200 a pop in the nosebleed section. But Whitney had a different idea behind his show’s $4 seats.
“The economy was in the tank last summer and a lot of people were depressed. It was a 4th of July show so it just made sense to make tickets 4 bucks apiece. I wanted to give something back to the place where I grew up. I didn’t want to take any money either for putting on this kind of performance. All proceeds that we got from the show went straight to the Git-R-Done foundation.”
Many charitable efforts often go unnoticed, drowned out in the sea of philanthropic celebrities; it is rare indeed to find a celebrity like Whitney who will create such a budget-friendly performance and donate 100% of profits to a noble cause.
So what exactly does the Git-R-Done foundation do? It has recently donated a whopping $1.2 million in order to develop a new 14-bed children’s rehabilitation center within the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. The new facility will be named “The Alexis Verzal Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital at Madonna” in honor of the 13-month old girl who suffered a brain injury at her daycare center in 2008. It is only one of seven facilities in the country that specialize in brain and spinal injuries for children and infants. In undertaking the project, Whitney draws inspiration from all around.
“Ya know, my fans have been good to me and truly blessed me. I started the foundation in order to help families in need. Every little bit helps. You read about things and you hear things and you wish you could help out. I used to write checks to needy individuals and families, but the government sets limits on how much money you can transfer each year. They start taxing the money, whether it’s for charity or not and that’s BS. I started the Git-R-Done foundation so I can help those in need without the government dipping their hands into the proceeds.”
Nobody can disagree that his heart is in the right place, especially after talking with Whitney. He doesn’t give to charity to further his image or because it’s fashionable, but rather out of a genuine desire to aid his fans or needy individuals. He recognizes the need to help, both on and off the stage.
Whitney also has starred in a number of feature films, which have gotten mixed reviews from critics. But Whitney has kept his perspective, fully understanding that he wasn’t going to be winning any Oscars for “Delta Farce” or “Witless Protection.”
When asked about the transition from Comedy Central to the big screen, he explains, “I never thought I would do a movie. The producers came up to me one day after a show and asked ‘Wanna do a movie?’ Honestly, who wouldn’t want to do a movie? Although I don’t consider myself an actor, the transition was not hard. And compared to what we had for the budget, overall the movies made money. I don’t care what the critics have to say about what I do. I do everything for my fans, and based on the DVD sales, they like what I’m doing.”
Whitney identifies strongly as a comedian, and admits that his movies weren’t meant to clean up at the Oscars; he just wanted to make his fans happy and make people laugh.
As Larry the Cable Guy, Whitney has won awards from Billboard, published a bestselling book and received two Grammy nominations for his comedy albums. He has also been nominated for 4 Razzie awards.
Whether you love him or you hate him, he is one of the most popular comedians around right now, and has twice been named to the Forbes “Celebrity 100” list.
Larry the Cable Guy has the world by the balls, and his star is not fading anytime soon. Catch Larry the Cable Guy’s “Tailgate Party” on Comedy Central at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Brendan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]