Although Jeff Foxworthy and Larry The Cable Guy settled on “Backyard BBQ” as the title of their late-summer comedy and music tour, the ’cue will be overshadowed by the duo’s blue-collar stand-up and their hand-picked bands’ classic rock when the show hits PNC Music Pavilion on Friday, Sept. 15.
But hey, with a name like that, you can’t not ask, right?
“My all-time favorite barbecue place is Jack’s in Nashville,” says Dan Whitney, setting aside his Larry The Cable Guy persona for a recent phone interview with the Observer. “I haven’t turned down a lot of barbecue, though. Kansas City’s got fantastic barbecue. When I was doing ‘Only in America,’ we went to a couple of places in Texas that were awesome. I mean, shoot, there’s good barbecue in Florida, in Nebraska. I haven’t had any bad barbecue.”
He pauses, then: “No, wait. I’ll tell you who’s got sh---- barbecue: Rhode Island. Much as I love Rhode Island, the barbecue wasn’t that good.”
Here’s more brutal – and sometimes brutally funny – honesty from the 54-year-old comedian who has spent more than two decades making audiences laugh by dressing like a stereotypical redneck and spouting one-liners in an accent straight out of the deepest part of the Deep South. (Want to hear what Whitney really sounds like? Click here.)
The interview was done by phone on Aug. 2.
Q. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
A. Well, I’ve got no choice – you’re on the list! (Laughs.) I mean, I love ya, but I’m not sitting at home going, “You know, honey, I think I’m gonna call Théoden today.”
Q. Really? Man, I figured this would be the highlight of your day! ... But so what’s going on then? Are you at home in Lincoln (Nebraska)?
A. I’m at the house, yeah. Just got back from Northwoods of Wisconsin, where we did a little summer vacation with the kids.
Q. How was that?
A. Awesome. The Northwoods – north of Highway 8 – it’s almost like you’re in Fairbanks, Alaska. Nothing but lakes and huge pine trees and beautiful valleys. It’s fantastic. Wisconsin is awesome in the month of July. Other than that, though, forget about it. The ice doesn’t melt off the lake till like mid-June. And then it starts getting cold again in mid-August.
Q. Well, it should be pretty nice when you come down here with Jeff and the bands (The Marshall Tucker Band, Foghat and Charlotte’s Michael Tracy). Speaking of which, you and Foxworthy have been partners in comedy for a long time, but this seems like one of the more ambitious types of shows you’ve done together.
A. I guess. I mean, this is something different for Jeff and I, but I’ve done things like this before. I did a benefit one time (for Illinois tornado relief, in 2013), where it was me and REO Speedwagon and Styx and (Ted) Nugent and Head East. I went up and opened the show with about 20 minutes, and then I’d go up and do about 10 minutes in between each band. ... I do notice at these comedy-music concerts, you want to do the comedy early. Because about three bands in, nobody could care if you’re George Carlin. They just want to hear music. ... It’ll be fun; I’m looking forward to it. Although I have to tell you, I normally don’t like to tour during football season, because I’m an avid Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. For the first time in 12 years, I’m missing a home game. (Two, in fact: They’ll be performing in Houston on Sept. 2, when the Huskers host Arkansas State, and they’ll be in Cary on Sept. 16, the day of the Northern Illinois game.)
Q. By the way, I noticed you didn’t mention North Carolina barbecue. Have you spent much time here?
A. I’ve been to North Carolina quite a few times. When I was a kid, when I was living in Florida, we went up to a church camp up in Asheville, and I fell in love with Asheville. And then just doing shows, like the Blue Collar (Comedy Tour). Actually, back in the day, before I broke out, I would go on “John Boy & Billy” all the time. They’re legends, man. That was always fun. They really helped me out a lot.
Q. You should have come out here this month for the PGA Championship (at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club). You’re still golfing a lot, right?
A. Yeah, I do like 8 or 9 (Pro-Am events) a year.
Q. How’s your game going?
A. It’s getting better. ... You know what’s really crazy? I used to hate golf. Thought it sucked. I’ve only been playing since, let’s see, September will be my seventh year. So I started playing when I was 47. And it’s getting a lot better. I probably got down to a 19, 20 handicap like four years ago, then two years ago I was probably a 17, last year a 16, and I think I’m down to about a 14 now.
Q. How did it go from you hated it and thought it sucked to being hooked?
A. I had a really good shot. (Laughs.) And I’m like, “Wow, I could do just like the pros do!” Then of course the next 117 shots sucked, but I still remember that really good one, so I know I can do it.
Q. Oh, you know what? Weren’t you also here in Charlotte back when the “Cars” movie had a big premiere at the track (then Lowe’s Motor Speedway, in 2006)?
A. Yes! That was a lot of fun.
Q. You’ve done three of those films now, and certainly for kids, the Mater character you helped create with your Larry The Cable Guy voice is as big a phenomenon as Larry The Cable Guy himself, wouldn’t you say?
A. Yeah, I’m just glad people really like Mater. I really love him – he’s a sweet character. It was fun to bring him to life. And, you know, Larry The Cable Guy obviously is an act; Mater is more close to (my personality) than my character Larry The Cable Guy is. ... I never thought in a million years he would be what he was. I mean, he’s sold a couple billion dollars in toys.
Q. Hopefully, you’re getting some of that toy money.
A. No, I’m not, but that’s OK. Disney treats me good. ... I was talking to Owen Wilson (voice of “Cars” hero Lightning McQueen) the other day, and we both are crossing our fingers for a “Cars 4.”
Jeff & Larry’s Backyard BBQ
Doors open: 5 p.m.
Set times: Michael Tracy at 6 p.m., Foghat at 7:10 p.m., intermission at 7:55 p.m., Jeff Foxworthy at 8:30 p.m., Larry The Cable Guy at 9:10 p.m., The Marshall Tucker Band at 9:50 p.m.
Where: PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd.
Tickets: $18.75 for lawn seats, $29.50 and up for pavilion seats.