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The Real Reason We Don't Hear From Larry The Cable Guy Anymore

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Ten to 15 years ago, it seemed like Larry the Cable Guy was everywhere. As part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White, and Bill Engvall, he entertained millions at stand-up gigs with his down-home comedy and catchphrases like "Git-R-Done!" and "I don't care who you are, that's funny, right there." He starred in a string of big-screen comedies, including Delta Farce, Witless Protection, and Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and has released 10 albums, including the platinum-certified The Right to Bare Arms. He even had his own travelogue show, Only in America, and was the subject of a Comedy Central roast. But what's become lately of the guy born with the name Dan Whitney? If you've missed him, you're not alone—and this is what he's been up to.

He walked away from Only in America

In 2011, Whitney started starring in Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy. The History Channel reality series found Whitney traveling around America, going to interesting places and doing interesting things, sort of like a populist Anthony Bourdain. Among his adventures were going behind the scenes of a circus, making moonshine, digging for gold, and riding with the Hells Angels. The show was a huge hit for History, but it was abruptly canceled after three seasons—mainly because it's hard to make Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy without Larry the Cable Guy.

There were two reasons he quit. The first was an episode in which he had to clean portable toilets at a music festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "I didn't want to do it. I mean, that was one of the nastiest things on the planet," he later told a reporter. (During the episode he called it "probably one of the most disgusting things I've ever done in my life.") The other reason he walked away, as if he needed one, was that the show required him to be on the road—which, combined with a career as a touring stand-up comedian, pulled him away from his family for as many as six days a week.

He broke a guy's arm

Whitney is a Nebraska native, and so of course he's a hardcore fan of the University of Nebraska Cormhuskers football team. So it should come as no surprise that he tries to get to as many home games as he can. He attended a game in 2016, and while watching from in a luxury suite, another guest challenged Whitney to an arm wrestling match. Whitney won... by too much. The comedian managed to break the guy's humerus—his funny bone. The poor challenger had to have arm surgery and get a metal plate installed...all because of an arm wrestling match with Larry the Cable Guy.

He never set out to be a megastar

Though he's since become a movie star, product pitchman, and standup comedy superstar, Whitney says that none of those things were ever his goal. In fact, when he started out in stand-up in the early '90s, he said all wanted was to "do what i enjoy doing for a living and make money at it."

"I've never been, you know, never been one of those guys where money's—yeah, you wanna take care of your bills...but I never really set out to be this huge star, because it's so rare," Whitney said during an interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger. "I mean, when go you into something— How many comedians are there? How many can you count on your hand that can sell out arenas, and a stadium, or do movies? It's a handful," he continued.

Obviously, Whitney's now a member of that elusive club, although he still seems surprised by his own success. "So, getting into it, you're already thinking, 'Well, my odds are pretty slim, I just want to be funny...be able to have an audience that wants to come see me, but if I can kick back every year, and I can have 25 comedy clubs that wanna hire me because they like me, and I can sell some tickets, I'm happy.' Fortunately for me, it just spun out of control and went really crazy, you know?"

He pauses his tour schedule during football season

In what has to be the envy of any red-blooded American football fan, Whitney revealed that he's lucky enough to be able to put his career completely on hold each year during football season. As we previously mentioned, Whitney's a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Sea of Red, which means he does not miss a Cornhuskers game, even if it means not taking a gig.

Speaking with The Charlotte Observer to promote his Backyard BBQ tour with fellow comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Whitney said, "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...For the first time in 12 years, I'm missing a home game."

Simply put, comedians at Whitney's level make their money on theater and arena shows that generally happen on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. With Whitney willing to press pause on that for the better part of three months, it speaks volumes to where he's at both in his career and with his clear indifference towards being an ever-present public figure.

He enjoys his Hollywood outsider status

As a former member of The Blue Collar Comedy tour, as well as a self-professed "country kid," Whitney understands his target demographic. Not only does he embrace his down-home roots, but he's also gone on the defense against supposed media stereotypes about so-called "racist rednecks."

During an interview on alt-right supporter Gavin McInnes' podcast (via The Blaze), Whitney said, "They've drawn up this picture of how they want us to be, and when we're not how they want us to be, they go insane. They cannot handle it...And it frustrates them to no end, and that's why they get irritated. That's why they hate us. They hate what we stand for, they hate our values, they hate us so bad. They want it to be true, and it's not true."

With that negative view of mainstream media, it's no surprise that Whitney prefers to exist on the fringes of the generally left-leaning Hollywood. He admitted as much to the Lincoln Journal Star while talking about his friendship with another successful Hollywood outsider, Tyler Perry. Whitney said that like the "Blue Collar" guys, Perry knew his Madea act would be rejected by Hollywood, so "he built his audience without Hollywood. And we built our audience without Hollywood. And we both became really successful, just grassroots-level." Whitney also said he admired how Perry "dumps [money] back into Atlanta," and "hires local," adding, "I'd be doing the same thing if I had a studio in Lincoln." The real question is why doesn't he? Prilosec Studios has a nice ring to it, no?

He's clowning around on the golf course

Like a lot of rich celebs (and non famous rich folk, to be perfectly frank), Whitney has also taken an interest in the time-consuming sport of golf. Telling The Charlotte Observer that he "used to hate golf" because he "thought it sucked," Whitney confessed that he now plays regularly, and even does "8 or 9 (Pro-Am events) a year."

One of them was the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which is regarded as one of the more laid-back golf events. Celebrities and pro golfers participate to raise money for charity, and in 2017, Whitney played a few rounds. He was doing alright until he missed what should have been an easy, three-foot putt on the sixth hole. Adding insult to injury, a fan shouted out from the gallery that he could've made the shot—so Whitney playfully called his bluff, and invited the fan out to the green to prove it. He missed the shot, too.

He does a lot of corporate gigs

It's a little-discussed but incredibly lucrative side of professional comedy: well-known comedians can get paid a fortune for "corporate gigs" where they're hired to be the entertainment for a huge company's convention, annual meeting, or managerial retreat. Even comedians who aren't as popular as they once were can pull in some serious cash on this circuit. 

Acts like Sinbad, George Lopez, or even longtime former host of The Tonight Show Jay Leno are available for corporate bookings, just to name a few. If you ever head to your company's annual conference in Toledo, don't be surprised to see a legend of comedy hovering over the refreshment table, waiting to try and get your stuffy CEO to giggle for a few minutes.  

So naturally, Larry the Cable Guy makes a lot of these corporate appearances. And for his trouble, he's paid at least in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $299,000 — for each performance. And yes, that's a higher asking price than any of the three aforementioned comics — even Leno.

He's a very busy commercial pitchman

Bektrom Foods, a company that makes Hamburger Helper-style dinners and other shelf-stable foods, licensed Larry's likeness for use on a line of products sold in grocery and drugstores. Larry has endorsed a few dozen items for Bektrom (and been paid handsomely for his trouble), including Larry the Cable Guy Spicy Corn Muffin Mix and Larry the Cable Guy Cheesy Tuna Dinner. (Ironically, Whitney-as-Larry has also been the longtime pitchman for Prilosec, an over-the-counter medication to treat heartburn.) A snack food company called Shearer's has also paid Whitney for its Larry the Cable Guy Chips. Or for those who prefer to prepare their meals from scratch but who also like Larry the Cable Guy, Whitney sells a line of kitchen knives, including a "Melon Cuttin' Knife," a "Bonin' Knife," a "Slicin'" Knife," and a "Tater Peeler."

He's still making movies

Larry the Cable Guy's movie career hasn't been a tremendous success — but he has, to paraphrase the man himself, "gotten'er done." In the mid-2000s, Whitney starred in the confusingly named Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, along with Delta Farce and Witless Protection. Together, they have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of just under four-and-a-half. Their average audience score is much better at a little over 44 percent, but that's still not an indicator of Whitney's cinematic appeal.

And yet, while he's no longer starring in big-screen fish-out-of-water comedies like Health Inspector or Witless Protection, Whitney is still making movies. It's just that now most of them are direct-to-video efforts, many of them sequels to theatrical releases. In addition to an appearance in A Madea Christmas, Whitney took over for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Tooth Fairy 2 and for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way 2. He's also since reunited with his Blue Collar Comedy Tour compatriot Jeff Foxworthy for the Netflix original We've Been Thinking.

He's a Pixar superstar

While Pixar's delightful animated movies are suitable for all audiences, the studio's Cars films are pretty much kid stuff. Maybe you haven't seen the movies about anthropomorphic automobiles, but they're insanely popular with kids, and so is Larry. Whitney is a superstar in Pixar land, having used his Larry voice for Mater, the dim-witted, buck-toothed, kind-hearted tow truck who becomes the best friend of famous race car Lightning McQueen. Mater was the breakout character of Cars, a box office smash, so he (and thus Whitney) was the focus of Cars 2. The plot: Mater inadvertently becomes a James Bond-style international spy.

Whitney even gets emotional talking about how much Pixar "changed his life" and "introduced him to a whole new audience," in an interview with Graham Bensinger. "It's an emotional thing when I talk about it, because I worked so hard—you know, I did all these call-ins, and I did this, and I was on the road, and I never got to do stuff other people got to do...and then all the sudden there's this letter from Pixar and they gave me the part and I'm like, 'You gotta be kidding me! Thank you, Jesus!'"

The role effectively expanded Whitney's already large built-in stand-up audience to a point where if he never did anything but Cars movies and the occasional sold-out arena and theater shows, he would still be rich for the rest of his life.

What's next for Larry the Cable Guy

Whitney has certainly found his niche with his Larry persona, who's become one of the most memorable characters in comedy history. Millions of fans don't really care that he's not as hot as he once was, because he still does a lot of shows and packs theaters across the country. In the meantime, he's pursuing new avenues to stay fresh, such as starring in projects for Netflix. All that, and the fact that he reprised his role as Mater in Cars 3, means Whitney's poised to Git-R-Done as Larry the Cable Guy over and over again.

Larry the charitable guy

Whitney has made millions off of his Larry the Cable Guy act, and he hasn't been shy about donating that money to causes he believes in. In his hometown of Pawnee City, Nebraska, he donated money for the city to buy statues along its walking trails, and gave enough cash for his old high school to buy new curtains, lights, and a soundboard. He's also a major patron of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and its International Hip Dysplasia Institute going back to 2007, when Whitney's son Wyatt was born with hip dysplasia. Doctors there completely cured baby Wyatt of the issue, and Whitney quietly donated lots of money to the medical complex through appearances on celebrity editions of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and Family Feud. In September 2010, he donated a whopping $5 million to the hospital, which how boasts a Wyatt Whitney Wing. Whitney also co-founded (with his wife Cara), the Git-R-Done Foundation, which gits-r-done, charity-wise, for causes affecting veterans and children.

He's got a radio show

Watch out Howard Stern: Larry the Cable Guy is well on his way to becoming the next King of All Media. We already know Whitney has starred in movies, commercials, has his own product line, and continues to perform his comedy all over the country, both in comedy clubs as well as at corporate retreats. But since 2015, Whitney's also made his way to a brand new form of media: the radio.

In 2015, Whitney teamed up with Jeff Foxworthy to create a new station on SiriusXM satellite radio. The 24-hour channel, Jeff and Larry's Comedy Roundup, features clips of comedians, including hosting segments, material, and new shows they record just for the station. When the channel was first announced in May of that year, Whitney expressed hopes that its programming would appeal to all fans of comedy:

"Looking forward to working with the good folks at SiriusXM and with my buddy Jeff to help produce and program the comedy you've come to know and love in our comedy roundup ... This'll be funny, I don't care who ya are!"