Do you know Larry the Cable Guy’s real name? It’s a question Dan Whitney, the man behind the Blue Collar Comedy king, never knows the answer to. (And why he finds himself calling journalists and saying, ”It’s Larry the Cable — it’s Dan.”)
The truth is, he can’t blame you. Even though Larry the Cable Guy is a character he created, first for radio in the ’90s, it’s how he — one of the country’s top-touring, top-selling comedians — is always billed: Larry the Cable Guy voices the scene-stealing tow truck Mater in Cars. Larry the Cable Guy stars in the films Health Inspector, Delta Farce, and his latest, Witless Protection.
In the new slapstick saga, Larry plays a small-town sheriff who accidentally rescues a key witness (Head Over Heels‘ Ivana Milicevic) from the crooked FBI agents assigned to protect her. Larry, er, Dan phoned us to chat about why his fans will think this is his best movie yet, even if the critics won’t; why costar Eric Roberts wanted to beat the crap out of him; why he’s similar to Sarah Silverman; and why he and Lewis Black understand each other.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you’re proud of this movie, but I still think it’s incredibly brave to have the word Witless in the title of the film.
LARRY THE CABLE GUY: Why? Journalists don’t like puns?
No, they love them. So if a critic doesn’t like the film, you could be looking at a headline like ”Witless Projection.”
Oh, you mean they’ll come out with ”Witless Protection is Witless.” [Laughs] I’m tryin’ to help them out a little bit. You know, they rarely like any of my movies anyway. Some of them didn’t even want to give me credit for doing a good job in Cars. They didn’t want to give me props so they just wouldn’t mention my name: ”The movie had a lot of heart. The tow truck was great.” After all these years, I realize the only people that I really got to keep happy are my fans, ’cause they’re the ones buying tickets to go see my movies. Would it be nice to get [critics] saying something nice? Yeah. Am I convinced they won’t? Of course. This is the best movie that I’ve done. It’s a good storyline, and the other actors are awesome in it.
Jenny McCarthy plays your love interest.
She’s my girlfriend, and you can do that in movies. [Laughs] In real life, you see a Playboy girl with a big fat guy and she’s usually a hostage and you call the police. She was everything and more than I thought she would be. I’ll tell you who helped me a lot on this movie was Ivana Milicevic. For the first time on any of my movies, after we were done filming [for the day], she and I would get together for a couple of hours and go over the [next day’s] scene. I’m a stand-up comedian, so I learn all this stuff as I go. It really helped the movie out because I knew how she was gonna play her emotions and how I should play mine. I think it’s my best acting in a movie, other than Cars. But in that you didn’t have to see my face. [Laughs]
It looks like you have a great fight scene with Eric Roberts, who plays one of the bad guys.
When we first started, I had to take this statue, whack him over the head with it, and the statue’s supposed to break. I’m like, ”Eric, this is gonna hurt. I’m not gonna really belt you.” ”No, you gotta really hit me or it’s not gonna look good.” So I kinda half-assed it. And he goes, ”Dude, don’t half-ass it.” He’s real intense. I did it again. ”He goes, Dan, you gotta hit me with the thing.” ”Eric, I’m telling you, it’s gonna hurt. I might crack your head open.” ”It’s not gonna crack my head open.” So I freakin’ laid into him. And we had to do that scene seven times. I felt so bad for him. But then when it came time for him to start belting me in the stomach [Laughs] — he freakin’ hammered me. The good thing was I was 282 lbs., the fattest I’d ever been. So I didn’t really feel any vital organs gettin’ hit. I’ve lost 50 lbs.
NEXT PAGE: ”People think that everybody who comes to my show is a toothless idiot. When I did an interview with 60 Minutes, they did their research and found that people who bought…Larry the Cable Guy merchandise, their income was above the average. It wasn’t just…trailer-trash white people.”