“Once it’s said and done you’re glad it’s out,” says Dan Whitney, better known to comedy fans as Larry the Cable Guy. “You know, it’s another poster I can hang up in the house. So that’s kind of cool.”
Larry is referring to the poster for Pixar’s Cars 2, which prominently features his character, a tow truck named Mater. The friendly breakdown truck has a major role in the new film, accompanying his best friend, the race car Lightening McQueen, to a World Grand Prix race over seas.
It’s a far cry from his other films—Witless Protection or Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector—which were financially successful but critically lambasted. “I have a joke about this movie,” he says about Cars 2, “It’s the only time you’ll ever see me in a movie with the number two after it.”
This car trip started five years ago when he was offered a small role in the original Cars movie playing a character named Zeb.
“John [Lasseter] tells a great story about how he couldn’t find the right voice,” the 48 year-old comedian says. “They’d been through two or three hundred people and finally he said, ‘Go get that Blue Collar CD. Some of those guys I haven’t heard of before.’ I was the first one up and he dropped everything he was doing in the first thirty seconds and said, ‘That’s my tow truck. Get that guy on the phone.’”
The movie introduced his exaggerated Southern drawl to a whole new audience—kids. His Blue Collar Comedy tours, with fellow “redneck” comics Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Ron White, made him a star and one of the highest paid stand-ups in the biz but it wasn’t (and still isn’t) a show for the young ones.
“You have to be over 18 to come to my show,” he says. “I like to not include everybody. Look, if you want to go out with your wife and come see a more adult show with a comedian you like already, then you can come to my show. You can also take the kids to another project that I’ve done. I try to keep a good balance like that.
“I’m all about doing stuff for kids, and I tell everybody this. Eddie Murphy went from doing his stage act, which is 100 times dirtier than mine will ever be, to doing nothing but kid’s stuff. So it can be done. It all started when he had kids. Same with me. Before I had kids I never thought I’d do anything like this.”
He’s continuing to make movies with his children in mind—in January he’ll be starring in The Tooth Fairy 2—but it’s only been recently that his kids—Wyatt and Reagan, ages 3 and 4—caught on that dad was one of their favorite movie characters.
“When they were really little they couldn’t figure two and two together,” he says. “They had no idea but they had a little talking tow truck. You’d hit it and it would go, ‘Git-R-Done!’ or ‘My name’s Mater!’ that kind of stuff. Then one time I hit the thing and then I said it after the toy and they started crying. I don’t know if that freaked them out or what it did. Now, they walk around saying, ‘Mater’s my daddy,’ which is kind of cool. I told my little girl the other day, ‘You know you’re the only girl who can say that Mater’s their dad.’”