It’s 10 o’clock in the morning in Bradenton, 9 o’clock in Austin, Texas, and Ron White wants to talk about tequila.
“There’s a nearly empty bottle of tequila on my coffee table,” the comedian said in a phone interview. “My friend and I sat here and drank it last night.”
He’s known as a Scotch drinker, with his cocktail in one hand and his cigar in the other as he delivers his sardonic stories in his gravelly voice. But he switched to tequila a few years back, he said, and now it’s all he drinks. He discovered an obscure Mexican brand that he liked so much he bought the company.
In this country, the tequila is marketed under the name Number Juan. He freely admits to being the brand’s most loyal fan. When he moves to a new home, he alerts the nearest liquor store to stock as much as it can, and he buys most of it.
“I’m clearly our best customer,” he said. “Clearly.”
A comic is like a sax player. You have to keep playing.
White will return to Sarasota on Thursday for a show at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
He moved from California to Austin a couple years back. It was partly to be near his mother, who lives not far away, but also to tap into Austin’s legendary music scene.
“I do about 110 cities a year,” White said. “That’s two or three a week. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have a lot of friends who are in bands, so when I’m here I’ll just open the shows for them and do sets. A comic is like a sax player. You have to keep playing.”
White has been playing comedy clubs for more than 30 years and came to national prominence as part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour alongside Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. The show toured for more than three years to sold-out audiences in more than 270 cities. In 2003, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie” was the most-watched movie in Comedy Central’s history.
I’m sitting here looking at an empty bottle of tequila,” he said. “So it’s not much of a stretch for me to get to who I am on stage.
Besides being one of the country’s most well-known comedians, he’s also a popular author. His first book, “I Had the Right to Remain Silent … But I Didn’t Have the Ability,” landed him on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Last year, he acted alongside Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino and Imogen Poots in Cameron Crowe’s Showtime series, “Roadies.” White played road-tested tour manager Phil.
His next big project is a Netflix special. He hasn’t settled on a title, but he might call it, “If You’d Stop Listening I Might Shut Up.”
On stage, his persona has remained consistent through the decades. Blue-collar but intellectual, with that rock glass of booze in his hand. It’s an easy role for him to slide into.
“I’m sitting here looking at an empty bottle of tequila,” he said. “So it’s not much of a stretch for me to get to who I am on stage.”