'They Can Kiss My Ass'

Only one comedian has ever debuted an album in Billboard's Top Ten, and his last name's not Rock or Romano, Carlin or Cosby. He's Dan Whitney, a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy, 42, the hillbilly comedian Jay Leno calls "the hottest comic in the country."

The accolade belongs to a guy whose act is, in his own words, "the dumbest show you ever seen in your whole life." A typical line: "A buddy of mine's kid had sex with his teacher. The bad part there was he was home schooled." NEWSWEEK's Steve Tuttle talked to Larry last week as he headed to a show in Fresno, Calif.

NEWSWEEK: So you have a big rock-star tour bus now?

Dan Whitney: I basically live on the bus. I wanted to get something nice. It's going to be home. It's one of them big long ones with a picture of a greyhound on the side. I tour constantly. I did 287 dates last year.

Do you think of yourself as a Red State comedian?

It's all states. I don't even work that much in the South. I'm from the Midwest. I've got an accent but I acquired that because I moved South as a kid. My biggest markets have always been the Northeast: upstate New York is one of my biggest. I did 11,200 tickets at the Baltimore arena about three months ago.

You do realize you're killing the premise of my interview?

Well, I know I am, but it's not really true. I do gear myself to the rural areas because I grew up in a really small town of 1,200 in southeast Nebraska. There was nothin' but cornfields. I hate to blow your thing about Red State-Blue State. I ruined your angle.

Do you live in Nebraska now?

No, I live in a little redneck town called Sanford, [Fla.,] which is north of Orlando. They've still got Skynyrd six packs on the radio. Our Wal-Mart just got a dentist office. We got two. We got a regular one and one for 15 teeth or less. I love it there. I've got 20 acres, two horses, four dogs, and cats.

Describe your act.

It's one-liner type stuff--the jokes are eight seconds or less. I call myself a cross between four comedians: Milton Berle, Steve Martin, Jonathan Winters and Don Rickles. I hit on everybody and so did Rickles. I hit on myself just as much as anybody else. All the stuff I talk about--hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, and the farm, and the cattle--I live that life.

Have you gotten bad press about your race-based material?

Not really. They mentioned something in Rolling Stone about it. I think they're totally wrong. I did the joke about the shadow. [The joke has Larry pretending to be scared when he mistakes his shadow for two "black guys" sneaking up behind him.]

That's the one that came to mind.

When I do that joke the black people in the crowd laugh hysterically at it. It's always the uptight white guy who's looking around going, "Oh man, that's not right," while the black guy next to him is laughing his ass off. I'm a comedian, not a politician. I'm just doing what I think is funny and what I think people are going to laugh at.

As you get more into the mainstream you're going to start seeing more press like that--

They can kiss my ass. I'm not performing for the press, I'm performing for hard-working Americans who want to go out and have a good time and be entertained.

You're making a movie called "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector," is that right?

We're filming it in Orlando in August. That was a smart move. That makes a lot of sense. That's like Rosie O'Donnell wearing hot pants.

Any costars I might recognize?

We haven't really cast it yet. It's going to be a cross between an Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey movie. It's perfect for me, but I was going, "Man, I don't know if I can act or not." My manager said, "you won't have to, it's you." Then there's that Pixar picture I did called "Cars." I'm the tow truck, Mater. I started in February of 2003 and it's still going. I think I might have just finished it. It's a really funny character. They're going to add more lines.

They're adding more lines because you're getting more popular?

Because they really liked Mater and they really liked how I did him. They just ended up adding more and more stuff and it turns out that it ended up being one of the main characters. It comes out in June of 2006.

I read you once asked Kevin Costner to sign your breasts?

[Laughs.] I didn't really do it, but he was laughing at everything [during a recent "Tonight Show" appearance]. I was glad he was on the panel. They invited me back any time. I'm doing some remote stuff for them, too. I taped a thing at some truck stops called "Truck Stop Etiquette."

On "Imus" you said you get lots of e-mail and photos from the military.

That's what makes it all worth it. I get pictures of platoons and they sign their own picture with "Git-R-Done" and there will be like 25 guys with their guns and their camo and they each sign it.

You were the top-grossing touring comedian last year?

I sure was. And this year I am, too, as of right now. Second last year was Chris Rock and Ron White third.

Are you getting any interest from networks to do a sitcom?

We've got a lot of offers to do stuff like that, but I love living where I live in Florida, and I really don't want to move to California. I'm really not interested. I've got a great fiance, and we're going to get married, and we want to live in a small town. If they offered me a job and said I could do it in Orlando I'd do it in a minute.

You've been a comedian since '86, but when did you hit on this character?

I started doing it in '91. I went on the radio and pretended I was a cable guy because I did a cable installer bit in my act.

Was your mom really an Elvis impersonator?

That's a lie--she's a Jackie Gleason impersonator. Most of what I talk about--most of it is 60 percent bulls--t and 40 percent real.