For a guy who was part of Comedy Central's "Blue Collar Comedy Tour," Ron White has since scaled the social stratum. White said he drives a Range Rover, lives in a big house and flies in a private plane, which he thanked the ticket-buying audience for during the first of two sold-out shows Friday night in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
He localized his act by recalling from the movie "Dances With Wolves," that buffalo is "tatanka" in a Native American language, which showed some thought. But most of his act was stale. Exhibit A? Riffing on the Department of Homeland Security color-coded advisory system, for example, is old-hat. So when he said, "When the heightened state of awareness is blue, you don't even need sunscreen," it rang hollow.
Furthermore, if his mother -- a "rural" lady, as he called her -- lived through the ridiculousness of the Cold War's "duck and cover" personal protection plan against Soviet nuclear strikes, I doubt she would be gullible enough to don a helmet at the first sign of a terrorist invasion, as White claimed.
Exhibit B? Every time a joke involved him taking a trip, it began with "I was just in . . ." Germany, London, San Francisco, Houston. The man must get around. White appeared on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" in early November. Many of Saturday's jokes were already part of his act then.
White looked like a cross between David Bowie and Denis Leary, with a gravely voice and measured Texas drawl. He puffed on a cigar all night, which was surprising because New York has a smoking ban. Either the cigar was a tobacco-less prop, he got a waiver or UB's venue isn't subject to the ban. Maybe he just outright flouted it.
Also on his rider must have been a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label scotch, which he swilled continuously during the 90-minute act. Scotch on the rocks and a lit cigar have come to be seen as White's trademark icons, but it's unclear how he wrested these two beloved artifacts away from legions of other comics.
Many male comics preface jokes about their wives or girlfriends by claiming to love them devotedly only to proceed to speak about them in a disrespectful way, and White was no different. For once I'd like to hear a comic put a new spin on this crutch. Peppered throughout his act were the usual riffs on body parts and functions. Yes, yes. Ha, ha.
At times, the night veered off into slightly xenophobic territory. When White suggested people who wear turbans would be better off wearing a John Deere cap when going through airport security, it got one of the night's loudest laughs, which was genuinely surprising and slightly embarrassing.
And two standing ovations, audience? Let's reserve that honor for particularly deserved performances (I doubt a stand-up comic will ever meet that criteria).
Oddly enough, White connected best when he appeared to trip over his words.
For example, he suggested morbidly obese people just keep going "for the record" and he would help by sending peaches . . . er, pizzas.
Later, during a sincere moment when he pledged full support for U.S. troops, he recounted his appearance in Germany at a UFO . . . make that a USO tour.
And, finally, he said opponents of illegal immigration favored building a wall from the Gulf of Mexico to the Specific . . . oops, Pacific Ocean.
Each was followed by a whisky sip, which probably only further exacerbated the problem.
Who knows? Maybe even those bits were planned.
Friday night in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, Amherst.