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Guffaw Guys

Ron White is onstage now. If Engvall and Foxworthy are family friendly, White and Larry are rougher around the edges.

Foxworthy talks a lot about his daughters and living in a house filled with women. It's PG-rated. About as out-there as Foxworthy gets is something like "If you can't remember the last woman you had sex with, you're married." White's shtick is to drink scotch and smoke onstage, Dean Martin as Southern Man. White plays the Mississippi casino drunk to Larry's Jiffy Lube attendant.

From left, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy, whose (Matthew Staver For The Washington Post)

There is a kind of oldness to the newness of redneck comedy that helps reel in audiences. "I don't think pop culture passed these people by. I think they know all about it and reject it," Larry says. "These are ordinary people and they're sick of being preached at by comedians who act smarter than them. They don't agree with them and they don't like their attitudes."

A makeup artist comes in to dust Larry's face with powder. "There ain't much to work with, is there?" says road manager McComb.

When he began his career as a comic, Larry was trying out different personas. "Before I used this sarcastic New York-type attitude," he says. He did his routine in Brooklynese. Gawd, that must have been awful. "It wasn't working," Larry says. "Then I had this goofy pratfall attitude." That didn't catch fire either.

But in the early 1990s, he got a gig calling into morning drive-time radio shows, impersonating a reactionary redneck ("What the hell is this, Russia?"), doing know-nothing political commentary. He'd phone in, do his three minutes and hang up. He'd call in from airports, cruise ships, car phones and once, from the back of a horse.

Today, he still performs this bit on 23 radio stations. Larry didn't actually become the Cable Guy full time until 1995. "I changed into Larry the Cable Guy and I found out I like this dude. This is more me." And now Larry has taken over Dan Whitney; together they have bought a big spread in Sanford, Fla., got a fine-looking girlfriend who wears jeans and cowgirl hats, and money in the bank.

It's time for the Cable Guy to take the stage. Foxworthy introduces Larry by saying, "We've reached that part of our show where we want everybody to feel better about their own families."

The audience loves it. All of it. The jokes about getting a vasectomy at Sears ("Every time I hit the garage door opener I get an erection"), the 10th-grader who has sex with his teacher ("and he was home-schooled"), how he had been living with a girl for eight months ("until she found me").

Jokes about NASCAR, "Walker, Texas Ranger," feminine hygiene products. At one point, a fan in the rafters shouts out, "I loooove you, Larry!" And the audience smashes its palms together in support.

Then, a beat, and Larry yells back, "I told you to wait in the truck!"

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