Dan Whitney on learning the business of show and making Larry the Cable Guy a star

Before Dan Whitney became Larry the Cable Guy, he called up radio stations with what then was an even more popular character or two: Rose and Iris, two little old ladies from Boca Raton, Fla.

He reminisced about his pre-Larry prank calls in a new interview for In Depth with Graham Bensinger, which airs in syndication this weekend.

Let’s go back to West Palm Beach radio in the early 1990s…

At his peak, he figured he had 27 radio stations nationwide in his calling rotation.

“Some I would call three days a week. Some I would call one day a week. Some I’d call two days a week. Some I’d call – did I say five days a week already? Some I’d call five days a week. And it just depended. And I only got paid by four of those radio stations. Because I knew that if I could get on a radio station, I could sell out. I could sell tickets.”

At this point in his career in the 1990s, Whitney’s road gigs included a mix of headliner dates and middle/feature work. He decided eventually to try booking some of them as Larry the Cable Guy instead of as himself. So when he’d do morning radio press for the comedy clubs that week, the local DJs would ask about it, and he was confident it would become a hit for their stations, too. “And I said, you’ll get a sponsor, and it’ll pay for itself. If you want to pay me out of sponsor money, do that. The only thing I ask, if you have me on the show, just promote me at the comedy club. Just let people know I’m coming. So it was a win-win. And it would be a huge radio promotion. It would sell out the week! And THAT’s how it started.”

Whitney told Bensinger he learned a valuable lesson in show business from Jeff Foxworthy: “There’s a show, and there’s a business. There’s a lot of people good at the show, and they’re bad at the business. So if you’re really bad at the business, less people are going to see the show, because you don’t know how to do the business end so people could come see the show.”

And so Whitney reached out, networked, woke up early, made phone calls, and invested money in himself for short-term losses – including the one opportunity to join the Blue Collar Comedy Tour for a night as a try-out in Nashville. All of the years of four hours of sleep a night, all of the work, he said, “it all culminated to that one night in Nashville.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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