It’s a little like CBS News’ classic “On the Road” segments. If Charles Kuralt had been kicked in the head by a mule.
“Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy” (9 p.m. Tuesdays, History) finds the “Git-R-Done” comedian, well, on the road, looking for interesting people with stories to tell.
“I was just out to prove that America is the greatest country on the face of the Earth,” says the comic known to his family and friends as Dan Whitney, “and show what a great culture we have and what great people we have.”
And, like any Great American Road Trip, those roads eventually led to Las Vegas, which always has held a special place in Whitney’s heart.
“When I was a kid, the first thing I always thought of about bein’ famous and stuff was Vegas and workin’ the casinos in Vegas,” he says. “It’s such a great part of our history.”
Whitney and the “Only in America” crew spent four days in the valley looking for, as he says in an upcoming episode, “the crazy stuff Vegas does other than keep Wayne Newton alive.”
He uncovered enough of that for four segments: skating with the Sin City Roller Girls (airing March 22), working security at a casino (March 29), officiating at a wedding chapel (Tuesday) and, in an inspired bit, impersonating himself at Harrah’s Las Vegas’ “Legends in Concert” (March 8).
“It was a lot older crowd, and some of the jokes fell flat,” Whitney says of his “Legends” gig. “And I literally, at one point in the thing, I went, ‘Sheesh, this comedy ain’t easy.’ ”
He laughs easily while talking about his seeming inability to be himself. Whitney says he didn’t change a thing about his timing or his delivery and notes that two days earlier he played to a crowd of 5,300. “And it killed,” he adds. “And I go up in front of this crowd, impersonating myself, with the exact same routine for seven minutes — nothin’.”
Whitney had creative license to choose subjects for “Only in America,” and that led him to the eye-in-the-sky security detail at the South Point.
“I wanted to do stuff that I thought was interesting to me, ’cause I feel like I’m a pretty normal dude, you know,” he says, hopefully referring to himself and not his slow-witted, farts-and-pygmies-obsessed alter-ego. “And there’s a lot of stuff I find interesting and have questions about, and one of them was that.”
But unless he’d stumbled into Charlie Sheen’s favorite suite at the Palms, it’s hard to imagine getting more interesting than working the drive-thru at A Little White Wedding Chapel. After all, it’s a rare breed of person who, even on his most special of days, can’t be bothered to look for a parking space.
“You know what? It’s like those commercials where you see the girls in the pajamas pushin’ that college,” Whitney says. “You know, you can go to college in your pajamas right from your house. Well, look, if you don’t have enough gumption to get out of bed, I don’t think a college degree is really gonna help you much. It’s like these guys. Look, if you can’t even get out of your truck to get married, I don’t think this is gonna last that long.”
The series, though, isn’t all fun and games for the comedian. “Only in America” offers Larry the Cable Guy fans the rare chance to peek behind the frayed, flannel curtain and see Dan Whitney.
“This is the first thing I’ve ever done where I can be myself if I wanna be,” he says with a sense of pride. His appearances on the series mimic his offstage life in the way he moves in and out of his larger-than-life character. “I’m Larry the Cable Guy when I need to be or when people want me to be. Then if they come up and talk to me, you know, I’m pretty much myself.”
Whitney says one of the best examples of this can be found in the wedding chapel scenes. When most couples would drive up, “I got to harass ’em a little bit,” he says. But then, a sweet older couple came to renew their vows.
“Obviously, I’m not gonna be Larry the Cable Guy. I mean, it was a very nice moment, and that’s when Dan comes out and you see myself.
“And then once it’s all over, then it’s like” — he breaks out the familiar raspy, backwoods dialect that’s made Larry the patron saint of rednecks everywhere — “ ’Hey, let’s go get some champagne and woooo-hoooo!’ ”
Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com.ELSEWHERE
“American Idol’s” Las Vegas round, which featured contestants performing on the “Love” stage at The Mirage, airs Wednesday (8 p.m., KVVU-TV, Channel 5).