(Originally printed in March 23, 2006)
Ask an intelligent, soft-spoken Southerner about the word sum-bitch sometime, and then stand back and watch as he gets all red in the face and starts hollering like Yosemite Sam. Sum-bitch is a word that turns up a lot in movies and TV shows about really stupid Southern folk (typically in dialogue like, “After ah finish ass-rapin’ this hyar city-slicker sum-bitch, I mean to blow the brains out his head with mah boomstick! Yee-haw!”) But it’s a word invented by Hollywood screenwriters, and the only Southerners who say it learned it from the movies. More sophisticated Southerners get really, really tired of everybody assuming that people from the South are all redneck dumbfucks; for these unfortunate souls, the word sum-bitch is an understandable sore point, serving as a harsh reminder of all the stereotypes about the South that they’ve spent a lifetime fighting. It’s sort of similar to the way a little part of your soul withers and dies every time somebody assumes you’re a rich Republican asshole because you grew up behind the dreaded Orange Curtain.
Sum-bitch is fake Southern, an ugly, stupid word cooked up by smug outsiders who hold an entire region of the United States in utter contempt. And thus no word is more appropriate to describe a certain comedian whose movie lands in theaters this week with a wet plop, a comedian whose every utterance is an affront to the American South. He is a cartoon yokel who makes the Dukes of Hazzard look like two dandified wits from the Algonquin Roundtable. He is a tediously offensive redneck caricature, a racist, fat, farting, hillbilly manhog. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Larry the Cable Guy—the Sumbitch King.
Here’s Larry’s nuanced take on the torture at Abu Ghraib: “The only thing we oughta apologize for is for not humiliating more of them back-ass rag fags! Like George Bush shoulda said about apologizing, ‘Kiss my ass!’” When Larry’s not insulting foreigners (or “fer’ners”), he’s insulting “tofu-fartin’ fairies,” “retards,” Bill Clinton (still) and those “commies” in the mainstream media. He worships Reagan, Wal-Mart and the Nuge. He’s convinced “this country pretty much bans the Christian religion,” which he calls “the religion of George Washington and John Wayne.” His endless fart jokes are utterly tedious, but at least they provide some variety from the usual torrent of shit gushing from his mouth. Listening to one of Larry’s monologues is like getting stuck with your bitter, crypto-fascist, drunken uncle for a very long, humid, August afternoon; the AC is busted, and his noxious beer-and-bacon stink hangs thick in the air while he talks and talks and talks and you try to make it to sunset without sticking a fork in his eye. This is not comedy; this is a season in hell.
While Larry is an actual, no-fooling, soulless conservative creep, the drawling, good-ol’-boy persona he’s working is faker than Madonna’s British accent. Born in Nebraska (!) as Dan Whitney, the future Larry attended private school there (!) before moving to Florida at age 16. While his redneck fans are laughing at his contrived yokel shtick and making him an enormously wealthy man, Larry is laughing up his sleeve right back at the schmucks he’s so crudely imitating (or he would be, if he wore sleeves). Larry the Cable Guy is essentially nothing more than Dan Whitney’s crudely painted, trash-talking ventriloquist dummy. Fans hail him as a new Will Rogers, but he’s more like the new Mortimer Snerd.
But despite the reek of sheer evil coming off the guy, Larry is one of the hottest comedians working today. He first hit it big as one of the Blue Collar Comedy swine (he was the “lowbrow” of the bunch, which is sort of like being the Munchkin that the other members of the Lollipop Guild call “Shorty”), and now his solo concert DVDs sell in the millions and he performs to arenas full of fans. And the truly terrifying thing is that people aren’t just laughing at his manufactured, goofy character the way they laugh at, say, Carrot Top; many of them are laughing because they think Larry speaks the truth. Conservatives hail him as a kind of truck-stop prophet, and his words of wisdom are quoted on conservative blogs all over the web. His catchphrase, “Git r done” (easily the most nonsensical and annoying motto since Laugh-In’s “You bet your bippy”), is going to be used as the slogan for the U.S. Air Force. Our freaking government is endorsing this shit, and your tax dollars are going into Git R Done T-shirts and bumper stickers. The Washington Post has gone so far as to term Larry’s fans the Git R Done Nation; here’s hoping a bloody civil war breaks out, as brother turns against brother and they all end up killing each other off just in time for the 2008 election.
There are some comedians out there who have shitty politics but who nonetheless somehow manage to be consistently hilarious (I’m looking at you, South Park boys). And there are plenty more comedians with shitty politics who are just depressing and dull (please go away, Dennis Miller). But Larry the Cable Guy is the only comedian who combines shitty politics and wretchedly unfunny jokes in such a way that every time I see him I find myself wondering if I could take him in a fight. He’s big, sure, but it’s all lazy chub. I’m tall with poky elbows and knees, and growing up a picked-on sissy kid taught me a thing or two about fighting dirty. I abhor violence in all forms, and I’m certainly not threatening Larry the Cable Guy with physical harm. I’m just saying that if it came down to it, I think I could kick his sorry ass until he was crying for his mama. And it’d be so, so sweet.
Larry the Cable Guy can Go T’ Hell.