With an hour to go in an eBay auction (bidding on a Grammy that was awarded to the ‘80s band Wang Chung), Dan Whitney a.k.a Larry the Cable Guy sat down with me to discuss Pixar’s Cars 2 in which he voices the dopey, yet big-hearted, tow truck Mater. I didn’t know what to expect from the “Blue Collar” comic going in, and was pleased to see he’s a lot more like his cartoon counterpart than his alter ego Larry. He’s friendly, relaxed, easy-going, and very comfortable talking about anything and everything. Read our Q&A below.
Brian McKechnie: How did a raunchy stand-up become the voice of one of the most beloved Disney-Pixar characters?
Larry the Cable Guy: [Cars director John Lasseter] heard my voice and said “That’s the voice of the tow truck, I like that voice”. And that’s how I got it. Turned out to be great. I never thought I would be doing a Disney movie. It’s funny that I get questions like this because [Eddie Murphy] never gets questions like this and he was a hundred times filthier than I’ll ever be on stage. And I never picked up transvestites in a park.
BM: Do you feel you’re more like Mater or Larry?
LTCG: It’s not hard to play Mater. My wife says Mater is Larry the Cable Guy’s voice but Dan Whitney is Mater. I’m not like Larry. When I first created Larry all he did was go to bars and drink beer. I’m not a big beer-drinking guy or a party animal at all. When it comes to other things, I’m kind of the same though.
BM: Do you prepare differently when doing voice work as opposed to stand-up or live-action films and TV?
LTCG: Not really. I don’t take things too seriously. I’m an entertainer and my job is to entertain people and make people laugh. When it came time to do voice work I had never done it before and I was nervous. By the third or fourth line I told John I wouldn’t say it the way it was written and he told me to say it how I wanted to say it. That made me feel very comfortable and I just read it how I would normally say something in a regular conversation. It worked out great and from that point on it was easy to do it.
BM: Was it any different doing Cars 2, where Mater has more screen time?
LTCG: The hardest for me is that there is a different range of emotions for Mater in this movie. The first movie he was there to be funny and that was easy to do. This time it was Mater gets angry and Mater gets sad and emotional. Those were hard.
BM: Were you surprised that Mater is now the star of the movie?
LTCG: John really fell in love with Mater and really likes Mater and what he stands for. And he stands for good things. Mater is not the kind of guy who judges anybody. He sees the vehicle for what the vehicle is, and if the vehicle is nice he wants to be their friend. That’s how John is. That’s how I am. That’s why we work so well together. But I knew something was up ever since the first movie. Mater was the comedy of that movie, and the heart and soul of that movie. Then we did the Mater Tales and they weren’t doing “McQueen Tales”.
BM: Is it weird having children as fans now?
LTCG: Ever since I had my own kids I’ve been gearing myself more towards kids. Kids change what you do. You’re more focused on kids than you are you, basically. Before it was all about me and it’s not now. It’s cool to be able to do something they can go see, or that their kids will be able to see. Plus it helps me do other projects I normally wouldn’t do. I just finished filming Tooth Fairy 2. I never ever thought I’d concentrate my stuff on that and it’s a lot of fun. But I also enjoy doing my show. I’m a parent and I get sick of seeing kids [crap] 24 hours a day. Sometimes I like to be an adult and do adult stuff and that’s where my other act comes in.
BM: With Disneyland opening the Cars 2 theme park next year do you get involved with stuff like that?
LTCG: Oh yeah! I do all the voices. When they’re doing voices for Mater I’m doing the voices. I’m Mater and I don’t want anyone else to do it. Anything that has Mater on it is really cool cause it’s me. Being able to say I did all the Mater voices is awesome.
BM: When is your next stand-up tour and are you planning on bringing it back to Canada?
LTCG: I’m constantly on tour. I tour from January to December with only one month off. I’m always working. I come to Canada all the time. Just did Casino Rama. Canada has been real good to me and I have a blast up here.
Cars 2 hits theatres June 24. Check out a clip of Mater below.
Top image: Mater and Finn McMissile in Cars 2. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/Pixar.