If Rodney Dangerfield wanted to truly feel what it's like to get no respect, he should have tried blue-collar comedy.
Just ask Ron White and Kathleen Madigan, who performed separately this past weekend at Treasure Island Casino in Red Wing.
Despite decades of success, neither comedian is ever going to get invited to host the Academy Awards. They're too busy satisfying legions of fans to care.
Some think blue-collar comedians are only speaking to conservatives and trailer-park residents. That's not even close to describing their appeal. The best at the form assume their audience prefers beer to cappuccinos, whose idea of a family vacation is a visit to grandma's house on the Iron Range. They're everyday people who you just might spot at the blackjack table after the show.
That one-of-you persona has become a harder role for White to play. Thanks to the success of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, the 65-year-old was able to buy his own plane. He plays golf with his good buddy, Joe Rogan.
But White did his best Friday to maintain his working-class image. He didn't smoke during his 70-minute performance but he popped an unlit cigar in his mouth as the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" signaled the end of his show. He appeared to be sipping tequila but the bottle was actually filled with sweet tea.
Wearing a black suit and sporting long, white hair that made him look almost biblical, White leaned heavily on material about his more rebellious past — pretending to be handicapped to get a primo seat at a Super Bowl, sneaking into a drive-in theater that screened adult movies and getting arrested for fighting with a bar bouncer.
White, unlike Blue Collar Tour ringleader Jeff Foxworthy — he's at Mystic Lake Casino on Dec. 1 — isn't afraid to get dirty. The crowd roared at a bit about how he once stepped into a discarded, but full, baby diaper. After a nasty joke about Bill Cosby, you could hear some gasps in the audience. But that didn't stop White from practically taking a bow.
For the most part, his performance felt like a nostalgia act — and with good reason. White confirmed that he's retiring from touring at the end of the year.
"About time to put it down," he said in his gravelly voice as the sold-out crowd rose to its feet. "You've made it quite a ride."
Madigan, 57, is only eight years younger but she has the energy of a teenager. She was lively, even as she appeared to be battling a cold.
Dressed in a simple T-shirt and jeans Saturday, she seemed more genuinely in touch with her fans than White, sharing how she spent the afternoon at the casino by taking a walk during which she spotted a pair of bald eagles. Through a series of insightful jokes, she mentioned that she shops at Lowe's Home Improvement, likes ice fishing, eats at Taco Bell, and is addicted to the Weather Channel.
She poked fun at a wine-snob friend who tried to order something fancy at a dive bar in Tennessee.
Her idea of political humor included digs at Alabama's governor, Kay Ivey, and Iowa's Sen. Chuck Grassley. She volunteered to help take care of President Joe Biden by standing just offstage when he speaks, tossing tennis balls at him whenever he starts to ramble. Age jokes are not very original but they're not about to rattle anyone.
At the end of her 70-minute show, she took a moment to salute Minnesota's Louie Anderson, who died in January, acknowledging that one of his sisters was in the audience.
"He was so Midwest," the Missouri native said as the screens showed a picture of the two stand-ups together. "I get Midwest."
And we get her.