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Comedy for a cause: Ron White on 'Salute to the Troops' and dining in Las Vegas

Audiences are used to having a good laugh at The Mirage thanks to the resort’s popular Aces of Comedy series, but it’s not every day ticket holders can enjoy a night of great stand-up comedy for a cause.

Ron White will host "Ron White's Comedy Salute to the Troops" Feb. 19 at The Mirage.
Ron White will host "Ron White's Comedy Salute to the Troops" Feb. 19 at The Mirage.
MGM Resorts International
"Ron White's Comedy Salute to the Troops" takes place Wed., Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. inside The Mirage
"Ron White's Comedy Salute to the Troops" takes place Wed., Feb. 19, at 8 p.m. inside The Mirage
MGM Resorts International

On Feb. 19, The Mirage will once again host Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops” to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation. The sixth annual event, which will be recorded in front of a live audience and air on Country Music Television at a later date, features an all-star lineup of some of comedy’s biggest names, including the man behind the benefit, Ron White.

“I’ll do a set and I’ll host,” White told Examiner.com when asked about the event. “It will be a really fun night. We’ve got Gabriel Iglesias, Kathleen Madigan, Geechy Guy, Josh Blue, Roy Wood Jr.—it’ll be a hoot. It will be special for the crowd, too, as most people don’t get the chance to see a television show being made. Really, this is one of the funnest gigs I get to do, plus it raises awareness for posttraumatic stress disorder.”

Best known as the cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking funnyman from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, the Navy veteran said he first got the idea for the benefit after talking to some soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., with his fellow Blue Collar Comedy boys.

“There was this one guy who held his 2-year-old with the only limb he had left and I just cried like a baby,” White recalled. “I knew there had to be something I could do to help.”

What initially began as a barbecue for wounded troop members at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and an annual comedy show at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., quickly grew into something more, though, when CMT joined forces with White to help bring awareness to the cause. The benefit then moved to the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville for a couple of years before settling in at the Terry Fator Theatre inside The Mirage.

“Vegas seemed like such an easy fit,” the recurring Aces of Comedy performer said. “My relationship with The Mirage is strong, so they let me do whatever I want. They even gave me the room for the night, which is sweet. The Terry Fator Theatre is the perfect size for something like this, and the set-up is perfect with the backdrop and acoustics.”

Even though The Mirage and CMT may support the benefit, White said that he has complete control over the show and “doesn’t take suggestions” when it comes to who should be performing.

“I might be a one-trick pony,” he said, ‘but I’m a comedy expert. This is my show. I know what I’m doing.”

While White generally gets who he wants to perform at the benefit, there have been some people—like fellow Aces of Comedy performer Jim Gaffigan—who haven’t been able to attend due to previous engagements. When asked if he ever asked his fellow Blue Collar Comedy comics—Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy—to perform, White admitted that he had, but that they sadly “couldn’t work out the dates.”

“They all have their own philanthropic endeavors, too,” White noted. “I really wish they would do it, though; it would be huge.”

Given that the show takes place on a weekday, White depends largely on locals to fill up the seats, unlike his weekend Aces of Comedy appearances which typically sell out. Like his Aces of Comedy performance dates, though, White does host a meet and greet with fans for those who purchase the “200 Proof” VIP Experience package, which includes priority seating in the first five rows, an autographed copy of White’s newest DVD, A Little Unprofessional, and a complimentary photo.

“I make sure fans get something out of it,” White said. “I tell some jokes and they get a photo. Usually they’re too shy to ask me any questions—they think of them later. They just want to love on me, which is fine.”

The funnyman is used to having fans love on him, especially when he’s out in public.

“I always get, ‘I would never dream of interrupting you while you’re eating, but could you talk to my wife who’s on the phone?’” White said. “Or, ‘I would never dream of interrupting you during dinner, but there’s a busload of crippled kids outside…’ Oh, really? You’d never dream of interrupting me? But I get it’s probably their only chance to love on me, so I won’t tell them to F-off. I generally just ask they don’t do it when I’m eating with my family.”

Given how often White performs at The Mirage (in addition to his “Comedy Salute to the Troops” date, White also performs Feb. 14 and 15 and returns in March, May, July, August, October and December), it was only natural to ask him if he had any favorite restaurants in town he likes to visit.

“There’s this Thai place off-Strip, Lotus of Siam, that’s just off the charts,” White replied. “I also love Japonais inside The Mirage. There’s this tapas place at ARIA (Julian Serrano) I go to almost every time I’m in town, too; they have these great stuffed peppers with cheese (the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with goat cheese and mushrooms).”

When asked if he had any guilty food pleasures, the comedian known to millions as Tater Salad cited sweet potato fries as one of the reasons he’s in a “constant war with his weight,” though Las Vegas’ many retail centers tend to help White out whenever he’s in town.

“The number one thing I like to do when I’m in Las Vegas is shop because even if you’re 30—okay, 40—pounds overweight, you can still find clothes,” he said.

Even though White may be one of the most popular comedians touring today, unlike most successful stand-up comics, fans generally won’t find him on TV or acting in any films.

“Comedy was never a means to an end for me—it was my chosen path,” he stated. “I’m not a TV person. I don’t do talk shows. My popularity came about in sort of a grassroots way, and I’m very lucky I’ve been able to sustain it throughout my career. My fans are so good to me that I don’t need to do anything else. I was just asked to do Horrible Bosses 2, actually, but I wouldn’t do it because I would have had to cancel a performance date. Once my tickets are on sale, they’re on sale.”

While that makes seeing White during the television broadcast of “Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops” all the more special, nothing beats attending the event in person.

“You get six Vegas headliners in one show, plus you’re supporting an important cause,” White said. “Come for the entertainment and let [supporting the Armed Forces Foundation] be a by-product of that. Or do it the other way around, I don’t care. Just come.”

“Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops” tapes Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. inside The Mirage. Tickets are priced at $79.99, $99.99 and $109.99, plus services charges. For an additional $89, guests can upgrade their seats to the aforementioned “200 Proof” VIP Experience. For tickets, call 702-791-7111 or simply click here.

Ron White also performs as part of The Mirage’s Aces of Comedy lineup Feb. 14-15, March 7-8, May 24-25, July 4-5, Aug. 1-2 and 30-31, Oct. 24-25 and Dec. 5-6 and 12-13. Show times are at 10 p.m. Tickets cost $59.99, $69.99 and $81.95, plus tax and a service fee. To reserve your seats, call 702-792-7777.