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Waltrip Serious About Career As A Comedian

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 9 2011

NASCAR team-owner/driver Michael Waltrip is getting serious about stand-up comedy. (Photo courtesy of Michael Waltrip Racing)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Epiphanies come in all shapes and sizes. Michael Waltrip had a moment of sudden comprehension about one aspect of his life just after he decided to get serious about one of his long-time passions.

“I’ve learned something very valuable during this process,” the two-time winner of the Daytona500 said during a telephone conversation last week, “and that is I’m not funny on purpose. I’m funny accidently.”

And that, he said, will have to change if  “this process” is going to move forward.

The process is that of becoming a stand-up comedian. A professional comedian. A gag man. Waltrip, a part time NASCAR driver and full time owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, wants to join the ranks of Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman.

But seriously folks, Waltrip later this month will launch a comedy tour: Michael Waltrip’s Comedy Garage. It’s first show will be in Kansas City on Jan. 21. It will feature pro comedians Henry Cho and John Reep.

“Henry’s an Asian dude from Knoxville, Tennessee so he looks like an Asian dude but he sounds like me,” Waltrip said. “John Reep, the guy from the Dodge Hemi commercials – ‘That thing got a Hemi in it? – is that dude.”

Waltrip will take the microphone to introduce the acts, tell some stories and attempt to be

Michael Waltrip at his day job. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

funny himself.

Moving from stock cars to schtick is not a non sequitur for Waltrip. As faux comedian of SCTV Bobby Bittman would say: In all seriousness as a comedian, Waltrip has alway been interested making people laugh.

“For always I have just been a big fan of standup comedians,” Waltrip said.

So big, that when he gets to cities to do his day job at race tracks, Waltrip would go – still does go –on line to look for comedy acts appearing in the area.

“I’ve been to a hundred different comedy shows,” the 47-year-old driver/owner/television analyst/comic said. “It’s something that if I got some spare time, and one of them are near, I’m going to go out and check out a good comedy show.”

Favorite comedians include the late Mitch Hedberg, Ron White, Chris Rock and Larry the Cable Guy.

All those guys have what Waltrip wants. No, not a Sprint Cup championship (What is this, an audience or an oil painting?). They have the ability to be funny on purpose.

“If you describe the definition of stand-up comedian, they have to be funny on purpose. It’s why they’re there. I’m trying to work on being funny on purpose,” Waltrip said.

The toe went into the water in Roanke, Va. last year. Waltrip threw a show together with Reep and Tim Wilson and about a thousand people turned out to watch.

“It was a great night,” Waltrip said. “Everybody had fun and laughed hard and so we decided to try some more.”

Waltrip said his first trip to the stage was scary.

Michael Waltrip has always been a favorite of race fans. (Photo by Marc Serota / Getty Images for NASCAR)

“I practiced, man. I had some stuff I wanted to say and some stories I wanted to tell and some things we made up and you get up there and it’s really difficult to do what those guys do,” he said. “It’s amazing how important timing is and just being able to feel the crowd out and know when to deliver the funny line.”

But, Waltrip said, “I can’t wait to get to Kansas City. The first time, I was a nervous wreck. The second time wasn’t a whole lot better but the flow felt better, it felt like I was more comfortable with what I was doing. So now, I’m to the point where I’m really looking forward to getting to Kansas City and doing it again.”

Waltrip says he is writing some of his own gags and also working with establish comedians as he develops his material.

The worst nightmare of drivers today is the sight of Brad Keselowski on their bumper. For comics, the worst is “bombing” on stage.

Waltrip says he has not gone atomic in that area yet and really doesn’t fear the time that it does happen.

“The first two shows there wasn’t really a moment of bombing,” he said. “If there was, I made

Apparently NASCAR president Mike Helton is not getting the joke. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

a joke about it by grabbing a piece of paper and saying, ‘Well, OK, that didn’t work, scratch that one out. I’m new at this, you know.’ Just make fun of myself a little bit and I got on throufg it.

“But the best thing I have going for me is if I am up there for a couple of minutes and it doesn’t go well, I say, ‘ Hey, guess what? I got a great comedian here for you, Henry Cho or John Reep.’ So, not a lot of pressure on me other than to just get those guys on stage and when they’re done, we all three get back on stage and tell stories about racing or comedy and maybe take some questions from the crowd. We kind of make it a casual ending.”

The second worst nightmare for stand-up comics is heckling.

Any of that yet? Sure, but that bounces right on off of Waltrip.

“You don’t lose as many races in a row as I did an not have to listen to some crap from people every now and then so I know how to handle that,” Waltrip said.

Asked his favorite joke, Waltrip said come see the show.

After the Kansas City show, the tour will head to Windsor, Ontario on Jan. 22.

From there, shows are scheduled for Las Vegas on the weekend of the NASCAR weekend on March 5 and 6.

So, take his act…please.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 9 2011


  • ANM says:

    An interesting insight into auto racing 2011.

  • Rose Graham says:

    Why doesn’t this character just go away? I can’t stand to listen to him as a race commentator on TV either. His ego is off the charts. At best he was a mid pack driver for 95% of all the races he was in. If Earnhardt Sr. hadn’t given him a ride he would have been out of racing 10 years ago. Please, “Mikey”…go back to your farm and ride your horses.

  • Steveo says:

    If it means him getting off of my TV screen, I’m all for him becoming a comedian!!!

  • Terry says:

    HENRY CHO……..HE’S FUNNY!!!!!

  • John says:

    Mikey should do very well has a comic as his entire racing career was a joke.

  • Ron says:

    It’s amazing to me. All of the MW haters seem to pop up anytime his name appears in print. You all blast his career results, which I’m pretty sure includes more Cup wins than all of you combined, and totally miss what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to have a little fun and to do something that is outside of his comfort-zone. I’ve not seen his show, but given who he’s teamed up with, at the very least, two-thirds of the show will definitely be good and the rest has a 50-50 shot at it. I guess all I’m saying is: “Suck it up cupcakes! He has the opportunity to try new things and he’s taking a shot at it.”

  • headstone says:

    he’s ‘funny” …but not in the comic way

  • RichieFor20 says:

    Why doesn’t this character just go away? I can’t stand to listen to him as a race commentator on TV either. His ego is off the charts. At best he was a mid pack driver for 95% of all the races he was in. If Earnhardt Sr. hadn’t given him a ride he would have been out of racing 10 years ago. Please, “Mikey”…go back to your farm and ride your horses.

  • ddsbstrb says:

    I thought when POS tried to get that “Sponsifier-ride” into the Sonoma-race, was his attempt at…..”comedy”?

    I really think his entire racing career is pretty……comical, especially his meager results in all of his Cup attempts.


  • Wayne says:

    This guy is too much. Nothing worse than someone who thinks their funny, and is not funny at all.He ruins the truck race broadcasts with his attempt at whit, wisdom, and humor. I wish he would disappear from TV and do his job as an owner.

  • Terry says:

    My first reaction was ” he’s more ELLEN than Red Skelton “…..
    But to be more AUX CURRATE’…….
    ” he is a Jeff Dunham dummy without Jeff..”
    and when he still tries to drive ….he is not funny…