Comedian Ron White, who's best known for drinking scotch and smoking cigars on stage, performs at the Palace Theatre on Jan. 17. We asked White, aka Tater Salad, about the secret to telling a good yarn.

Comedian Ron White, who's best known for drinking scotch and smoking cigars on stage, performs at the Palace Theatre on Jan. 17. We asked White, aka Tater Salad, about the secret to telling a good yarn.capa.com

"When I was, like, 5 years old, I told a knock-knock joke that murdered. That's my earliest recollection of getting a laugh. It was something I had heard and just repeated in front of my parents and their friends. I didn't even know what it meant, but boy, they just howled."

"I think Southerners are good storytellers, because they talk slow. I was always a good storyteller, even before I did stand-up. If I told a story about a car wreck, my version would be funny."

"Some of [my material] happens to be true. But I put no emphasis on the truth whatsoever. If I can find a way to lie and make it funnier, that's my only obligation, to make you laugh. I'm a fantastic liar."

"I'll get the basic idea, and I'll just go try it on stage. I never write it down. In 27 years, I don't have a single note. We spend most of our time on a tour bus. That's where it all gets written, just bobbin' down the road.

I'm really not sure what makes me be able to do it. It's just the way my mind works. I'm just really left-brained and have ADD, and [my brain] processes information in a funny way. But I am a one-trick pony. What I can do is process words and make 'em funny."

"There's keys to tellin' stories. No. 1: Make sure the person you're telling it to wants to hear it. Make sure the person you're talking to knows the person the story's about. And if you're explaining something to somebody, make sure they asked you to explain it."

"You have to be true to your nature. That's true with every major comedian, whether it's Cosby, Pryor or Carlin. That's who they were. My nature is a little wilder. When young comics ask me for advice, I tell 'em, 'Be who you are'. That's what's interesting. That's what's funny."