texasmonthly.com: What is the funniest thing you’ve ever heard Willie say?
Bill Wittliff: I couldn’t repeat it.
Bud Shrake: Once, a woman wrote in some tabloid that she had become engaged in a wild love affair with Willie Nelson, and that they made love twenty four hours a day for days on end. Willie told me, “That’s the first thing these tabloids have ever written about me that was true.”
Turk Pipkin: For starters, his funniest lines are all in the book and copyrighted so as to keep them from getting any more laughs . . . which leaves me to write something I’ve heard him say several times and which always makes me laugh. Down a hole or two in an important golf game, Willie says, “I press you for a million pesos: double on birdies!” If that’s not funny enough, he generally wins the press, which he seems to think is pretty funny too.
texasmonthly.com: What is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen Willie do?
BS: This probably isn’t the funniest, but Willie sometimes enjoys driving his Mercedes down his golf course.
TP: One of Willie’s favorite gags was to take newcomers at this golf course on a full-speed golf cart drive toward a large, low-hanging oak limb that looks like it will decapitate both the roof of the cart and any passenger taller than Willie. Willie, of course, had the advantage of knowing the limb is exactly one eighth of an inch taller than his cart. Taken for this ride, legendary sports journalist Bob Drum’s response was something like, “Holyshitdogcrap!” which caused the rest of our group to pretty much fall out of our own carts laughing. Unfortunately, a new course maintenance guy cut the limb down a couple of years ago. Apparently, he thought it looked like it might get hit by the top of someone’s cart.
BW: One night Willie and I rode horses into a saloon. It was a raucous night. At the bar later on, somebody threw a string of firecrackers on the floor. Willie grabbed the hand of a woman nearby and started doing the jitterbug.
texasmonthly.com: Can you remember an embarrassing moment for Willie that you can look back on and laugh about now?
BS: One time, while Willie was performing in Vegas, he could not figure out why the entire audience was laughing at him. It turns out that the stage was rigged for Peter Pan, and Bee Spears, Willie’s guitar player, was flying around on the stage right behind him.
BW: He forgot the words to “Whiskey River” one time onstage. But I don’t think Willie really gets embarrassed.
TP: If Willie suddenly experienced a total mind fart and accidentally walked onstage pantless in front of a group of former and current first ladies and their nun chaperones, he’d probably be more amused than embarrassed. Embarrassment isn’t in his emotional vocabulary because that would imply regret, and I think Willie looks at past screw-ups as things he’s learned from, not as anything to regret. Now if one of his pals were to walk onstage pantless, he’d be the last to point it out and the first to laugh his ass off.
texasmonthly.com: Do you have a favorite line from a Willie song that makes you chuckle whenever you hear it?
BS: One of Willie’s songs is named “There’s Nothing I Can Do About It Now.” I always thought I’d like to put that on my tombstone.
BW: I love the line from “Red Headed Stranger” that goes, “You can’t hang a man/For killing a woman/Who’s trying to steal your horse.” In the film Red Headed Stranger Willie actually shoots that woman and then walks up to her and calls her “horse thief.”
TP: Only Willie could think that it’s “funny how time slips away,” but my memory is not of a funny line but how he delivered it. Singing a duet with his pal Kris Kristofferson, Willie looked Kris in the eyes and sang, “I’ll always love you, in my own peculiar way,” and Kris pretty much fell off his stool laughing. The common thread in all these stories seems to be falling off of or onto your ass, and that doesn’t come from material, it comes from a love of the joke.