Ronnie's UK Experience

Ronnie Shirley has hit the UK for his new show, Ronnie's Redneck Road Trip, but we wanted to know what he thought of this British experience...

Ronnie Shirley

Ronnie Shirley

Hi there Ronnie, how are you doing?

I'm old and I'm fat and I'm ugly and I'm good at it. I get better at those three things every day...

Fair enough! Tell us about how Ronnie's Redneck Road Trip came about.

We'd talked over the last year or two about bringing the show over to the UK and we'd always wanted to. But the producer had to talk me into it because I'm a momma's boy. Well, I'm an Amy's boy. I don't like to leave home a whole lot, so it took a little bit of horse pulling, a little bit of cow pushing, a little bit of frog tugging, but I got over there.

Why didn't you want to come to the UK?

I'm country as cornbread. I'm an old country boy. I like to hunt, I like to fish, I like to ride my big mud truck and my four wheelers, I like to talk the way I talk. Anytime I go somewhere and people don't understand me, it's like I need to walk round with a subtitles card. Plus when you look at the UK on a map it just seems so small. I was like "man, there's nothing to see". But you get over there and there's so much beautiful countryside, so many different folk, so much to do, and it's so diverse, I was just blown away. It turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done.

How did the British public take to you?

Well, I've always been different - I don't follow the crowd. So I was expecting a lot of raised eyebrows, finger pointing and talking behind my back. I was prepared for it all. I know I look like a circus freak when it comes to walking down the streets of England! Everybody does kind of turn their head. And the first thing they say is "are you a wrestler?" Or they think I'm an American footballer. They know I'm different, but the Brits are more accepting and more tolerant.

What did you see while you were here?

I went everywhere - I visited the entire country. I was in Dover when the Russian battleships came by past the white cliffs. I was in Edinburgh, Bath, Kent, Malvern, Peterborough, London, Liverpool, Essex. We hit everywhere - north, south, east and west. I got to go to Pinewood studios and see the Millennium Falcon. It was awesome! I also got to go to some castles and some mansions, they were incredible. And I didn't know you dressed up in fancy clothes to go and shoot a bird! Over here we just go to the store and buy a turkey!

What were your wheels like?

Oh ma'am, when I first got there they had me in this thing that was nothing but a matchbox with a rubber band and four wheels. I looked like a monkey trying to hump a football in that car. I couldn't even fit in it. Then they got me this truck and it was pretty cool. But the cars that I saw, oh my god. I drove a prototype Bentley car that was one of only three in the world. It was phenomenal. I mean, how many people in their lifetime will even see that? There were only three made and it was worth about £1.5m. It was in a showroom outside of London and they let me drive it. I wouldn't even get in at first, I stood five feet away. I said "you do realise that you are handing the wheel to a redneck?" And he said "I've got insurance." I said "you won't have insurance if I wreck it!" But he didn't care, he said it was "just a car!"

How did you find driving in the UK?

Learning to drive over there is pretty hard. I'm glad British people are a lot nicer, because they had to be real patient and tolerant with me. The one way streets I went down, driving on the wrong side of the road. And man, I would hate to see all those reports before I figured out y'all had speed cameras! I didn't know what those lights were that kept flashing my car. When I come back over I'm probably going to have to do a whole lot of wining and dining. Luckily people are more tolerant - as long as you don't pass them on the left shoulder! I soon learned that is not a good thing to do...

Did your bad driving get you into trouble?

They give you this little rulebook, but they don't tell you the rules that matter. Like the first seven days I was there, I'm going up and down your interstates, just weaving in and out of traffic. Because in the US you can pass on any side of the road. I didn't know you couldn't do that, so I'm passing people on either side and even on the shoulder of the road! And I can't figure out why people keep flipping me off and cussing me out! I didn't do nothing! Finally a cop pulls me over, after I'd passed him on the hard shoulder on the left side, and he is just raising Cain and going furious. But then he sees me and recognises the show and says "oh, you're Repo Ron!" He was the nicest cop, and he spent about 20 minutes teaching me all the driving rules, while I was like "bo, I am so sorry, I did not know." So once I learned all the rules, it was pretty good.

What other differences did you find?

The food. The first four or five weeks I was over there, I think I lost 20 pounds! I'm telling you, I couldn't find anything I wanted to eat and I was starving! Y'all don't use a lot of fake stuff. Over here the food is gonna be deep fried, it's gonna have flour, it's not gonna be good for you, it's gonna have steroids in it. Over there, everything is like fresh and real. But then it did get where I actually loved the food. I started eating pie and mash, fish and chips, proper pub grub and in the end I loved it! And I found out what peri peri was and brought some of that sauce home.

Which British dishes didn't you like?

Well I did upset this dude in a restaurant and he ended up naming a dish after me. He brought me some Yorkshire pudding and I tasted it and said "bo, this has got about as much taste as a piece of cotton." I ended up putting two scoops of ice cream, and some honey and syrup on it and he said "Have you lost your bloody mind?" But I told him to try it and after that he said "Bo, I'm liable to put that on the menu as Repo Ron's pudding!" You just gotta take a little bit of redneck and mix it with a little bit of British. Although I bet those folks in Yorktown are going to be upset... I didn't like black pudding either. That stuff would gag a maggot! When that thing hit my mouth, I felt like Lindsay Lohan at a non-alcoholic bar.

What about the pubs?

Well I don't really drink, I quit a long time ago. And I only really used to drink moonshine. This guy in a pub wanted me to try a beer, but man it tasted like mule piss with the foam farted off. It was the nastiest thing. And I'm like "Bo, how do you all drink warm beer?" No way, beer's got to be cold.

Was there anything about life in the UK that surprised you?

The thing that took me so off guard was your police. I parked up and these coppers came up to me and I was getting ready to have my head knocked up, or handcuffs put on, stay in jail two days. But they just started talking and I noticed didn't one of them have a gun, or a bat, nothing. I'm like "Are y'all traffic cops?" and they started laughing and said "no, we don't pack guns" and I'm like "Whaat?" You're telling me y'all don't carry guns as police officers? Whoa - I need to move here! This place is a whole lot safer than home! I love America, I do. But that was the first time I could walk through a big city late at night and not worry about getting jumped, or getting into a fight, not look over my shoulder every thirty seconds.

So you didn't have any trouble?

I got into a big argument with some cabbies and I ran into a couple of people who thought Americans are brash and rude, which we probably are. But when we get into an argument at home, you say about three words and then you either fight or you shut up. We ain't got time to slap jaws! But over there, they shout and yell but they never fight. I liked it! All they are going to do is yell and scream and cuss and I ain't gonna get punched or nothing! That was the cool part - you could say what you wanted and people might get upset, but you're not gonna get smacked on the side of the head with a beer bottle!

Although in the first episode, you did have an aristocrat come at you with a gun...

Well, yeah! I guess over there, guns are not common place. But over here, everybody over here in the south - when you put on your underwear, you put on your gun. So it didn't really worry me. I mean, it catches you off guard - if you say you're not scared of a gun you're as lost as a cow on Astroturf! But that dude was harmless, he was all talk. I learned a long time ago that if you're gonna act like a bull in a china shop, you'd better come out and break something. Because if you don't break nothing then everybody knows you're just a cow.

What did you miss the most while you were in the UK?

My family, definitely. I was real homesick and I nearly left about four times. I might be a big old guy tough as Tarzan, but I'm a home boy and I missed my kids and my wife. When Amy came over to join me, I cried - I ain't gonna lie, I missed her so much. Although it only took her about 48 hours for her to get back to regular Amy and start running things! Amy runs things. It's like this - Amy wears the pants in the family, I give them to her and let her put them on.

You might moan, but we know you love her really.

Everybody says "hey Ronnie, how long you been with Amy?" and I say "too long!" I wouldn't trade my wife for nothing less than $2.5m. That's enough money for me to never do nothing again, except sit on the bank of a river and fish. I might be crying, but I could wipe my tears with a dollar bill. No, I'm joking. Amy saved me. She holds the ropes and balances me out. I'll be honest with you - if she ever left me, I'd be lost as Joey Essex at a spelling bee!

Your Ronisms have become quite famous - how do you come up with them?

It's not something I try to do - it's just the way I talk. And the reason I use them is because of what I do. When you do repossessions and you've got a guy running at you that's six foot five and 325 pounds of macaroni and cheese and gun, you've got to control the situation. And the best way to control any volatile situation is to make somebody smile. So if a guy is running at you getting ready to beat you down and you come out with something crazy, then he starts laughing and all of a sudden that situation goes from tense to "hey, let's talk."

Did you pick up any British lingo?

When I was in the UK, I got to where I was using all kinds of your lingo because I was living in the culture. One phrase I definitely brought back home was "Spot on!" I can't quit saying it! Amy absolutely hates it, but I can't stop saying "Spot on, bo!"

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