March 10, 2008 12:00 PM

There are a few things that Larry the Cable Guy doesn’t want you to know. (No, the fact that his first name is actually Dan—Larry is his middle name, and he’ll answer to either—is not one of them.) For starters, there’s his wife Cara’s cooking. Although he likes to joke about it onstage, she’s actually “an awesome cook,” he says. “But it’s funnier if I say her meatloaf should be on Fear Factor.” And when it comes to his son Wyatt, 19 months, and daughter Reagan, 4 months, “I have to be the hammer because he’s Mr. Washcloth Softie,” says Cara. He’s also a serious romantic, surprising his wife of nearly three years with frequent hand-written love notes and a five-carat platinum-and-diamond “mother’s” ring in the hospital after Reagan’s birth. What’s more, “at 6 in the morning, when the baby’s crying, he gets up with her,” says Cara, 31. “That’s the best.”

Yes, this is the same Larry the Cable Guy—an alter ego the Nebraska-born Dan Whitney developed as a comic in the mid-’80s—whose sometimes crude, often rude stand-up routines and “Git-R-Done” catchphrase made him Billboard’s top comedy tour of last year, with around $20 million in annual ticket sales. But when he’s not practicing his brand of redneck humor on the road or in theaters—his new film, Witless Protection, costars Jenny McCarthy—he’s happy to be Larry the Family Guy. At their two-story, western-themed log home surrounded by palm trees and pines in rural Sanford, Fla., a typical night involves corn dogs in the deep fryer and Seinfeld DVDs after the kids have gone to bed. “We are huge, major Seinfeld fans,” says Larry, 45, between spits of Skoal Berry Blend tobacco. (“The hardest thing in the world to quit,” he laments.)

With a mounted bull’s head above the master bedroom (a.k.a. “Ned Pepper”), a pinball machine in the game room and a wine refrigerator stocked with beer, “we love to just hang out here,” he says. Lately, though, the corn dogs and beer have been off limits: After hitting 282 lbs., he has lost 50 lbs. on NutriSystem since last year. “I’m down an Olsen!” he quips, adding that he’s gunning for Sexiest Man Alive this year: “Why not? Me and Matt Damon look the same. From the back.”

When the Cable clan is not at home—they also own a place near Lincoln, Neb.—they spend up to 280 days a year touring aboard a kid-friendly luxury bus they’ve nicknamed The Family Truckster. (Yes, they’re National Lampoon’s Vacation fans as well.) It’s a big difference from Larry’s own childhood in Pawnee City, Neb., where he helped raise pigs on his family’s farm before moving to West Palm Beach, Fla., as a teen. In 2003 he met Cara, a Wisconsin-bred cattle farmer’s daughter then working as a radio DJ in Las Vegas. “She’s a bona fide, grade-A cowgirl,” he says in an accent that is notably less southern-fried than the one he affects onstage. “And she’s funnier than I am.” In 2005 the pair married on a Nebraska field—he in a cut-off Nebraska Huskers sweatshirt and his signature ball cap; she in a camo tank top and shorts. “Our whole wedding cost 180 bucks,” he says proudly. “Afterward we reheated lasagna for everyone and set off fireworks.”

That no-fuss attitude extends to their parenting approach, which includes ample outdoor time with Wyatt, their cow Gracie and dogs Husker, Wilma and Maggie. “We’re gonna have a lot of principal’s appointments with that kid,” he says with a laugh. “He just learned how to play the harmonica. He’s a goofball.” As for Reagan, “She’s named after our favorite President,” he notes. “I’d wanted a girl, and now we got one of each, which is perfect.” Looking ahead, “Reagan will probably cheer for the Huskers,” he says. “And I’m grooming Wyatt to be the High-Definition Satellite Guy!”

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