Earlier this year the state of Tennessee attempted to make the Bible the official state book joining the roster of its other state symbols that include a .50-caliber sniper rifle, salamander and raccoon (PBS NewsHour). In response to this attempt, comedian Trae Crowder decided to post his public reaction and response to social media.
Also this year North Carolina attempted to restrict the bathrooms used by trans people. Crowder witnessed a minister spewing hate and bigotry towards LGBT people and decided to respond publicly to the now notorious NC Bathroom Bill. Within just a couple of weeks his video had been viewed on Facebook over 21 million times.
Based in Knoxville, TN, Crowder’s comedy has always touched on religious, political, racial, and LGBT themes, so to him the content of his videos is nothing new. With the internet being what it is and the subject matter being so relevant to the times nerves are being struck with a lot of people.
Some of Crowder’s one-liners that struck me the most include — If my great-granny was still alive she wouldn’t be comfortable eatin’ cornbread next to a colored boy. Guess what, she’d have to get her old ass over it. — Being a non-Christian living in the South, makes me uncomfortable. — Passing bigotry off as a family values is bull-shit.
Because we like to be edgy and unconventional here at Kinkster MAG we had to connect with the self-proclaimed ‘Liberal Redneck,’ and Progressive Southerner to learn more.
You’ve been doing stand up comedy for about six years and you’ve been covering some of the same themes we now see in your videos. Your voice and your videos have clearly struck a nerve with some of them hitting over 21M views on Facebook within a couple of weeks. Why do you think you’re getting so much attention right now?
I think it’s a combination of things. First of all, my tourmates (who are friends and brothers-in-arms as well) and I have been talking for years about how we knew, we just knew, that there was a market for what we do, which is a different kind of very noticeably Southern comedy. Something different from the stereotypical “Blue Collar” style that has defined southern comedy for so long. First of all, I think that we were right. That there is something about it. It’s something different and new and unexpected, and it appeals to people. But I think the other thing that has contributed to all this recent attention is the fact that the video that took off was covering a subject that everyone was talking about, and it came from a very unexpected place, and the novelty and surprising nature of it just made it resonate with people and so it took off. I mean really the stars just kind of aligned.
Let’s talk about labels. I usually don’t read comments on websites but did want to see what you were stirring up. Some people have commented that your use of the label, “Liberal Redneck” is offensive, demeaning, and derogatory towards poor, uneducated, Southern white people and to use this label is no better than using a derogatory term to describe some other group. How do you respond to this type of comment?
First of all, I am a “poor…Southern white” person. I took out the word “uneducated” because I put myself through college. But up until then, I fit that definition to a T. I grew up dirt poor in the Deep South. So my response to those people is this: they do not get to tell me what I can and cannot identify as. They don’t get to tell me I can’t use the word “redneck”. Who the fuck are they to tell me that? I grew up a poor white trash redneck. I will say whatever the fuck I want about poor white trash rednecks. Their faux outrage could not possibly concern me less. They can kiss my red ass. That’s my response.
Another label you’ve given yourself is “Progressive Southerner.” What does it mean to be a “Progressive Southerner”?
Well honestly it just means exactly what it sounds like it means. I’m a born and bred Southerner, and proud of it, as many Southerners are. I am also an educated, godless liberal. I have found since I’ve gotten some notoriety that this apparently causes a lot of cognitive dissonance with some people. People have called me a “unicorn” or said things like “before I saw your video I literally would not have believed people like you existed”. I’m going to be honest…I did not realize that. I did not realize that there are a large number of people out there who think that literally every white person with a southern accent is a regressive hateful troglodyte. That is of course ridiculous.
I know a LOT of people who are “progressive southerners”; people I grew up with, people I meet at my shows. We may be the minority, but we’re not THAT rare, despite what you may think. I mean Obama got roughly 40% of the vote in the South in 2012. That makes us “Red States”, but still…that is not an insignificant amount of voters. Who do outsiders think made up that percentage, just a bunch of carpetbaggers, a bunch of transplants? There are plenty of liberal southerners, and it’s trending upward (as the saying goes, “one funeral at a time”). That may not fit the popular narrative, but it’s true.
You are wise, Trae Crowder. On the one hand it seems you are talking directly to other “Southerners”, and “Rednecks” in your videos in an attempt to reorient their thinking and behavior. On the other hand I think you’re also demonstrating to many people that no matter who we are as individuals our thoughts, values, identities fall upon a spectrum. Who would think that someone could be a “Liberal” and a “Redneck.” Who we hear from in media are the loud voices which are often at the far ends of those spectrums. Where do you think the majority of people fall on the political spectrum, more liberal, more conservative…?
Well I mean I think what I imagine most people think, which is that (by a slim margin) the majority of people in this country are more liberal, but those people don’t vote like the people on the other end of the spectrum, so here we are. Really though I think most people are somewhere in the middle. That’s a boring answer but it’s my honest opinion. The extremists at either pole may scream the loudest but I don’t think they represent the bulk of the voices. But I think if you have to draw a line and divide people into Left and Right, my personal opinion is that more people fall on the left side, generally speaking. I think we’ll see that (and thus we’ll see that line move), as we go forward. I think history bears that out.
How do you see comedy, politics, and political correctness coming together or even colliding? In other words, when has a comedian gone too far?
My opinion is the same as most comedians, probably. I genuinely believe that nothing is off limits, if you can make it funny. As Trey Parker and Matt Stone said on South Park, “either it’s all OK, or none of it is.” People will be offended of course, but so what? Why should anyone care if a person is offended? Being offended never killed anyone.
We see you’re also vlogging for the NY Daily News. How did that come about and can we expect to see more?
Well it came about because Jim Rich, the editor-in-chief, contacted me on Twitter. What a time to be alive. And I can’t say definitively how long the series will go because a lot of that will depend upon the NYDN, but we will definitely be keeping it up in the near term.
The well RED Comedy tour started May 22. How has it been going given your videos going viral?
We had a week-long “trial run” of sorts to start out with, beginning May 22, as you noted. We sold out every show that week, and in Atlanta and Nashville we added second shows, and sold those out as well. So I would say it is going tremendously. We are very excited about it. We’ll be in New York on June 30, at Gotham Comedy Club, and I can’t wait.
Have you had to change any content for the show or change any venues since you first planned the tour?
Nope. I mean I’ve written some standup material based around my experience with the viral videos, but outside of that we haven’t had to change anything.
Tell us more about the other Liberal Southern Comedians with whom you’re on tour. Who are they and what are some of the topics they cover.
There are two comics on the tour with me, Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan. They are two of my best friends and they are also both very liberal native southerners. We’ve been doing comedy and writing together for years, so we have a really great chemistry.
Corey opens our show. He has been doing comedy on the road for 12 years, despite only being 28 years old (yeah, he started as a 16 year old). He’s from the very small town of Chickamauga, GA, and is genuinely the funniest human being I know, on and off the stage. He has a way of disarming the crowd with his “aw shucks” charm before proceeding to go smooth in on some difficult subjects. And cheese. He also talks about cheese.
Drew Morgan is smart. Immediately, demonstrably smart. He’s also good looking as hell. Fuck Drew, is what I’m saying. But seriously, these are not necessarily advantages for a comedian, because being self-deprecating is a huge part of being funny. You generally speaking don’t want the crowd to be immediately impressed by anything about you other than your humor. Yet Drew manages to destroy comedy audiences despite being one hell of an impressive guy.
We cover some of the same ground, but in different ways. One thing we’ve heard a lot from crowds is that we fit together very well, but all manage to bring something different to the table. I think that is generally true.
As you know, our online magazine is geared to gay men with an edge. We have a standard question we like to ask our interviewees. Aside from your videos going viral and you pushing the envelope with some groups of people, “What is something you have done that would be considered edgy, unconventional, or tight-lipped?”
Well look, I’m a married father of two toddlers. Bout the edgiest I get these days is letting my boys watch me play Doom. Outside of my videos and comedy of course, which was your qualifier. But for the record, being from and having lived my whole life deep DEEP in the Bible Belt, publicly mocking Jesus the way I do is….pretty unconventional to say the least. But that’s about the best I can give ya.
Trae Crowder, ‘The Liberal Redneck’ can be found on: