Three Comics From the South Are Out to Prove That Rednecks Can Be Liberal, Too

Thanks to Donald Trump's presidential ambitions, which have turned into a flaming nuclear-powered train heading toward a brick wall, Texas could turn blue. A poll conducted by the University of Houston found that Trump and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton are in a virtual dead heat among Texas voters. 

National media have treated this news as if it represents some kind of magical anomaly. But comedians Trae Crowder, Drew Morgan and Corey Forrester, who wrote a book called The Liberal Redneck Manifesto and are currently on their WellRed Comedy Tour, know that the South isn't as red as the rest of the country thinks. 

"I think it's overstated and exaggerated," Morgan says. "It's become its own stereotype that has its seeds in truth as a lot of stereotypes do and it's been overstated and overblown. Our tour that sells out in the South is living proof of that." 

The three comedians got their starts on stages in various parts of the South, using material that dabbled in social issues such as racism and homophobia, but they've never been pelted with tomatoes or run out of town by mobs of truck-hat-wearing pickup drivers. Crowder and Morgan started performing comedy together in their home state of Tennessee before the pair met Forrester, a native of Georgia, while doing shows around the country.

The three teamed up for their book and tour under an umbrella that may sound odd but is actually in high demand. They talk about serious social issues in very funny, personal and clever ways despite the fact they often add very long "A's" to some of their words. 

"I've had a chip on my shoulder about people judging me about my accent or being from the South or whatever," says Crowder, who's also known on YouTube and social media circles as the Liberal Redneck. "So when people say I've changed the way they look at the South, and I've gotten quite a bit of that, that's extremely satisfying and validating for me." 

Crowder says the fact that they've been able to make careers in comedy and attract large audiences to their shows should be enough evidence to smash the stereotype that all Southerners lean to the right. 

"As of now, people who come to our shows, they come to see us and they're on board and not a problem, which is great, but I came up in comedy in the South. I still live in Knoxville, and I've been all over the country, but I cut my teeth in the South and I've always been who I am right now," he says. "At most comedy shows I did, it was a younger crowd, and I don't give a shit where you are but younger people tend to be more tolerant and open-minded.

"So even if people are sitting there who didn't agree with the stuff I was saying, I didn't get tomatoes thrown at me. I didn't get booed off the stage. In fact, I did really well. I would have quit a long time ago if I wasn't doing pretty well in the South before this, and I was." 

The stereotype that Southerners can't appreciate or tell a joke that doesn't come from a right-wing relative's Facebook page has created a unique fanbase for the trio on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, Forrester says. 

"Before this, I would get things like, 'I never believed you existed and it's like seeing a unicorn,''" Forrester says. "I'm not a unicorn. [There are] plenty of people like me in the South and in comedy, too. We've been talking on our respective back porches for years.

"We know some guys who've been around for awhile who do this and they're great, but as far as mainstream comedy goes, there's never been explicitly Southern comedy that wasn't, for lack of a better term, in the blue-collar genre. We've been aware of that for awhile and we can do that and we wanna do that. Hopefully, we're starting to do that right now." 

Their acts also defy peoples' expectations of "political comedians." They do talk about social subjects but it's usually from a personal standpoint and it's never based on the daily changing news cycle or which figurehead said what that day.

"My favorite thing that I'm doing right now is about fighting with my Fox News in-laws about global warming, but I turn it on myself and without spoiling anything, I make fun of them for a bit but then I turn it on myself and my own hypocrisy because I live in New York and ride jets," Morgan says. "I'm the one who's acting as if I'm in denial." 

They may not be afraid to talk about certain subjects but they also know how to pick their targets without sacrificing what makes the joke thought-provoking or funny. 

"I do stuff on religion but I'm an insider," Forrester says. "My dad was a preacher and I've had people come up teary-eyed and saying thank you for talking about that and speaking the truth but also thank you for not just being like let's just shit on it and how everyone who's ever been religious is a fucking idiot. I've had a lot of people who feel the way I do but they don't hate it." 

They occasionally hear from someone in the crowd who doesn't agree with the points they are making but they say unless the person is super drunk, they're usually able to diffuse the tension with humor.

"Normally, those people are fine during the show and then after they're like, 'Yeah, he's a conservative' but then that person's like, 'I don't agree with anything you say but you guys are funny,'" Crowder says. 

Crowder, Forrester and Morgan are mainly interested in making you laugh, but if they're able to affect you more meaningfully than that, then all the better.

"The most meaningful interactions I've had are with gay or transgender people or the parents of gay and transgender children who come to the shows and get very, very personal in a positive way about the message," Crowder says. "I've almost teared up a few times and some of these people do cry, and that kind of thing is very impactful and meaningful and not the kind of thing you'd expect to get when you do stand-up comedy." 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.