The climate of our political landscape may seem more unnecessarily divided than a Cici's Pizza pie, but just because you don't agree with certain views doesn't mean you can't find them funny.
Comedian Trae Crowder who's also known by his YouTube moniker as "The Liberal Redneck," says he performs in front of crowds that usually contain a handful of conservatives.
"They do typically come because their liberal wife or sometimes husband drag them to the show, but there are conservatives at our shows," Crowder says. "Generally, their take on it is, 'I don't agree with what y'all said but y'all were funny, though.' That's typically how it goes."
Crowder's act is rooted in the idea of smashing misconceptions by being a walking one himself. The Tennessee native speaks with a thick, proud Southern accent and wears flannel shirts and jeans in his shows, but the ideas that fall out of his mouth whether he's onstage doing stand-up in a live show like the one he's doing on Saturday, Oct. 5, at The Majestic or recording a video as The Liberal Redneck are unapologetically liberal.
"The way I always describe that is, it's a character in that it's just me cranked up to 11 basically," Crowder says. "It all comes from an authentic place. I have a very stereotypical redneck background and upbringing and I am very liberal politically but I don't act that way all the time. I'm not hollering my opinions in people's face and stuff. I really do think and believe all that shit though."
Crowder grew up in the small town of Celina, Tennessee, where his father ran the local video store and his family members made up one of the few groups of Democratic supporters in a notably conservative population. It's unlike his stage mates, Corey Ryan Forester and Drew Morgan, who tour together as part of their Well Red comedy trio and grew up in conservative families and became the "blue sheep" of their families, Crowder says.
"The first main thing was gay rights and gay marriage," Crowder says about his upbringing. "My uncle is gay and when I was in high school, that was the first thing that Republicans ran on, the thing that was just starting to be talked about a lot, and most of my good friends were cool about it but the vast majority were adamantly opposed to it. I was politically inclined but I felt then and still feel now to me that was a moral thing to me. You hate my uncle for being gay? You don't even know my uncle. I didn't feel like it was politics to me. Personally but objectively speaking, it was political shit."
His early love for comedy and movies moved him toward a career in stand-up. Crowder cites Chris Rock's 1999 HBO special Bigger and Blacker as the catalyst for his career pursuits when he was just 12.
"I watched it with my dad, who was cracking up," he says. "I was too, but when I watch it now as an adult, my dad was connecting with it way more than I was, and I thought it was very funny. It had a major effect on me and from that point on, I wanted to give stand-up a shot one day."
Crowder took his first shot at comedy in his mid-20s at an open mic at Sidesplitter's in Knoxville, and his Liberal Redneck character went all the way with him throughout his career in between some "low-brow dick and butt jokes."
"I thought about what type of comedian I would be and it was always this sort of thing," Crowder says. "I sound like Larry the Cable Guy but I say a bunch of not-Cable Guy-esque stuff and I don't mean to say that it was contrived on my part, just knew that’s what it would be. I always thought there was a chance for an appeal for that type of thing, or place for that type of thing, but then I started doing stand-up, and it took six years to crack it. I had a belief the whole time it could be a thing but again it was just who I really was to begin with.”
Crowder's act may sound like the kind of show that wouldn't be a big draw in the South, but thanks to his popular internet presence and heavy tour schedule, it's an easy misnomer to break. Some parts of the South are a much lighter shade of red than the stereotype dictates.
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"If I’m doing an interview with someone from somewhere else like Portland or Boston or whatever, they have the opposite assumption," he says. '''Oh it’s probably rough for you guys down South.' No, those are far and away the best shows and it's not close for those reasons. It resonates on a personal level with those people, not all of them, but it's still a very pervasive notion that I am literally a unicorn, that I’m an extreme minority to the point that there aren’t enough people in the South to even come to my shows. That attitude still very much exists and is very common outside the South because I encounter it all the time.”
In fact, Crowder says he's not surprised that the usually dark-red-shaded parts of Texas may be heading toward purple in the coming years; especially with the latest impeachable high jinks from the de facto head of the Republican party. He confirms that he's talking about President Donald Trump who has reached "his own level of shittiness."
"The only thing that surprises me is that it's still that up-in-the air, meaning that it's not clear already that Texas and Georgia, not every Southern state including my own unfortunately, but Texas, Georgia and North Carolina that there's not the consensuses that they are going to flip," Crowder says. "Even growing up surrounded by those people my entire life, I still don't understand the level of support there is for this dude specifically. I'm not saying you have to flip all the way to be a liberal after being a conservative for your whole life. I don't mean that, but for this specific guy, it blows my mind that there's still as much support as there is.
"Also, don't get me wrong," Crowder adds. "I'm not taking it for granted that we're going to win the next election. I'm terrified about November, but the only surprise is that it is up in the air."