NSFW: Why ‘The Liberal Redneck’ is coming to Akron on the eve of the Republican National Convention

 -  -  213


Comedian Trae Crowder counters the RNC with his stereotype-busting stand-up

by Chris Horne

wellRED Comedy Tour
feat. Trae Crowder, Drew Morgan & Corey Ryan Forrester
Sat., July 16, 7 pm at Musica ($20)
TIX: thedevilstrip.ticketleap.com/wellred

A few weeks ago, like a few million other folks, I found myself erupting in laughter watching videos posted by someone I knew only as “The Liberal Redneck.” Initially, as a Southerner, I hesitated to click play because I abhor the word “redneck” and the negative associations that accompany it. Even without that word, I already cringe a little every time someone says, “I don’t even hear your accent.” I know y’all mean well and I’m not personally offended, but it’s hard not to think what that means is “I thought you’d sound like a character from ‘Hee-Haw’.” So, I was pessimistic about how a video by a self-described “redneck” addressing transgender bathroom laws could possibly go well.

Instead, what I saw was a comedian in character flipping the stereotypes, surprising folks who weren’t aware that an accent like that could be accompanied by hard core progressive politics and insightful, informed logic. After sharing it with my buddy Roger Riddle, he had the idea of reaching out to Trae Crowder (aka – his real name) about doing a show here. Trae said yes pretty quickly, and he’s bringing his wellRED Comedy buddies Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester along as well. (Maybe some surprise guests too?)

It’s not just Trae’s comedy that appealed to us. He became an advocate for LGBTQ rights because his uncle, he told The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, “whom I love dearly, is gay, and so I just didn’t appreciate a lot of the things the church had to say about him….” This is one reason we set the show on Saturday, July 16, just ahead of the Republican Convention. The national conversation about Cleveland will be switching from the Cavs to a political platform that has, to put it nicely, not been a champion of the LGBTQ community.

But Akron is different — open, accepting and loving. We want to help highlight that while trying to raise some of these issues. So we’ve partnered with CANAPI, an area nonprofit dedicated to HIV support services and LGBTQ advocacy. A portion of the proceeds from the show will also support the important work they do, which includes testing, awareness and the Teen Pride Network, as well as an organic food pantry and housing assistance for individuals living with HIV. You can get your tickets, while they still last, at thedevilstrip.ticketleap.com/wellred

Here’s part of the interview with Trae that will appear in the July 7 issue of The Devil Strip. Parental guidance is advised… 


Chris Horne: Has your head stopped spinning yet from this rapid ascension — the viral videos, the NY Daily gig, appearing on network TV, sold-out shows all over the place, interviews with small arts and culture magazines in Ohio?

Trae Crowder, photo by Jason Grindle
Trae Crowder, photo by Jason Grindle

Trae Crowder: Nope. It has not. This has been the most insane period of my life, and it isn’t close. It’s all happened so fast and I’m enjoying the hell out of it, don’t get me wrong, but it has absolutely been a whirlwind, and no, I still haven’t fully adjusted. Just trying to keep my head above water and enjoy the ride.

CH: How are you juggling the responsibilities of this sudden recognition with the new gigs all over the country and everything else you already had to do — you know, family, work, friends, football? Have you even been able to keep up with Tennessee’s recruiting class or spring practices?

TC: Let me take those in order. Family is my #1 priority, and so far I think I’m doing a good job of balancing that with all of this. It will be a challenge, but my wife is fully on board, so I know we’ll figure it out. As for work, well… this is my work now. I did have a day job when all this started, but not anymore. Which is crazy and kind of scary, but way way more thrilling than scary. My friends… most of my best friends have families too, so we don’t see each other all that much anyway, and keep in touch until we can all get together. This hasn’t really changed that, and also they’re all so insanely excited and happy for me that they are just rolling with it.

Now to the important part. You are literally the first interviewer to have asked me about Tennessee football. This makes you my favorite interviewer. I read that and think “now see here’s somebody that truly understands the struggle.” Ain’t gonna lie… I’m worried about my impending schedule for this fall and what it’s gonna mean for my football-watching. Especially considering, in the words of a true Vols fan, ‘This is our year.” But it’s true though! No, really! This is the year! Where’s everybody going? But yeah, it has definitely taken a toll on my fandom, but I mean, we’ve been in the offseason the whole time so far, so it’s only gonna get exponentially worse come fall. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, Chris. I’ll be keeping up, at the very least, though. Believe that.

CH: I know you’ve said the Liberal Redneck character is more aggressive than you about sharing your thoughts and feelings on issues, but you definitely speak your mind in your stand-up. Have you always been so bold or is this something — being something of an outlier in the South — that you’ve had to grow into over the years?

TC: I mean I wasn’t that way when I was a little kid or anything. But I would say I’ve been pretty honest with my opinions and stuff at least since high school. Warning: this is about to be a pretentious-ass story: So we had a speech class in high school and occasionally we have formal debates. Well at one point the teacher wanted to split the class up to debate the impending War in Iraq. She asked everyone to raise their hand who agreed with going to war, then everyone who wasn’t sure, then everyone who opposed it. I was literally the only one that opposed it. I was basically the Bernie Sanders of 2002 Celina High School. So I mean when I think back on that I guess I kind of have always been this way (read: an obnoxious ass).

CH: Clearly, you feel and think deeply about the issues you’re addressing in your stand-up and the videos, but you also seem to be as dedicated to breaking down stereotypes about people with Southern roots and accents. Would you say you’re more hopeful you can change minds about Southerners — at least that we’re not monolithic, nor are we all bigots — or that you could get more Southerners to change their position on issues like LGBTQ rights?

TC: Wow, that’s a hell of a question. Just going off the responses and messages I’ve gotten so far, I would have to say the former is more likely. I’ve gotten tons of messages from people saying that before they saw my stuff they thought everyone with my accent was a backward regressive bigot, and now they realize that they were being prejudiced in their own way. I’ve already seen a lot of that. And now, believe it or not, I’ve also got a few (very, very few) messages from self-styled rednecks who have said that my videos have genuinely changed their minds on things as it relates to LGBTQ issues.

Trae, Drew and Corey cutting the fool. Photo by Jason Grindle
Trae, Drew and Corey cutting the fool. Photo by Jason Grindle

My opinion on that has always been that it was nigh-impossible to change the minds of people like that, because it’s usually so deeply tied to their faith, which is something people are just not rational about, in many instances. But I always thought that wasn’t a reason to not try, because the alternative was to just stand by and let them spew all their hateful bullshit because “oh well, there’s no reaching them anyway”, and I wasn’t willing to do that. But I never held out much hope for changing their minds. And I see now that it may be possible, but… we still got a long row to hoe.

But what I think might happen though, in the more near-term, is that we can move the needle enough to where it is not as acceptable as it has been previously to be outwardly bigoted toward LGBTQ people. I mean even in the deepest of the Deep South, you will very very rarely hear someone say openly and publicly anything that is just overtly racist. Because it’s just not socially acceptable (and it shouldn’t be). Well, I think we may be able to get there with hatespeak toward the LGBTQ community too. Now that implies that people will still hold antiquated opinions, they just won’t be speaking them out loud, but to me… I mean hell that still counts. That’s still moving in the right direction. And that might be attainable. But yeah… helping to break Southern stereotypes for outsiders, that’s a much lower-hanging fruit, in my opinion. And one that I am definitely reaching for.

CH: One of the big positives from your viral videos seems to be you’ve helped some Southerners “come out” as liberal, progressive and/or atheist. How much of an impact do you think that changing the perception of “Red State” voters could have on the politics in the South?

TC: That has been one of the most encouraging parts of all this: hearing from other southerners who are kind of “coming out” now. I love that. But now I don’t know how much of a real impact it will have on the politics of the Red States any time soon, because I would wager that most of these people have been voting for the left this whole time, they just haven’t talked about it. As long as politicians can continue to win elections by pandering to the hateful, fearful lowest common denominator, that’s what they’re going to do. And with gerrymandering and all, that’s not changing any time soon. If that sounds defeatist, I should probably also note that I’m hopeful for the future, in that I genuinely believe in the trope of “progress happens one funeral at a time.” It’s my experience growing up down here that there are plenty, plenty of young Republicans, but most of the ones I know are just ultra-conservative fiscally, or they are hawkish, extremely pro-gun, all of the above. BUT… by and large, they are pro-gay rights. They’re not racist. They’re not “moral” fundamentalists. So I think as that generation moves into the forefront, we’ll still have plenty to argue about, but the Hate and the Fear will fall way, way off. Things are getting better. I genuinely believe that, and I believe that’s going to continue.

CH: What have you learned so far in this process? Is there anything you wish you knew in the beginning that you know now?

TC: Well, I’ve learned a LOT. More than I can even say, really. So much about the industry/business side of this all that I just had no idea about. The roles and necessity of different people, how the creative process works on actual projects, just stuff like that. I’m still learning more every day, and will be for a long time. As to the second question, I’ll be honest, this is all still so new and everything that I feel like this question will be much better answered after another few years. As of right now, the only thing that I can immediately think of that I would definitely do differently is I would have been better prepared for the onslaught of followers/attention at the beginning. I mean, that first video was on my personal Facebook page. My friends maxed out pretty immediately (I still can’t add anyone), and it was just all out pandemonium for the first few weeks there. Now I don’t think anyone is ever really ready for some lunacy like this; that’s just the nature of it. But still if I could go back, I would have tried to handle all that more smoothly, but even having said that: obviously it’s all still worked out fairly well, haha.  

CH: Are you afraid, as a comic building his career, that you’ll get trapped by this character? How do you balance that with trying to also take advantage of the attention you’re getting?

traefb-750x410
Trae’s not pulling a Gallagher here, just showing how he’d open a watermelon if he ran out of knives.

TC: Yes definitely. No artist wants to be pigeonholed, and I’m no different. I want to establish myself as Trae Crowder, not as “The Liberal Redneck”. For sure. But I also am trying to stay mindful of the appeal of that branding and the attention it’s gotten and all of that, and not do anything willfully stubborn out of pride or anything. It’s a supremely delicate balance. And I’m just trying to remain cognizant of that throughout this process, but honestly if you have a good answer to your second question I’d love for you to share it with me.

CH: Have your wellRED tourmates, Drew and Corey, conceded you’re the alpha dog — giving you the requisite treatment reserved for stars — or are they still giving you shit to keep you humble?

TC: Well, we’re really good friends and have been, and we’re all comics, so I mean….I don’t care what happens, there will never, EVER come a time where we stop giving each other shit. In fact, after the MSNBC interview aired, one of the very first texts I got was from Drew, and it just said, “You’re still trash.”

Now, having said that, they know what time it is. And they’re happy for me, just like all of my friends are. So yes, they are on board with me being the “alpha dog” at the moment because of how everything has played out, and I would be the same if it had happened to one of them instead. But the shit-talking will never cease. Never.

CH: Your feelings about Mr. Trump are pretty well-known (and hilarious and on-point), but as #DumpTrump talk picks up steam again, what do you hope happens with the nomination when the RNC convenes in Cleveland this July?

TC: What do I HOPE happens at the RNC? Uh, I dunno… a meteor strike? I keed, I keed. To be completely honest it doesn’t matter to me WHAT happens, I’m still not gonna be a fan of their team, ya know? Got a fair amount of distaste for all of their recent candidates, but now granted none of them terrify me with their ineptitude like Trump, which is saying a lot when you really consider the levels of ineptitude we’re talking about here. Now I would also love it if they didn’t nominate Trump regardless, because that would signify to me that the party as we have known it is well and truly dead. What do I think WILL happen? I think Trump will formally receive the nomination and we all get four more months of pants-shitting terror and confusion, at least.

CH: I just saw this story about the “Make America White Again” guy and it appears he’s running for Congress to represent East Tennessee, which is your neck of the woods. Do you have anything to say to your potential representative, in particular regard to his theory that the “white super-majority” made America a great place to live in the “Mayberry” days of yore?

TC: I just heard about this guy and yeah I got somethin’ to say to him, which I plan to do in the form of a video. That video will be out by the time anyone reads this so… check it out y’all. As to his assertion that the white super majority is what made America awesome in the heyday: A) that’s bullshit, B) it weren’t awesome for everybody you dumbass, and C) even if that WAS true, which it isn’t, those same assholes (old white people) are the ones that then proceeded to drive the country soundly into the dirt over my lifetime so I’m ‘bout done givin’ a shit what they think.

CH: If you had your druthers, how would this play out? How do you hope your career goes from here? Does any of it involve mounting Larry the Cable Guy on your wall?

TC: I want to be able to establish myself well enough to always have a platform to get my comedy out there, just to be able to keep doing it, and for people to keep caring. That’s ultimately what I want. Now I would love it if it also leads to me having other avenues (TV, movies, etc) for portraying the South in an honest way, and not through the standard “Blue Collar” format, as you allude to. On that note, look: I’m a comic, and those guys are all very gifted comedians. They’re extremely funny and successful. I respect the hell out of all of them as comics. Especially Foxworthy. Talking shit about Foxworthy would be akin to talking shit about Seinfeld, as a comedian. I’m not going to do that. Now, having said all of that, if we can provide an alternative to their style and show people there’s more to the south, then hell yeah, I’m all for that.

 

21 recommended
comments icon 3 comments
3 notes
65 views
bookmark icon

One thought on “NSFW: Why ‘The Liberal Redneck’ is coming to Akron on the eve of the Republican National Convention

    Write a comment...

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *