'Liberal Redneck' Trae Crowder Kills Southern Stereotypes With Comedy Trae Crowder and his fellow comedians call themselves liberal rednecks. They use their Southern roots — and thick accents — to attack racism and homophobia.
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'Liberal Rednecks' Are Killing Southern Stereotypes With Comedy

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'Liberal Rednecks' Are Killing Southern Stereotypes With Comedy

'Liberal Rednecks' Are Killing Southern Stereotypes With Comedy

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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Trae Crowder calls himself a liberal and a redneck, and his comedy puts it front and center. NPR's Will Huntsberry spent time with him and two other performers who are changing what Southern comedy sounds like.

WILL HUNTSBERRY, BYLINE: Trae Crowder has an alter ego.

TRAE CROWDER: What's up, y'all? Liberal Redneck here. We're going to do it again, fire it up.

HUNTSBERRY: Crowder calls himself the liberal redneck. He's a standup comic who also makes cellphone videos on his back porch in Tennessee wearing cutoff T-shirts and lots of camo, always with a message for fellow Southerners. His most-watched video has more than 20 million views.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

CROWDER: People just can't let this whole potty thing go. I saw...

HUNTSBERRY: The potty thing is the issue of transgender people and what bathroom they decide to use. In very colorful language, he sums up the argument he was hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CROWDER: (As the Liberal Redneck) What's to stop some pervert from wrapping a skirt around his [expletive] and going into the ladies room with my baby girl? I'm not having that.

HUNTSBERRY: But the liberal redneck does not abide what he sees as closed-mindedness.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO)

CROWDER: (As Liberal Redneck) What do you think is going to happen? You do know that transgender people have existed forever, right? What bathrooms you think they've been using? And how many times do you ever hear about what you're worried about happening happening? Hardly not, never.

HUNTSBERRY: Crowder is trying to do something almost unheard of in mainstream comedy - make a big deal out of his Southernness and his progressive mindset. I caught up with him at DC Improv in Washington.

CROWDER: Yeah, I'm a white trash trailer baby from the Deep South. But I'm also educated, agnostic, you know. I'm well-read, cultured. I'm both of those things at the same time. And, like, if you can't reconcile that in your heads, you know, then that's your problem.

HUNTSBERRY: This in-your-face Southern progressivism has earned Crowder a huge online following, and it's also skyrocketed his standup career. The week before I met him this summer, he just quit his day job as a federal contract negotiator.

CROWDER: Walked out the front door for the last time on Thursday morning and got into my car and drove to the bank to cash some of my video checks while listening to "Return Of The Mack." And I was pretty turned, y'all.

HUNTSBERRY: You might think he sounds glib about his success, but Crowder has a chip on his shoulder. And that's what drives his comedy. Trae performs and writes with two friends, Corey Forrester and Drew Morgan.

CROWDER: Me and Drew met at - we - OK, so...

DREW MORGAN: The Thirsty Turtle?

CROWDER: The Thirsty Turtle in Merryville, Tenn.

HUNTSBERRY: They've been working together for about six years. Here's Corey Forrester.

COREY FORRESTER: Our whole thing has always been, all right, we're going to bust our ass, we're going to write this, we had done sketches. One of us is going to make it, and then we'll - they'll take the other two with us.

HUNTSBERRY: Forrester does a bit about his hometown Chickamauga, Ga., where they have a Civil War re-enactment every year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FORRESTER: You cannot even pump gas in the town on this day without having some dude in a full bird just Confederate uniform walking by you with a musket going, oh, I'll tell you, what is that strange liquid you're putting in that horseless carriage? I've never seen anything like it in my life. I'm like, Bill, this is your gas station. You own it. You took the day off to be racist.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSBERRY: Forrester, Crowder and their third partner Drew Morgan just wrote a book, "The Liberal Redneck Manifesto." It challenges what readers might expect from Southern comedy.

MORGAN: They've been trained by other comics with our accent to expect certain things. And it doesn't - I'm not - some of the most famous comics who sound like us don't do comedy like us.

HUNTSBERRY: The most famous, Jeff Foxworthy, who told us how you might know if you're a redneck.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF FOXWORTHY: If you go to the family reunion to meet women, you might be a redneck.

(LAUGHTER)

FOXSORTHY: I think we offended somebody out here. That ain't funny as it says...

HUNTSBERRY: Now, let me be real clear - none of these guys think Foxworthy's a bad comic. They just want to do something different. They want to show liberals that the white South isn't one big red blob. And Crowder, in his persona as the Liberal Redneck, wants conservative white Southerners to know something, too.

CROWDER: The rest of us are trying to ensure that the next generation grow up in a world that's a little more open-minded. And that's happening whether you like it or not.

HUNTSBERRY: It's easy to see America as divided between us and them. But the Liberal Redneck is a reminder it's a little more complicated than that. Will Huntsberry, NPR News.

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