Trae Crowder the Liberal Redneck
Through his stereotype-subverting humor and intelligence, Crowder is trying to make public perception of the South rise again.
By Kristian Porter, Northern Kentucky University
As someone who was born in Texas and has lived the majority of my life in Kentucky, I’m no stranger to the southern stereotype.
You know the one: uneducated, racist, lives on a farm and rides a horse to school. I’ve heard it all.
It never matters that I live about as far north as you can go in the state of Kentucky or that horses actually scare me or that I have barely any accent; the comments are still directed at me, and it never fails that when I share a small bit of my political views, I’m met with a shocked expression. “What do you mean you voted for Hillary?” they’ll ask, or “You actually believe in climate change?” like every single person in the South is a backward-thinking, hard-core conservative.
So often I find myself wanting to shout, “Wait! We’re not all like that!”
Now, Trae Crowder and his comedian right-hand men are shouting it for me. The Liberal Redneck is redefining the southern stereotype and fighting for further progressiveness in his Red homeland.
Who Is Trae Crowder?
Most recognizable for his viral Facebook videos, Trae Crowder is a comedian whose body of work is based on his seemingly contradictory set of liberal political views.
The launch pad of his career was a reaction video to Pastor Andrew Green about the bathroom bills and the pastor’s comments on the transgendered community. Since then, he’s made several more videos with the same outspoken liberal ideology reacting to controversial topics related to Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights and the Trump victory.
Crowder grew up very poor with a mother who was in-and-out of jail on drug charges, and an uncle who was openly gay in a conservative Tennessee town. These events helped to shape his outlook on the world and the moral compass with which he navigates it.
Though he’s known for his opinionated videos, he’s actually a stand-up comedian from Celina, Tennessee. After graduating as Valedictorian of his high school, he went on to graduate from business school and accept a job in the United States Department of Energy. On his time off, he would participate in Open Mic Nights at Knoxville comedy clubs, often with his two comedic partners-in-crime, Corey Forrester and Drew Morgan.
When Crowder’s Facebook videos started accumulating more views, other outlets started to take notice. He has voiced his opinion for multiple news outlets now, including the “New York Daily News,” where he became the newspaper’s “Hillbilly-in-Chief.”
Since Crowder’s popularity has skyrocketed, the southern comedic trio has since quit their day jobs to pursue comedy full-time, joking that they are riding on his “sleeveless coattails.” They wrote a book together called “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie out of the Dark,” and are currently out on the WellRED Comedy Tour. Crowder also has a television show in the works for FOX.
What Makes His Comedy Special?
Many people discover Trae Crowder from videos and don’t realize, though Crowder is incredibly funny in his reactions to conservative politics, that he is actually a comedian. This leaves some questioning his authenticity. Is he really southern? Is the accent even real? “It’s just me cranked up to 11,” he told “Forbes Magazine.”
Crowder grew up as a poor, self-identified redneck in a small Tennessee town and has always aligned politically with liberals. Ironically, people question whether his persona as the Liberal Redneck is genuine because of how real he comes across.
When you think southern comedian, your mind usually jumps to the likes of Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy, comedians whose entire careers are built on presenting themselves as the typical blue-collar, down-home kind of guy, the epitome of the southern stereotype. Their repertoire of jokes is usually filled with anecdotes about growing up in the south (“You might be a redneck if…”) and living as a middle-class white man.
There is nothing wrong with this form of comedy, but it does add to the already presumed way of life for those in the south.
Trae Crowder breaks away from this mold. He comes across as passionate and well-educated (the guy has a freaking MBA) and holds opinions that aren’t typically associated with the more conservative region of the United States—and he does it all with a thick southern drawl.
Crowder’s popularity comes from the juxtaposition he presents. He sits down in front of his phone wearing little to no shirt and a baseball cap, poised to film one of his controversial videos looking exactly like what people picture of a “redneck.” Then he opens his mouth and, though the accent rings true to assumptions, the viewpoints he’s advocating are nothing like what the audience expects.
But this brings up a really important issue: What exactly are people expecting when they see Crowder and why does it hold such negative connotations? Liberal Redneck reads like an oxymoron, but why?
Trae Crowder is trying to combat these presumptions through his comedy. His jokes work because they lie in that sweet spot between loving his southern roots and being disgusted with the bigotry that runs rampant in the region. He doesn’t want “southerner” to be a dirty word, but he also refuses to accept the blatant racism plaguing the states.
There is nothing wrong with being a so-called redneck, as Crowder points out. “I have never felt like redneck meant willfully ignorant or necessarily an asshole,” he told a local Tennessee news magazine. Neither being from the south nor fitting into the stereotypical image of a redneck is not the problem. The problem is the backwards views that have become associated with the region.
Crowder is proving that there are plenty of people here with diverse political opinions. He, along with his comedy partners Forrester and Morgan, are trying to enlighten the country on the varying viewpoints in order to, hopefully, help everyone see a little more eye-to-eye.
“The rest of us are just trying to ensure that the next generation—you know, your kids—grows up in a world that’s a little more open minded,” Crowder said, “and that’s happening whether you like it or not.”
You can be both southern and progressive in your views. Not everyone fits into a box, and that’s okay. Trae Crowder and his fellow liberal rednecks are helping to find a middle-ground between the Blue and Red, something that is needed now more than ever.