In a sea of redneck
Trae Crowder talks rap music, comfort food, and doing his comedy in the South
You probably know comedian Trae Crowder as the Liberal Redneck, whose videos became especially popular during the 2016 presidential election when many people assumed rednecks to be lost-cause Trumpies who didn’t give a hoot about police brutality and just wanted to “Make America White Again.” Crowder, author of “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark,” refutes that stereotype while keeping true to his hot-chicken loving, butter tub-reusing, gun-owning roots. He’ll be joined by similarly-minded comedians Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan at Cain’s Ballroom on June 23. More at cainsballroom.com.
Thomas King: What do you think surprises people the most when they first meet you?
Trae Crowder: I think early on it was kind of just all of it, like the whole liberal part of the “Liberal Redneck,” it being surprising to people is part of the reason why it took off the way it did, I think.
King: Yeah, a lot of people don’t expect rednecks to enjoy rap music, and that ain’t true at all, is it?
Crowder: No, not in my generation. I don’t know, how old are you?
King: Thirty-four, so we’re about the same.
Crowder: That’s definitely something that people don’t expect or understand about rednecks is that the ones in our generation grew up with rap music just as much as everybody else did. I actually heard Jason Isbell say in an interview something to the effect of, “Nowadays you’re just as likely to hear 2 Chainz at a party in Alabama as you are to hear, you know, Jason Aldean,” or whoever he used as an example.
King: Early in your career, kind of before the internet videos took off, how were you received by southern audiences as a liberal comedian?
Crowder: Well it depended on where I was at … For example, there’s a place in Chattanooga, [Tenn.] called JJ’s Bohemia that’s this little hole in the wall bar where they get all these, like, punk rock bands and stuff and they have comedy shows. You can find shows like that in almost any southern city. And if I was at one of those, everybody in the crowd would be like young people, people my age or younger, and so it was always fine. But now if I was at the Comedy Catch in Chattanooga, which has a more red demographic, you know, it could be pretty dicey, I’m not going to lie … But I was always given more rope than you probably would expect.
King: Are you a member of the NRA, or do you think they should fuck all the way completely off?
Crowder: Well, I’m not a member. For a long time, I fell somewhere in the middle of that because, you know, like a lot of people from the South, my grandpa taught me how to shoot a gun when I was like … I could not have been more than, like, 6 years old or younger. I had a rifle from that day on growing up. I inherited his entire arsenal, basically, which there’s—no, he didn’t have any assault rifles or anything like that—but you know, it’s like 17 guns. I always thought there were still certain measures that we could take or should take when it comes to limitations on assault rifles or clip size or closing the gun show loophole, background checks, or whatever, just things that I thought were totally reasonable.
King: Alright, now your tour mates. You’ve got Drew Morgan with you who used to be a lawyer and is now a comedian. Are his parents disappointed?
Crowder: OK, Drew talks about this himself and he talks about it publicly and on stage, so I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this ... So, Drew has one sibling, he has an older brother, and his older brother is in prison and has been for a few years and still is for the next few years to come, so Drew always says the one good thing about that is that he’s almost incapable of disappointing his parents, you know. (Laughs) He tells his parents, “I’m quitting law, I’m going to be a standup comedian.” They’re like, “Oh really? Are you going to prison? ... No? OK, well then you’re still good.” So no, he’s doing fine in that regard.
King: You’ve also got Corey Forrester with you, who is known as CHO [pronounced like bro]. You mind explaining to the good people of Tulsa what a CHO is?
Crowder: CHO started out as an acronym for chief hittin’ officer, which was what Cory was telling people his position in our company was, which we really don’t have a company, but such that it is, he was the chief hittin’ officer, which means he was in charge of all things hitting, which was basically just, you know, anything that’s good or is a good time or whatever. That just came about as a little funny one-off joke about that, but it kind of took on a life of its own. And now CHO just sort of means anybody that, anybody’s primary motivation is having a good time, and Cory very well defines that. Cory’s not only a character, he’s a cartoon character.
King: On your podcast, wellRED, you talk about food a lot. What’s your favorite Southern dish?
Crowder: Well, like if you want me to be very specific, then all-time it was my momma’s catfish. She passed away in 2008, but my grandma on my mom’s side used to make the best catfish I’ve ever had in my life. If you want more in-general, right now, probably Nashville hot chicken. Or if you want to go even more general, just fried chicken, period. But I’m a huge fan of hot chicken, you know, to pick a specific dish … You ever had chocolate gravy?
King: Oh, hell yeah.
Crowder: Yeah, OK.
King: I lived for that when I was a kid.
Crowder: I’ve found that that’s even a kind of pocket even within the South, like I’ve met other people from the South who haven’t had that. I don’t know if it’s just like extremely rural areas or what it is but, whatever. Where I grew up chocolate gravy was a big thing, and my wife makes that on Christmas morning every year—chocolate gravy and biscuits.
King: There’s a lot of similarities in Oklahoma and southern menus, but chocolate gravy ain’t on some. I’ve tried to explain chocolate gravy to an Oklahoman and they were like, “Is that a dessert gravy?”
Crowder: Right. Also, anything that they make in Louisiana, I’m a huge fan of. I love all of their cuisine and then any and all types of BBQ too, you know, I love the vinegar-based sauce, but I also like the ketchup-based, and I like that Alabama white shit, also. Honestly, man, I’m a human garbage disposal when it comes to food. I pretty much don’t discriminate. But southern food is probably my favorite. You know, if you put all those under one umbrella, it’s my favorite genre of food. I like it all.
King: Hell yeah. Well there’ll be no shortage of that when you get to Oklahoma. We’re looking forward to having you.
Crowder: Yeah, we can’t wait. Last time we were in Tulsa was an awesome night, an awesome show, so we’ve very much looking forward to coming back, so we’ll see y’all around.