The Day

Trae Crowder, the comic who calls himself ‘liberal redneck’

- By RODNEY HO The Atlanta Journal-Constituti­on

While Jeff Foxworthy in his early years built his stand-up career on “You might be a redneck ...” jokes, Trae Crowder just dubs himself the “liberal redneck.”

While putting those two words together is seemingly an oxymoron, Crowder has been making that his selling point to audiences. Under that “Liberal Redneck” name, he created a series of Facebook video rants that went viral in 2016.

Like Foxworthy, Crowder worked a 9-to-5 job before jumping into comedy. He spent six years at the U.S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “It was very buttoned-down, very straightla­ced,” Crowder said. “I felt very out of place. I was surrounded by engineers and lawyers. None of them had a hillbilly mom or grew up in a place like Celina, Tennessee, under circumstan­ces I did. I have a pretty white-trash background. That wasn’t common there.”

He said his mom was a drug addict and his father got ill when he was a child so “we were super poor.” But his father at one point owned a video rental store and Crowder was exposed to foreign movies and David Lynch.

“I was just into different (expletive) than my friends,” he said. “I liked to read. That was not cool in my hometown. I was much smarter than so many people there and had a really inflated sense of self. I thought I was ‘Good Will Hunting.’ I’m not.”

While working at the Department of Energy, he began doing stand-up at the only comedy club in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the time called Side Splitters. He eventually was able to headline bars and made it to the regional finals of an NBC stand-up contest in Atlanta.

The 2016 viral videos enabled him to headline his own tours, which have sustained him ever since. He does a rant every few days now on YouTube and TikTok, where he’ll talk about whatever is in the news. Recent topics: Republican­s kvetching out about possibly losing their gas stoves, projecting their own issues on Democrats and their lack of empathy.

“If you like my internet videos,” he said, “I think you will like my live show, too, though it’s not exactly the same thing. I’m not in character the whole time. My video persona isn’t all me, but it’s all coming from the same authentic place.”

Crowder, now 37, has a heavy Tennessee drawl, having grown up in Clay County, Tennessee (population: 7,581).

He moved to Los Angeles soon after his videos began taking off and has been writing and pitching TV scripts and late-night talk show ideas while touring the country and building his stand-up material.

What’s amusing, he said, is that many people in actor-heavy Los Angeles presume his accent is fake. “The cashiers at CVS think I’m prepping for a role,” he said.

He is pondering moving back to Tennessee. Some of his stand-up peers like Nate Bargatze and Steve Byrne are doing fine in Nashville. “My wife and I have kids who are 10 and 11,” he said. “They do want to move. We went back to Tennessee for three weeks in December. They had a great time.”

Crowder has a half-hour special taped but it isn’t available because of some messy contractua­l issues, he said. He is awaiting that big break that takes him to the next level.

“I am just going to keep doing stand-up and content for the internet,” he said. “For me, it’s pushing that boulder up that hill.”

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