Tennessee born-and-bred comic Trae Crowder is a truth-spitting hero for the left-leaning set who skyrocketed to dang near household name status during lockdown. He did this by releasing viral, rapid-fire monologues online about everything from civil unrest and elections gone sideways to all things progressive South, flanked by down-home tales of redneck life told with an accent thicker and more buttery than the deepest-rooted country folks you know.
With over a million followers on social media and an endorsement from Hollywood's own Morgan Freeman ("the voice of God"), the 36-year-old Crowder may have already secured his place as one of the most relevant and long overdue voices of a mad-as-hell generation.
Now a resident of Southern California, Crowder called Style Weekly from a tour stop in Ohio, where a piercing clap of thunder ushered in a conversation like a cosmic mic-drop. “That just scared the shit out of me!” he says. “It never thunders and barely rains where I live now. Forgot about those things."
Style Weekly: When did you know comedy was going to work for you?
Trae Crowder: I’ve always had a supreme amount of confidence in myself even when there was no real evidence to support it [laughs]. I did well at the level I was at from the beginning doing open mic. I continued to progress, so I felt like I’d get there one day and didn’t know how. Even when I went viral with the Liberal Redneck video about all-gender bathrooms six years ago, you don’t really know what that’s going to mean. It’s crazy, but is it going to be over next week?
I didn’t quit my day job for three months after that. The moment when I knew I could quit my day job was when I got that first book deal for "Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta The Dark." Then television followed and it was off to the races thereafter.
You’ll be returning to the Funny Bone in Richmond for the first time in awhile. Any memories from your last time here?
You mean Short Pummmmmp [laughs]? Yeah, I haven’t been there since well before the pandemic, like 2019. I just remember a women’s group came out to the show and they brought one of those giant inflatable Trump baby balloons? [Laughs]. Always an awesome time there, though I haven’t spent any time in Richmond except to perform.
Speaking of the pandemic, that’s really when you went viral for all the right reasons. You tackled all the tumultuous things happening in the world in a really direct, no BS kinda way. You do a ton of non-political stuff too: multiple podcasts, YouTube shows, and obviously stand up. Lots of people don’t know that. What else would people be surprised to know about Trae Crowder?
This is really the way I talk. I didn’t do imitations of other accents until recently because I catch so much shit from people for faking my own. Some people refuse to believe it’s how I talk, even fans of mine are like, "You know we love you, you can drop the act." If people knew I liked to imitate other accents as a hobby, that would make them more suspicious. So that was my secret talent for a while.
Another thing is that I’m not a news junkie. I really have to force myself to stay informed because I feel like you should, and obviously because of my whole thing I have to but make myself do it. I get just as depressed and anxiety-ridden as anyone does. Mark Agee who does my political podcast with me, "The Evening Skews," is a politics junkie and constantly consuming that stuff. Aside from being a friend, that’s why I asked him to do it with me.
[Recent NSFW video update from Crowder on latest SCOTUS news]
A lot of folks from the South have risen up and advocated for what’s being called "the Better South," a true representation of who some of us are in this area of the country. I think you’ve been one of those voices. It gave everyone a lot of hope for a hot minute, and then it felt like the bottom dropped out. Are you still hopeful that we can turn things around to be more inclusive, etc?
Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. For a long time, I was overall very optimistic. If you looked at the difference between my grandpa, my dad, and then me, who grew up in the same town in Tennessee, change was massive between our generations. Lots of progress and moving in the right direction. Far from a progressive utopia, but better than what it was with things like race when my grandpa was younger. Night and day.
There’s a lot of good stuff happening, but I do think the people on the other side have started pushing back way harder because of some of that. It’s a reaction to progress, pushing them to push the pendulum back further. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though.
A few years ago in Tennessee, we had a Republican governor but we were the first state to make community college free for all residents. Little things like that made me proud. Post-Trump though, Tennessee politics have gone off the rails. Republicans like Lamar Alexander, who I didn’t like, but then they didn’t act like f---ing lunatics. Now it’s f---ing Marsha BlackBurn and Bill Lee. It’s lunatic central. The mayor of Knox County is Kane from the WWE, Glenn Jacobs. It’s just a circus, you know?
It’s hard to feel optimistic, but the same people that helped us make progress didn’t go away, so that’s good. Definitely feels like more of a battlefield than in recent years than I’d like though.
You’ve talked a little about Southern appropriation in the past, can you touch on that a bit more?
My buddy Drew Morgan, who tours with me a lot on the WellRED tour, used to have a bit about how the South was trendy and hipster now, people wearing clothes like ours and stuff. I agree with it, but I have to give him credit because he’s been talking about that for a while.
I’m not sure where it came from or how they landed on it, but it’s definitely a thing. It’s weird because a lot of people have embraced things for hipster reasons, but they’re grossed out by the South in general. They love Jason Isbell, but they’re like uggggh, Alabama. They just think of the Kay Ivey, Mo Brooks bullshittery. It’s weird. People say, "you’re from the South but you are different." Happens to me all the time. But they never factor in there’s more people like me, not idiots. The South doesn’t get credit for OutKast, I mean …
[NSFW thoughts on Elon Musk and capitalism]
Let’s do some rapid-fire quick questions. First up, most memorable moment so far of your comedy career?
Oh man, the most surreal moment has been when Morgan Freeman called me his favorite comedian in 2018. I wasn’t even there, I started getting all kinds of text messages. Having people like Adam Sandler and Zach Galafanakis do my show in LA was really rad. And, actually doing standup at Al Gore’s 70th birthday. That was surreal.
What’s the best kept or darkest secret about your hometown, Celina?
This is more of a controversy, but for the longest time the sign on the way into town said "Home of the World Record Smallmouth Bass," but the local rumor was that the dude who caught it surreptitiously weighted it down with nuts and bolts in its stomach so it would weigh more. It was an illegitimate record allegedly. Obviously, no one could know that for sure.
There’s plenty of murder and drugs too, but I don’t have the specifics on that right now. I’d have to call Meemaw to get the lowdown on that.
Biggest pet peeve?
I hate it when people act like they are the only ones waiting in a long line, traffic or otherwise. Like everyone else isn’t hating this situation. Honking at people, going around them and getting one car up. People like that drive me crazy. In their heads, they are the whole world. It’s a movie in which they are the protagonist. You know what I’m saying?
Hot topic: favorite mayonnaise?
Duke’s by a mile. It’s not even close. Big Duke’s guy. It’s just better, the best. Blows everything else out of the water.
Lastly, what’s the best you have for a liberal redneck in unfriendly territory … you know, like a family gathering?
That’s a good question. It’s easy to say, stick to your guns. But no one wants to be the person who f--ks up Thanksgiving for everybody. I guess, just pick your battles and no, you are not alone. Don’t let ‘em spin you off the rails just because you are outnumbered. Good people are out there and you can find ‘em.
You can get together and commiserate about how stupid the rest of them are. You don’t necessarily have to do that at your aunt’s birthday party.
Trae Crowder plays Richmond Funny Bone on Wednesday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and available at richmond.funnybone.com.