Trae Crowder began doing stand-up comedy in 2010, but he didn’t find widespread fame until he posted his Liberal Redneck videos – where he rants in his Southern twang about such subjects as President Donald Trump, gun control and whatever subject is in the news at that time – on YouTube in 2016.
Crowder was surprised as anyone that his videos went viral.
“On the one hand, I never would have done them if I didn’t want them to be seen and, hopefully, enjoyed by people,” he says. “But anybody that tells you that they expected to go viral in the way that I initially did is full of (crap). You can’t expect or prepare for something like that. My entire life changed, literally, overnight.”
Because of the success of the Liberal Redneck videos, Crowder has been able to perform stand-up comedy full time, which he has dreamed about doing since he saw Chris Rock’s 1999 HBO special “Bigger and Blacker” when he was a child.
“I never lived in a place where stand-up was a thing,” he says. “In my hometown of Celina, Tenn., and then the small town I went to college in, Cookeville, Tenn., there were no comedy clubs or comedy open mics or anything. So until that point, I worked mostly as a server while in college and then got a job in procurement with the U.S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tenn. That job took me to the Knoxville area, where I started doing stand-up at the now-defunct Side Splitters Comedy Club in 2010. From 2010 to 2016, I moonlighted with stand-up and paid my bills with the DOE job.”
Crowder says that the Liberal Redneck is both a character and who he really is.
“The Liberal Redneck is a character in the sense that it’s just me cranked up to 11,” he says. “That’s my real accent, but the thickness of it varies depending on how fired up/hammered drunk I am. I grew up supremely, stereotypically, white trash redneck-style in rural Tennessee, and as long as I’ve had any political leanings at all — since high school or so — I’ve been liberal. So it all comes from a very real place. But, I mean, I don’t walk around living my life like that character. I’d be pretty damn hard to be around if I did.”
Crowder had been performing stand-up comedy alongside his buddies, Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester, before his videos went viral, and he thinks they might be jealous of his success.
“One of their favorite things to do is leave early for the show without telling me, so they can go sit in a coffee shop and talk about how to steal my essence,” he says. “They think I don’t know, but I actually track their every movement, so I always know when they’re together.”
He says he uses “tracking devices from my old government job” that he hides in their clothes.
“The trick is to hide them in something you’ll know the person is going to frequently wear, which for Drew was easy because he doesn’t believe in hygiene and, as such, only owns like six articles of clothing, one of which is this prison belt made specially for Drew by this murderer who loves him,” Crowder says. “He never takes it off, so that one was simple.”
Forrester, he says, proved more difficult.
“Because he’s fat and ridiculous,” Crowder says. “So he sweats through no less than three hats per week and never wears a pair of shoes more than four times before throwing them at a homeless Vietnam (veteran). But I finally cracked it though when I started taping the device directly in the center of his back when he’s asleep. See, he never sleeps without being brutally blacked out, hammered drunk, so he never notices when I put it on, and he’s too physically round to reach or even feel it back there.”
When Crowder, Morgan and Forrester bring their wellRED Comedy tour to Goshen on Thursday, Crowder says they have no fear of performing in a red state like Indiana.
“Typically, the people in red states who actually spend money and come to our show tend to be, as they often describe themselves, ‘blue dots in a sea of red,’ which is obviously something that me and the guys I tour with, Corey and Drew, understand very well,” he says. “So, honestly, and I’m not trying to pander here — this is true — most of our very best shows are in red states. Because the people that come out when we’re there just get it on every level. They get and relate to all of it. They’re our people and it’s awesome.”
Since Crowder got viral fame, he has noticed he doesn’t get threatened, booed or heckled at shows as much as he used to.
“I have found that I am very much at a YouTube comment level of hatred for most people,” he says. “Which is to say, oh they hate me, but they don’t yet hate me quite enough to leave their basement to call me a queer.”
Although the Trump administration has provided plenty of material for Crowder and other comedians, he would much rather that the president would go away.
“Trump is dangerous and embarrassing and a stain on this country and the office of the presidency and no amount of likes on a tweet about his stupid tangerine circus fingers will make me want him to stay around,” Crowder says. “Believe me, I’ve never had trouble finding something to be (angry) about in this country. Comedians will be just fine without Trump.”