Skeeeewwwing left

The Liberal Redneck tears into politics at the Dayton Funny Bone

By Paula Johnson

Photo: wellRED Comedy Tour’s (l-r) Drew Morgan, Trae Crowder, and Corey Forrester perform May 3 at the Dayton Funny Bone

If Trae Crowder has a catchphrase, or word in this case, it’s “Skeeeewww!” pronounced with two syllables, as in “ski-you.” This ejaculation frequently punctuates his stories about the American South and life as a self-described redneck. Crowder’s effort to reclaim the word “redneck” (along with “liberal”) are what his comedy and that of his two partners, Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan, is all about. Three Southern guys who hold a range of liberal (and sometimes conservative) views, talking about the state of the South and American politics are what make the wellRED Comedy Tour the hottest comedy ticket in the country right now. Luckily, they make a stop in Dayton, appearing at the Funny Bone on May 3.

Crowder hit the scene not long ago with a viral series of what he calls Porch Talks, featuring the comedian in a ball cap on his back porch ranting about political topics. Now, he’s everywhere. Within weeks, he appeared on TV shows like Bill Maher and The View. He’s guested on the podcasts of Marc Maron and Dan Savage. Crowder, Morgan, and Forrester just put out a book, “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta The Dark,” and are six or so episodes into their own podcast, wellRED. Crowder is also developing a TV pilot based on his life with Warner Brothers Studios. Quite a far cry from a guy who holds an MBA and once negotiated multi-million dollar contracts for the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

Can you give a quick synopsis of what happened and how quickly things exploded for you? 

Trae Crowder: Well, it wasn’t really overnight like it seems to some people. Corey, Drew, and I have been doing standup for a long time. Drew and I have been at for seven years, starting in Knoxville, and Corey started at 16 in Chattanooga. We met early on and really hit it off and started writing together. We are all comedically similar. None of us wanted to drop the accent. We all independently wanted to dive into the South headfirst.

 

Your viral YouTube videos started as a reaction to a right-wing preacher video you happened to see. That was like your light bulb moment, wasn’t it?

TC: One day I saw this right-wing preacher railing against the North Carolina bathroom bill, just screaming into his phone. And for a long time before I had been thinking about doing a YouTube series based on my character. But I thought I needed a great camera and lighting and technical ability—it seemed like a pretty high barrier to entry, so I didn’t pursue it. Then I saw this guy—that was it. I realized if that’s what I was trying to satirize, then there was no reason for me not to do it exactly the same way as he does it. You know, just go outside and yell at my phone.

 

You actually have an MBA and worked at the Oakridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, which is a far cry from doing standup

TC: That’s true. But while I was negotiating contracts for the federal government, I was still doing standup. Actually the TV pilot we’re working on is a semi-autobiographical show about a guy who returns to his roots works at a fictionalized version of Oakridge as a scientist, after escaping to LA and thinking he’d never go back.

 

You talk about your disdain for people who call you a ‘unicorn.’ Can you explain what you mean by that? 

TC: I’ve encountered this a lot in my life (we all three have)—it’s the notion that all Southerners are this stereotypical thing and that thing is racist, poor, fat, homophobic, Jesus loving, and gun toting, but it doesn’t represent the entire population. Now that I’m known, I meet people who have never been to the South and don’t know any southerners who call me that—a unicorn—like I’m the only one. People like me are statistically the minority, but it’s still like 60-40, so I’m not the only one. These people don’t realize the irony that their own close-minded attitudes are actually the same as the people they’re talking about.

 

You’ve put together a book, ‘The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta The Dark,’ along with Corey and Drew. Tell me
about that. 

TC: We never expected that a book would be one of the first opportunities that came our way. We met a couple literary agents who reached out to us on social media, and we just did it. It all came together really quickly and organically.  It’s like a long form version of what we do on stage.

 

Dayton is the home of comedian Dave Chappelle. Is he an influence for you? Do you think he’ll come to your show?

TC: From your mouth to God’s ears! Oh my God—if Dave Chappelle came to my show, I would lose it!

 

We are now so divided, racially and socioeconomically. What do you think we should do as a country to put it back together?

TC: You’ve asked me the hardest question because I don’t have an answer. There are so many layers, but I think the real underlying problem is racism, and I don’t know what to do about that. Being poor is the problem, and it’s universal, and people should be able to see that.

 

Don’t you owe a great debt to Trump? It looks like you are definitely riding the Trump Train.

TC: Yeah, well, it would be disingenuous to say that Trump winning wasn’t good for my career, but it’s not worth it to me. I mean if I could snap my fingers right now and make him not be the president I would, even if I lost the benefits. I mean I’m confident I’d still have a career if he hadn’t won. I’d still be here.

 

The wellRed Comedy Tour appears Wednesday, May 3 at Dayton Funny Bone, 88 Plum St. in Dayton. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, please visit Dayton.FunnyBone.com or WellRedComedy.com.

 

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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