Trae Crowder, the 31-year-old comedian better known as the “Liberal Redneck,” gained national notoriety after he and his southern drawl supported transgender rights in April 2016.
He’d been a stand-up comedian for nearly six years at the time, but it was his condemnation of North Carolina’s bigoted HB2 “bathroom bill” that thrust him into the viral video spotlight. That first video, originally uploaded to his personal Facebook page, has garnered over 980,000 YouTube views to date. In total, his hot takes have drawn over 50 million.
Since then, he’s weighed in on the good, the bad and the bigly, and introduced the world to longtime collaborators and fellow liberal rednecks Corey Forrester and Drew Morgan. The trio of comedians co-wrote the book The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outta the Dark and hit the talk show circuit, impressing everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Lawrence O’Donnell with their genuine tales of Southern hospitality.
Coinciding with this, they embarked on the “wellRED: From Dixie with Love” tour, which is “about dancing to country music at a gay wedding.” More still, it’s “about loving your neighbor whether you have the same religion, skin color, or sexual preference,” and “about leaving behind bigotry, but remembering the fried okra.”
Watermark spoke with Crowder ahead of the tour’s Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 stops in Orlando and Clearwater to talk comedy and coming out—of the LGBTQ and Southern liberal closets, respectively.
“I tour all over the country and I do have a lot of LGBTQ fans,” Crowder, clearly a community ally, says. “I’ve talked to a lot of them in person and what I mostly hear is that [it’s] refreshing to hear somebody that sounds like me standing up for them.”
“As opposed to the reverse,” he acknowledges, “which is what they typically see. It was just nice to know that they had a friend in unexpected place, that type of thing, which I really appreciate hearing.”
It’s something Crowder says he understands, “growing up where I did and all that.” He now resides in Los Angeles, a byproduct of working on a television series that’s been optioned by ABC, but originally hails from Celina, Tennessee.
It’s a town he describes as having “more liquor stores than traffic lights,” and one he shared with his father, who told him at a young age that his uncle, “one of [his] favorite people on earth,” was gay.
“Before I ever even knew that my uncle was gay or what that even meant,” Crowder says, “I just knew that he was around all the time and he was this awesome, sweet, funny guy. When I was a kid I just loved him, and I still do – I still think he’s the best.”
It’s that bond which he credits with some of his liberal views. His father had remained close with his uncle, telling Crowder that “this is what people are gonna say, but he’s your Uncle Tim and so it shouldn’t matter.” For the record, he says, “I don’t think it would’ve mattered to me anyway.”
At that point in his life, Crowder was still going to a church that labeled “homosexuality as an abomination, [which] had previously gone over [his] head.” But once he learned about his uncle, it “really just did not sit well with me, because I interpreted it as them saying it about my Uncle Tim.”
He told his father he no longer wanted to go to church; Crowder’s father supported his decision. “I stopped at a very young age for where I’m from,” he recalls, “like nine or 10. I’ve always thought that had a lot to do with why I ended up the way I did—because frankly, I blame the church for a whole lot of shit.”
Crowder says that as he got older—including his stint as an employee at the Department of Energy—he learned more about economic policies. “I always felt like, if you’re poor, your default position should be being liberal, economically,” he says.
“Conservatism favors people with money, and that’s not even subjective or an opinion,” Crowder asserts. “They should be voting this way but they’re not—in my opinion, because of Jesus. I didn’t have the Jesus, so I just never got swayed in that direction.”
He likes to imagine he’d still be liberal, even without his uncle’s influence or his departure from the church—not unlike his writing and drinking partners who tour with him for their show. “Drew and Corey that co-wrote the book with me grew up heavily in the church,” he says. “Drew’s dad is a preacher, and they turned out the same way as me.”
Aside from their tour, the three liberal rednecks recently filmed an endearing “Funny or Die” video in which they visited a gay naturist gathering. It was an experience Crowder “will never forget,” he says laughing, noting that the three had a blast. “Growing up in Celina, I never envisioned… that’s definitely one of those moments, and I’ve had a few over the last year and a half, where I thought, damn. My life is different.”
But different, as Crowder’s attests, is a good thing. The wellRED comedy tour, which came together “super organically,” has brought the trio face to face with many in the LGBTQ community whose lives they’ve impacted.
“I’ve had LGBT people, and very often the parents of LGBT children, cry when they’re talking to me,” Crowder recalls. “You don’t think about that kind of thing when you’re getting into standup comedy, but it’s very moving and impactful. It’s super heavy, in a good way.”
It’s something he likens to coming out as a liberal in the South, something many fans have discussed with the comedian. “I can’t tell you how many times people say they’re a closeted liberal.”
As with the LGBTQ community, Crowder asserts, “we need to start speaking up, but people just keep their opinions to themselves because it’s easier. And that is why it seems that we’re alone, because the other side is so much louder.”
“They never miss an opportunity to scream their opinion in somebody’s face,” he says, “so of course they’re gonna think that they speak for all of us. Don’t be confrontational, but don’t ever hide who you are.”
And while the Liberal Redneck admits he doesn’t know how much comedy does to “move the needle in terms of change or anything,” he believes it’s important. “[Things are] pretty grim at present, so if you don’t have things to laugh at it makes it a lot more difficult.”
“I think that’s the primary job [of comedy] right now,” Crowder says. “Giving people an outlet.”
You can have an outlet of your own by attending the “wellRED: From Dixie With Love” tour when it stops at the Orlando Improv on Dec. 7 or the Capitol Theatre on Dec. 8. For tickets and information, visit wellREDcomedy.com.