Trae Crowder and Darren Knight want you to rethink your assumptions about Southern comedy. Often falling under the umbrella term “Red Neck Comedy,” most audiences associate Crowder’s and Knight’s genre with various configurations of middle aged soccer dads gathered onstage to talk about life, marriage, and where they came from. The prominent voices belonged to Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall who operated from the vantage point of being a generation’s remove from the manufactured faux-rural naivete of Hee Haw.
Sometime after all the pickin’ and grinnin’ and Jed Clampett’s clan moving to Beverly Hills, southern comedy went to college, moved to the suburbs, and bumped up a couple of notches on the SES ladder. The southern ladies and gentlemen in the sold-out big venues and in front of the brick walls were rednecks in name only, and their comedy offered at most a wink and a nod to the overall-clad clowns who sat on bales of hay and reheated jokes they way their mamas warmed over Sunday’s creamed corn for Monday supper.
That was then, this was now. With a faltering economy, fewer families are upwardly mobile. The presumption of generational financial improvement is more a social artifact than a common expectation, and with cultural change comes a sea change in humor. As a result, Red Neck Comedy is seeing a rebirth of sorts. The newest crop of funny men are not the khaki-clad Dads and their slightly rougher buddies. The leaders in the latest charge of the Southern light brigade, Crowder and King have historically been much less likely to share a stage. They gained notoriety in a way that would have confused and frustrated their comedic forebears. Employing social media and the theater of the mind as broadcast and legitimized through the cache of YouTube stardom, Trae Crowder and Darren Knight have created personas who boasts hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and growing popularity on YouTube.
Everybody is entitled to a Liberal Redneck’s opinion.
Knoxville-based writer and standup comedian Trae Crowder has an impressive resume that includes admission to the NBC Universal Late Night Comedy Workshop and logged minutes behind the mic at various comedy festivals. His biggest claim to fame is his series of viral videos starring the “Liberal Redneck.” Clad in a gimme cap and jeans, the often shirtless Crowder holds forth on hot issues of the day.
Part of the humor comes from the element of surprise. Trae Crowder’s most popular character may use language that is often not safe for work or the easily offended, but he flips the script by espousing progressive ideas and a common sense, something many don’t expect from a redneck living in Tennessee. His level-headed approach to some of the matters that have caused near-hysteria in some circles.
Unlike his comedy predecessor, Daniel Whitney, AKA Larry the Cable Guy, Trae Crowder is more openly political and confrontational in his social commentary. The amiable, apolitical approach that is the hallmark if Larry the Cable Guy’s storytelling is present as a vestigial framing device for Crowder’s sometimes fiery rants about the religious right and the Republican Party. In place of Whitney’s catchphrases and aw shucks cackle are Crowder’s judicious use of F-bombs and righteous indignation.
Fans of Tre Crowder will have a chance to see him live and experience his comedy in and out of his Liberal Redneck character. He is part of Well Red Comedy Tour, a traveling showcase featuring Crowder and two other comics.
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“Momma just needs a cigarette.”
At first blush, Darren Knight looks like every other young guy you might see dropping by the local Golden Gallon to fill up his tank and buy a pack of Marlboros, a blue Slurpee, and a Slim Jim. Within the first minute of his videos, the mustache and beard disappear and he turns into a chain smoking, hard partying working class momma.
While Knight admits that much of his material comes from his own childhood, he often represents the realness of tired mothers everywhere. In an interview with Donna Barton of the Anniston Star, Knight stated he was hearing from people all over the country who saw shades of themselves and their Mommas in his videos.
“I thought it was just me and my upbringing, but I’ve heard from people all over. They’re telling me that’s how they were raised, too, so evidently it wasn’t just me.”
Darren Knight’s Alabama roots come through with an accent and material that rings true to his audience, many of whom either currently live in the southeastern U.S. or claim to come from there. What’s next? Growing fame on Facebook and YouTube may well lead to bigger and better things. To his credit, Knight seems to be pacing his output by making sure his swearin’ scrappin’ but ultimately loving Southern Mom is giving his fans nothing but her best.
Right now, both Darren Knight and Trea Crowder have internet presences that still have a grassroots feel to them. As more and more people share their videos and their appearances are greeted by enthusiastic fans, their southern fried comedy may find a new generation of fans on the same scale as the Blue Collar Comedy Crew did in 2000.