Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Defying rural Southern stereotypes in satirizing them

NPR reported a few days ago on a new genre of stand-up comedians:  progressive rednecks.  These are men (and perhaps some women, though none are noted in the story) who play on the stereotypes of rural Southerners by ridiculing them.  Referring to Trae Crowder, one of the more famous among this lot, Will Huntsberry explains:  
He's doing something almost entirely unheard of in mainstream comedy: making a big deal out of his "Southern-ness" and his progressive values. 
"Yeah, I'm a white trash, trailer baby from the deep South," Crowder said. "But I'm also educated, agnostic, well-read, cultured. I'm [all] of those things at the same time and if you can't reconcile those things in your head, that's your problem."
Huntsberry explains the specific genre these comedians have carved out:
Embracing this paradox, of loving the South, while also being horrified by it, is exactly what makes these comedians so different than the ones that have come before them.
Huntsberry notes how these men are different even from comedians like Jeff Foxworthy, who embraces southern stereotypes to get a laugh.

One thing I find especially interesting about this piece is Crowder's analysis of how he came to be confident enough to shrug off the culture of his upbringing.  He and fellow "liberal redneck" Drew Morgan were valedictorians of their respective small-town Tennessee high schools.  
Crowder said he was "seriously treated like Good Will Hunting, like a prodigy or something. And so I left thinking that's the way I was. We both had to come to terms with a lot of s***." 
Even though Crowder eventually realized he wasn't as smart as he thought he was, he says, his perception that he was a prodigy back then influences the way he rails against Southern conservatism today. 
"This is gonna sound really terrible," said Crowder. "But because that's the way it was from a very young age, I never really concerned myself with the opinions of other people. Like I knew they might not agree with me, but in my head I was like, 'well I'm Good Will Hunting and they're not. ... They're just wrong.'"
Crowder recently left his job negotiating federal contracts to do stand-up full time.  

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