From the interior of his pickup truck a man in a big white Stetson rattles off a fast-paced monologue: “If you don’t like George Strait, Chuck Norris, Willie Nelson, Nolan Ryan, Stevie Ray Vaughn or Townes Van Zandt then you’re just not gonna get along in Texas.” It’s a scene millions of Texans and Americans have watched online.
You may not know him by name, but chances are you’ve seen one of Chad Prather’s videos on the internet. Known for his rapid-fire, auctioneer-style delivery, Prather blends humor and social commentary in his videos. They are, in large part, truth-bombs that express opinions that many people in this overly PC world are afraid to voice. This man does not mince words, and his fans love him for it. He is probably best known for his rant “Unapologetically Southern,” which resonated with millions of Southerners and received wide mainstream media coverage.
I got a chance to speak with Prather to find out more about the man behind the viral internet sensation. He called me from (where else?) his pickup. Prather travels extensively for his work, making videos and doing comedy. This week he is in Dallas and Oklahoma, travelling with Cowboy Bill Martin, his partner on the Kings of Cowtown Comedy Tour. When we chatted, he was on his way back to Fort Worth to pick up one of his five kids from school.
Before I can ask him any questions, the loquacious and friendly Prather starts asking me where I’m from and how long I’ve lived in Texas.
Wait, who’s interviewing who here?
Chad: (Laughing) I always do that. I’m that guy that just never meets a stranger. I get genuinely interested in people and just try to find out their stories.
Since you asked, I live in Austin.
It’s not for me, but I know, for a lot of people, Austin kinda gets in your blood, and it’s hard to get outta there. Fort Worth did that for me. Funny story: I was conceived in Dallas, was born in New Jersey, when I was three months old my parents moved back to my mother’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia, and I grew up and then went to school at the University of Georgia, and bounced around the Southeast for a while and about 2003 I came out to Fort Worth for work. I really had never been in the city, and six months later I packed up the truck and headed out.
So how did you get into this line of work?
I’ve always been a student of comedy, but my original intent was to do broadcast journalism. I wound up working for a lot of nonprofit organizations out of college, and they afforded me the opportunity to speak to a lot of groups literally all over the world.
A number of years ago I was in the corporate world. Three or maybe more years ago I called my wife on the phone and said, “I’m really depressed with my job, it’s really bringing me down and I wanna do something different and I think I’m gonna quit my job,” and she said, ” Well, I support that,” and I said, “Well, that’s good because I already quit!” She said, “Okay, well what’s your plan?” and I said, “I think I wanna go make a living just being myself.”
At that time I didn’t know if it was going to be motivational speaking or life coaching or what, and right on the heels of that, I had a television network that reached out to me. They wanted to do a TV show and they’d seen some of my stuff out there. The show was called It’s My Backyard. It’s a travel humor show, and so we would go to all these cities and showcase them and have fun with people man-on-the-street interviews. They still show them every day.
I started doing those little videos on social media as an attempt to promote that TV show. It wasn’t long after that that I put a video out that went viral and I was getting all of these followers and viewers, and so what I was doing on social media actually outran what I was doing on television. Now people are like, you know, we did three seasons of that show and very rarely do people even realize I had that show.
How did that evolve into the “Kings of Cowtown” comedy series?
As I developed that following on social media, I started getting more platforms to do things with nonprofit organizations, specifically charities. I got involved with a charity that a friend of mine started, Cowboy Bill Martin, he had started a foundation called Cowboys who Care, and he visits children’s hospitals and puts cowboy hats on the heads of kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
I got involved with that and he and I got to know each other and developed a friendship and he said, “You know, you’re not a traditional type comedian, but you do make people laugh with the videos you do, so what if we did a comedy tour and put something together?” So we kicked the idea around for a few months, and took a shot at it in January of this year. We did a show and it was successful and people liked it, and laughed, and now we’ve done 35 shows. We’re gonna try to make it bigger in 2017. There’s a country musician who was on Nashville Star, his name is Coffey Anderson, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him?
Yes, I follow him on Facebook. I always thought it was pronounced “Coffee.”
Nah, it’s “ka-FAY.” It does look like “coffee.” I give him a hard time, I’m like, ‘You’re just trying to church it up!’ He’s gonna join the tour in 2017, so it brings some of that country music element into it, because he is a musician. He’s a very talented musician.
So are y’all going for something like an old-timey kind of variety show that encompasses music and comedy?
In some ways it is, but even the music is funny. I write parody songs that are funny. I change the words to well-known songs a lot of times and make it pretty funny. Then you’ve got Coffey who actually writes some original music. He just released a song called “Your New Boyfriend is Ugly.
It’s a funny song and he just released a video for that so there is some variety aspect to it but it’s funny from start to finish. It’s about two hours long and our goal is to keep people laughing the whole time. It’s a different sort of show, it’s not just guys standing up there telling jokes.
In your video “Thoughts on This Election” you sound as though you really didn’t feel too inspired by either candidate. What do you think about the outcome of the election?
I’m a conservative guy and I’ve never chosen a political party personally, I see merits in both sides, I really do, and I’ve got friends on both sides, but you know I have always pretty much voted conservative. You know, Donald Trump was not my guy, I wasn’t real thrilled about Donald Trump and still a little bit nervous there, but you know my hope honestly is that he stands by his word and puts the right people around himself and then does not at that point think he’s the smartest guy in the room and will listen to some of these guys. I think we’re fine if he does that.
Unlike what a lot of people in this mass hysteria that’s going on, I don’t think this is the end of the world. I don’t think any one man — or one woman had she won — I don’t think either one of them is capable of destroying the country.
Maybe you should run for office.
Too many skeletons in that closet! I don’t know, you know I have people tell me that all the time, and of course we had people who wrote my name in for president. People are crazy. I’ve got some relationships with some other guys like Mike Rowe. He sent out pictures out of actual ballots that people had shown him with his name written in for president and he was like “yeah don’t do that.” One, we’re not qualified to run for president, we haven’t even attempted to be and two, you don’t want us running the country, I’m not sure we’re the most diplomatic people in the world.
What do you think about the cultural divide that the country is facing right now?
I think the next 20 to 25 years are going to be real telling of a lot of things, and I think that the divide is going to get larger. I think the mainstream media has done a fantastic job of continuing to divide us, of telling people what to think and people are being spoon-fed a lot of garbage, and unfortunately, it’s just going to keep getting deeper and deeper.
I truly think that social media is largely to blame for a lot of it. My theory on social media (and I can’t complain too much because social media has given me a career), but historically people didn’t have this big of a voice. It was your dignitaries, your politicians, your royalty, your history makers; they had the voice. They were the ones whose words were written down for generations to come, they were the people who kind of dictated the stories.
Not everybody has the responsibility to have that big a voice. And so they say a lot of things they really don’t need to be saying, because they really don’t know how to say what they’re trying to say, and it becomes very offensive, so consequently we have developed a culture of offensiveness where everybody is looking to get their feeling hurt. Everything offends everybody nowadays. As long as that’s happening we’re gonna continue dividing, unfortunately.
“Unapologetically Southern” is probably what you’re best known for. Was that the first one of your videos to go viral?
I bet I’d done 15 videos before that had a million views or more. But “Unapologetically Southern” got picked up in a big way by the mainstream media, and it was just kind of a real crucial time of a lot of things going on people talking about the South.
It’s a life-changing thing because now you have a lot of people that wanna be in your business, and you get a lot of crazy messages every day. While most of the stuff I receive is positive feedback you’ve got folks out there who like to hate just for the sake of hating. So to do what I do you’ve got to have some pretty thick skin, You’ve gotta let it roll off your back. Fortunately, I can handle that, it was more of an adjustment for my wife to deal with it than it was for me because now she had a lot of inappropriate things being said to her husband, and she wanted to fight back. That’s not how you handle it. That just exacerbates the situation.
You have a very unusual rapid-fire delivery, almost like an auctioneer. Do you have to rehearse these videos?
I don’t rehearse it, but I’ve practiced that skill over the years. Here’s my philosophy with that: I knew that nobody wants to sit there and listen to somebody talk to them for 10 minutes. Somebody does a video, and that thing goes four minutes? You’ve lost me. I’m not gonna watch it. So if I’m gonna put something into a minute and a half and get that much information out, I’m gonna get it out as quickly as possible. My brain works in a weird way in that my mind works about eight seconds ahead of my mouth. So I know where I’m going, and I can kind of set it on cruise control. My mouth is just playing catch up with my brain.
I did a study a long time ago about how much our brain can process in terms of the spoken word vs. how fast we can talk so our brain processes human speech a lot faster than people can talk. So I worked on that for a long time, and I practiced for years on how you turn a phrase and how can you say something in a certain way that sticks in people’s minds and becomes repeatable or quotable or something like that.
Do you mess up?
If I’ve given it some thought and thought about what I want to say, I may do it three times and see which one I like the best. For me, there are certain nuances like how you hold your face, when you smile, how you cut your eyes, and for me, it’s more the nonverbal. Sometimes the facial expressions are funny, I have people all the time that say to me, “you’re so cocky, you’re so arrogant,” or whatever, “you can’t watch this guy, he’s so full of himself,” but what people don’t realize is that’s kind of part of the joke. My humor by and large is very self-effacing. A lot of folks think I’m being pompous or arrogant and I’m really not. If you listen to the nuances of a lot of the videos I’ve done, I’m making fun of myself.
Even though you’re not from here originally, you have tapped into Texans’ unique sense of state pride. What do you think makes Texans unique?
Texas is a whole other country. One, it’s big, and people take for granted how big Texas is. I’m 6’1” and I have people who meet me all the time and they say, “gosh you’re taller than we thought you would be,” well that’s because you keep seeing me in pictures with fifth generation Texas men and they’re all 6′ 4” and it’s funny because the adage of ‘everything’s bigger in Texas'” is true.
There’s that certain element that says hey, you know we had our own revolution and we became an independent country. As a state we’re big, we’re self-sufficient, we may have our hard times but we’re the first ones to pull ourselves out. We’ve got our own economy, we’ve got so much history here that nobody can compare to us. I’ve made a joke about it before, they don’t make waffles in the shape of Vermont but they do make them in the shape of Texas. You don’t mess with Texas. Texas has the attitude, Texas has a humble arrogance.
That’s exactly what we have. You’re right about that.
People will still demonstrate their manners in most places, they’ll hold the doors open for you and say yes ma’am and yes sir. It’s a term of affection and endearment and respect. We do that in Texas, we hold on to those roots. I have people all the time who give me a hard time who say, “You’re not a Texan, you weren’t born here” well I wasn’t born here but I was conceived here so I’m gonna hang on to that.
Editor’s Note: Some of the responses have been edited for readability.