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Sometimes ideas for this column come along sparsely. I’ll dig, and dig, and dig, until eventually I find a thread to pull that I think is close enough to what I’ve told y’all I’m going to be talking about here without just beating you over the head with dullness.
It would be quite simple to just pick some governor or business owner at random and then copy/paste their Wikipedia article in here. Or perhaps some particular town’s muskrat festival, or the annual chili cook off, what have you. Not only does that not interest either of us, it’s antithetical to what I have to say. I’d rather quit altogether.
On the contrary, sometimes ideas come in quickly. I’ve got a few things coming that could be a bit grim, even for me – and then we get into Halloween. In trying to think of something lighthearted and representative of modern southern culture, David Cross was quick to come to mind.
David Cross is a comedian from Atlanta, Georgia, who’s been active for the past 30 years. He’s had a few acting roles here and there, but his most important work is surely his stand-up comedy and his writing.
He actually spent the majority of his childhood in Roswell, Georgia, a bit outside of Atlanta. During those times he writes about the hard times he experienced as a cultural outsider from a Jewish family. He experienced the dichotomy that many of us experience – learning to love the South, even when we hate the people, or the people hate us. This is something he confronts often, as he makes it a point to visit Georgia every other month.
Though he’s often not spoken of in the same sentence as Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy, he has had a similar contribution to comedy. He’s able to mock rednecks in a way that we can laugh along – you can tell he isn’t speaking from a place of ignorance.
If you watch some of his work on Mr. Show you’ll become rather acquainted with a character of his, Ronnie Dobbs. This was an early hallmark of his career. Ronnie wasn’t the “camouflage and beer” redneck. He was the “trailer park and whiskey” type.
We’ve all met them, and I think it’s a more accurate portrayal of the modern day redneck anyway. The Ronnie Dobbses of the world have beat-up trucks, a bit of a drug problem and know the cops by the freckles on their faces. They’ve got just as many strong opinions about conspiracy theories as they do about politics, and they’re all just as well informed. The crusty single-wide burnout of our world is such a specific-yet-honest character that it’s absolutely hilarious.
On the face of it, Cross’s comedic persona is almost an entire opposite of Ronnie. He’s snotty, arrogant and condescending to those he deems the idiots of the world. This attitude is rooted in a nearly pathological penchant for honesty.
For example, when asked on Late Night with Conan O’Brien about what he thought of a movie project he had an ongoing part in, he said the following, “All I wanted was to get the [fudge] out of there as soon as possible … and buy a summer home with the check.”
His unerring straightforwardness can be off putting, but in a way it reminds me of Ronnie Dobbs. There’s something about that willingness to say exactly what’s on your mind that feels familiar to your local rotten toothed reprobate. They both seem to share an attitude that says “I’m gonna speak to what’s on my mind, and I kinda like that it’s gonna ruffle your feathers.”
While he’s definitely more urbane than many folks I’ve written about on here, he bridges the gap between feeling familiar while progressing to new thoughts and ideas, like many other Gen X’ers have done. I’m hoping that my own and future generations also manage to find their balance in this regard.
No matter how far we go, the place we call home will always be carried with us.