Photos by Libby Rogers
I had my introduction to Chad Prather when his Unapologetically Southern video went viral. I was hooked, partly because, after working in places north of the Mason Dixon line where my accent was “noticeable,” there were times I wasn’t always taken seriously. Mostly, I was hooked because I felt a kinship with this fellow. He had no problem saying what he thought. I liked that. The only thing was – somehow this fellow was getting to tell everyone what he thought – whether they asked or not. Recently, Chad was in Huntsville for a performance at the Old Town Theatre. Postcards sat down for a conversation with the internet sensation.
When did you get to Texas?
Twenty years ago. I was born in New Jersey. My dad was an engineer, and his company moved him all over. When I was three or four months old, we moved to Augusta, Georgia where my mom was from. I grew up there and went to the University of Georgia. A while after college, I came out to Texas on a whim with some friends. I fell in love with it. So, for the last 20 years, the Fort Worth area has been home. We love it.
So, you claim to be an adopted Texan?
I do. For me, it’s the center of the universe. I used to feel a little homesick no matter where I lived, including third world countries. When I came to Texas, suddenly that sense of being homesick went away, and I felt at home. You couldn’t drive me out of here with dynamite. There’s nothing like it. So goes Texas, so goes the country. We’re an economy unto ourselves, and the people here just “get it.” I always say Texans walk around with that “humble arrogance.” I really appreciate that attitude, or “swaggertude,” as I think George W. said.
You mentioned traveling to third world countries. Tell us about that.
I started when I was in college. Summertime would come, spring break would come, and I wanted to see the world. ere was a mentor who was the pastor of our church where I grew up. This guy was very committed to going out to the world, and I said, “I want to go on some trips with you.” I went to Russia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, South America. en I did trips on my own. I would come home, and organizations and churches would ask me to come tell about my trip. I became that motivational guy, an inspirational guy, an aspirational guy that made everybody laugh. en it got to the point they didn’t care if I was aspirational at all, as long as I made them laugh.
In my late thirties, I said, “I’m working hard trying to make a living; I think I’m just gonna go join one of these corporations and get a paycheck like everybody else does.” So, I wound up with a Fortune 300 company teaching people how to sell things. It’s the only four years of my life I ever had a boss…and I didn’t like having a boss. I called my wife on the phone one day and said, “I’m going to go make a living just being myself.” She said, “What’s the street value on your personality?” I said, “We’re about to find out!”
I always had this idea you could use YouTube and Facebook to make a living. I didn’t know what that looked like. Back then, my wife would say, “You’ve always got your face in that phone.” these days she’s like, “Do you need to charge your phone?” I was always posting jokes, and then I started doing videos. I had a television network that reached out to me with an idea for a show. I wound up doing three seasons of the show with them, and the first season was the first time our video went viral.
It’s weird. e twenty-first century is a funny time when what you do on social media takes o faster than what you’re doing on cable television. Broadcast television is really a thing of the past. It’s not fully dead yet, but so many people are watching streaming things. I guess in hindsight, I saw that without even knowing what I was doing. People don’t have to pay for Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or Instagram. If you look at my audience, the folks who show up at these shows, they’re not affluent people. We try to keep our ticket prices as low as we possibly can because we know our folks are blue-collar people.”
Was your video “Unapologetically Southern” the first one that went viral?
Most people think that, but we had about 20 before it that had gone viral. Unapologetically Southern was great because that was back at the time when everybody was talking about the Confederate ag, and everybody in the South was evil, and if you had a little bit of an accent or dialect you were a redneck racist…all these stupid things. Somebody had sent me a private Facebook message about how they could hear my accent; therefore, they were not going to listen to me, because I was ignorant. I pulled into the driveway and thought, “OK, here we go.” So many of those videos are just off the cuff. I hit the button and recorded it, it was a “ first take” kind of deal, and I forgot about it. It did pretty good on Facebook, but I had no idea because I really don’t pay attention to numbers. A buddy of mine in Rome, Georgia texted me one morning and said, “You’re on Fox this morning.” I jumped out of bed about 6 in the morning, and there I was on Fox and Friends and Tucker Carlson and all these guys are talking about my video. the next day Fox called me and asked if I could be in the studio tomorrow at 5 am, and I said, “Yes I can!” at is what ultimately gave us some real national exposure.
Speaking of Carlson, he has called you “supernaturally articulate.” We are curious; do you “wing it,” or is it scripted?
Tucker said that morning their producers had watched my video over and over, and it was obvious that I wasn’t reading off a teleprompter. It’s harder for me to read o a teleprompter, which I’ve had to do for the TV Show than it is to just use my brain. So, it used to be just off the cuff. Then when I thought about the fact that there are millions of people watching these, I decided I should at least have a plan! I am prone to have “foot in mouth” disease. Now, I’ll get four or ve bullet points and say that’s the skeleton, and now I need to put meat on the bones. at’s how I go at it. It might take me one or two, sometimes three takes, to do it.
Your speech and rhythm are so fast, your brain must be going ninety to nothing!
(Laughing) I used to work on that. I got a master’s degree in Greek… in a dead language…not the one they speak today. Koine Greek and we had to practice, so we would sit around and practice those, and the faster the better. at taught me to articulate things fast. When social media started up, no one wants to sit there and listen to a talking head for ve, six, seven, ten minutes. So, I wondered, “How much can I say in 60 seconds and still get the point across?” I started trying to do these inspirational things that were faith-based in 60 seconds, and one thing led to another. I finally decided, let’s just talk about our day… whatever’s on our mind, and I tried to get everything out in as close to September 2019 | Postcards Magazine: Piney Woods Edition 13 a minute or minute thirty as I could. ese days, Facebook wants three minutes or more because of their algorithms. ey want retention time, and that’s really a pain to do what I do for that long. at’s a lot of words that come out. e Bible says we are going to give an account for every word…(sigh) I’m in trouble!
You can’t comment on things the way you do without being informed, but we seem to be living among one of the most uninformed generations of our time. What would be your advice to young people who get their news from SnapChat?
For me, I read 3-4 books a week. I’m a reading junkie. The first thing I do in the morning is get on Twitter. I want to see what people are talking about. Once I nd out what they’re talking about, I go to the news sources to find out more. For the most part, you can go to pretty much any news source and find out details. CNN not so much, but MSNBC really does pretty well with the details.
Speaking of CNN, they called you “The Pickup Pundit.” It that your favorite nickname?
I like that one. Piers Morgan retweeted something I said, and of all people to agree with me, Piers Morgan! CNN called me and we wound up doing an interview with CNN. They took a couple of jabs, but they were fair. My favorite is when people call me a modern-day Will Rogers. I would never claim that for myself. In my office, I have two Will Rogers things: a photo of him dressed in a suit, and a brass bust of him on a horse. Those mean a lot to me. He was the only Democrat I ever liked.
Changing topics a little…what’s the best lesson you’ve learned from raising children?
Strong discipline. Being consistent with your kids. We have five kids. With that many, all you’ve gotta do is cull one out of the herd, and let the rest of them watch! Let that one limp back to the herd, then make sure it’s not them who picks your old folks home! The biggest thing is two-fold: First, don’t live vicariously through your kids. If you didn’t win the state championship, don’t get all worked up if they don’t. Let your kids be individuals. Don’t try to make them be like you. I was a baseball player. I played college baseball and pro baseball in the minor leagues. None of my kids play baseball. I have three daughters and two sons. One son is an athlete, the rest of them aren’t. One of our daughters is on a dance scholarship at a major university. e other two took dance lessons, but there was a point we had to look at them and say, “Y’all don’t have the grace for this. You’ve got other gifts!” Let them be unique. Let them be themselves. That was my life. Until I was 40 years old, I was trying to be what everybody else wanted me to be.
Who is your favorite comedic influence?
It would be a combination of people. It’s kind of a crazy thing to say these days, but Bill Cosby, because he was a storyteller and when I was a kid I would listen to those records; Robin Williams, George Carlin and Bill Hicks. My mother wouldn’t let me listen to any of them, so I had to sneak around and do it! Bill Hicks for the political side of things and the idea that I don’t care what you think, I’m just going to say this. Robin Williams for his improv, and George Carlin for his rhetoric. While we would disagree politically on things, I loved how he just came at you, rapid-fire pace.
For what do you most want to be remembered?
Just as a person. I don’t want to be famous. I’m blessed and fortunate. We’ve managed to make a good living for ourselves. I hope that, at the end of the day, we’ve inspired some people to think for themselves. I have a good friend of mine in Houston, a Marine from Fallujah who put a 9 mm gun in his mouth one day and pulled the trigger, and the gun didn’t go off. Flushed with adrenaline, he opened his phone to call his wife, and it opened to Facebook and there’s a guy in a cowboy hat sitting in the front seat of his truck talking about your self-worth, and it changed his life; gave him a reason to live.
I felt like, years ago, God had kinda told me, “…one day you’re gonna talk to thousands of people”, I just didn’t know I was going be sitting alone in my truck to do it! It’s one thing to stand on stage in front of people, but it’s a humbling thing.
I hope people say, “You said something that made me think, it encouraged me, it impacted my life and made a difference.”