As an observer of life, pointing out the humor in modern culture, Chad Prather has built a loyal following, sold out theaters with his one-man shows and has been featured on Fox News and CNN, among other major national outlets. He has appeared internationally from Moscow to the Ivory Coast. He may also be one of the most important topical humorists of these turbulent political times, as evidenced by the more than 600,000,000 views and counting that he has received on Facebook.
A humanitarian throwing wicked punchlines. A musician whose songs trigger laughter and inspire wisdom. A “modern-day Will Rogers.” A self- confessed lover of slapstick who reflects on the state of the world from the driver’s seat of his truck on social media. A proud Texan and patriotic American whose role models include George Carlin, Robin Williams, and Bill Hicks. A comedian who only rarely has set foot in comedy clubs and yet has made millions laugh on social media, on TV and on theater stages.
These are just a few of the attributes that have earned Chad Prather a loyal following throughout and far beyond American shores.
He is in fact something of a contradiction. Maybe even an enigma at first glance. But here’s the good news: the closer you get to him, the more you see that in all his endeavors, his goal is the same.
“Ultimately I want to be a unifier,” he insists. “People want to pigeonhole me because I wear cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and I talk with atwang. Half the population believes one way and the other half another way but I think everyone, regardless of political stance, can relate to the things I say. I don’t apologize for that, — actually, I believe I can help heal some of our disagreements. We are, after all, the United States of America. I’m about building up, not tearing down.”
Prather has felt this way since he could barely walk. He was just 2 years old when he appeared on local TV in Georgia, reciting Bible stories he had memorized from an LP, down to the music and sound effects which he added between spoken lines. A decent student in school, he applied himself mainly to sports. “To me, athletics was also a stage, a place to perform,” he points out.
In high school, Prather’s interests expanded to acting and, specifically, to comedy. “I was always the class clown,” he notes. “I watched these guys — Carlin, Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Don Rickles, Steve Martin, Steven Wright and the smartest comedian that ever existed, Mitch Hedberg — and wondered if I could ever translate what I did at parties with my friends into doing what those guys did onstage.”
At first, his fascination with performance led him in a different direction. While still studying mass communications at the University of Georgia, Prather began delivering inspirational talks at local churches. After college he pastored, worked with ministries, and travelled the globe to work with leaders in third world countries. He spoke anywhere he was invited. The response was so positive that he built a career as, in his words, “the motivational speaker who could make everybody laugh.”
After 15 successful years in that world, Prather experienced burnout. He quit the speaking circuit to work as a salesman for a Fortune 300 company. Eventually, though, he felt the pull back toward the spotlight, this time to chase his original dream. He began using social media as a stage. Putting his video camera phone on the dashboard of his truck, he began to share his insights without knowing if anyone would watch or listen. He mused on topics such as popular culture, politics, family life and inspiration, always with his uniquely humorous slant. People watched by the millions. This sudden popularity led to a consistently growing fan base that tuned in daily to catch his latest funny observations on everyday life.
The natural evolution of his growing audience and down-home humor led to the inevitable when he found himself one night on a stage in College Station, Texas, making his first appearance as a comedian.
Like many future comedy greats making their debut, Prather bombed. But rather than quit and go back to sales, he looked carefully at what happened. What he discovered informed and empowered him to keep going, mainly by being truer to himself.
“It wasn’t that the material was bad or my stage presence or my nerves,” he says. “It was just that I was not being me. I wasn’t being true to myself. The material was not who I am. I wasn't allowing myself to think or move freely. So I gave myself permission to improvise, to be a little more physical, to lead people up to the edge without pushing them over. I really just gave myself permission to be myself.”
Today, what you see when you watch Prather onstage, in his driver’s-seat soliloquies or on his new website PoliticalCowboy.com, is exactly who he is. His candor and approachability, his perfect balance between controversy and just plain silliness ... it’s all him. Like his spiritual predecessor Will Rogers, he is a storyteller with a knack for speaking truth and wrapping it in humor.
Bottom line? “I’m a comedian that uses stories, philosophy, politics and music,” Prather sums up. “I’m George Carlin without the F-bombs. I talk about things that everybody has dealt with at some level by wrapping truth in humor. All I want is for people to come and see me, listen, laugh about life for an hour and a half and leave feeling better than when they came in the door.
In other words, Chad Prather has reached his lifelong goal of bringing people together through laughter rather than pull them further apart. He just might be exactly what we all need these days.