Darren Knight was one of ten comedians chosen to showcase in Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch during this year’s Just for Laughs festival in Montreal, Canada.
Knight showed true potential, chosen because of his successful YouTube series where he plays a character he calls “Southern Momma,” a channel that lead to Knight being dubbed “the fastest rising comedian in American history.”
Here’s what you need to know about him and his showcase:
1. Knight Antagonized Other Comedians Backstage Before His Set
In a statement to Vulture, Amanda Seales claimed that Knight antagonized both her and Sloan while they were waiting for the pre-show panel to begin, and then continued to do so during the panel.
Seales mentioned the need for comedians to use their platform to challenge racism and sexism, to which Knight responded, “Comedy shouldn’t be about attacking racists. That is ostracizing your audience.”
Seales heard Knight “fat shame” Sloan before taking the stage. He muttered, “Looking good, Precious.” Then Sloan tweeted about another exchange she had with Knight after he bombed his set:
Knight did not release an apology but he did have this to say:
2. Knight Was Booed Off Stage
The first half of Knight’s set consisted of poop jokes and him trying to remember the name of the festival he was at in Montreal’s Monument-National Theater (which happens to be the top comedy festival in the world).
Knight then boasted about being dubbed the “fastest rising comedian in American history.”
He ended his set by telling the crowd they didn’t pay to come listen to him talk about race or sexual orientation “because that’s not what people want to hear.”
At the end of Knight’s set, nobody knew what had just happened. Chris Redd, the event host, came staggering out commenting on how weird that was as the crowd booed Knight off the stage.
Other audience members chimed in about the experience:
Many fans of the event reminded the organizers that being a YouTube star doesn’t make you a comedian.
There’s an art to stand-up that not all can master.
After the show (which is documented in a series of videos Seales posted to her Instagram Story) Redd confronted Knight about his poor performance.
In the videos, Redd shares a heated conversation with Knight, who storms off without remorse.
3. Knight Accidentally Fell Into Comedy Back in 2015 When His First Video Went Viral
Back in June 2015, Knight posted his first video to his Facebook page, half joking, half serious, acting as his mother and grandmother would in a comedic skit about picking kids up from school.
He was motivated after seeing a video online of a man from Georgia cracking jokes about that very thing.
“I thought I could do better,” Knight said in an interview with The Gadsden Times.
“Pretty soon Southern Mom was pickin’ ’em kids up at school,” he said.
Knight expected a few thousand hits, but was shocked to see it racking up millions of views early on.
As for stand-up, Knight first tried it out after a long day of fishing and after “quite a few beers.”
The Peerless Saloon and Grille in Anniston was having an open mic night, so Knight convinced the DJ to give him 10 minutes.
“I just got up there and blabbered,” Knight said.
“It went really well. I felt liberated.”
4. Before Pursuing Comedy, Knight Worked in Loss Prevention at Kmart And Sears
In an extensive interview with his local newspaper, Knight mentioned he worked loss prevention at Kmart for three years before taking a job at Sears where he stayed for six years before discovering comedy.
Knight’s stand-up career took off right around the time Sears had to layoff a bunch of workers. He was let go as the store was getting ready to close completely.
Knight went into real estate but was only three weeks into his training when he got a call from a producer to sign with a production company.
There’s been talk of a sitcom, but Knight would have to move to New York or Los Angeles, which he isn’t willing to do.
“I can’t see myself living in a studio apartment in New York,” Knight said. “I wouldn’t be very funny in Los Angeles, I’d be missing home.”
Knight currently lives on a farm on Mount Cheaha in Alabama, close to his father.
5. Knight’s Performance in Montreal Speaks to a Larger Narrative About The Misplaced Pressure to Include Voices From The Trump Right: Amanda Seales
Some are still upset over Knight’s performance July 27th, where they say he used the jokes of other comedians and made racist and sexist comments.
“This speaks to a larger narrative about the misplaced pressure to include voices from the Trump right in spaces simply to appease a demographic that is problematic and damaging to the upward advancement of larger society,” Seales said in an interview with Vulture.
Seales highlighted the fact that Knight’s Facebook posts speak of his support of people like Roseanne and reveals harsh criticism of people like Maxine Waters, also networks like BET.
Knight wrote this about BET on his Facebook page:
The BET network has got to be the most racist, politically pushing, lying a** network on television today. Both programs and commercials spewing the stupidest s*** I’ve ever seen. With networks, music and movies like this today, it’s no wonder we’re having the issues we’re having. Disgustingly pathetic.
And this about Maxine Waters:
Redd declined to comment when pursued by publications for a story, but he did release his thoughts on Twitter:
“Dear Darren Knight, we don’t f*** with you comedically,” said Seales on her Instagram Story. “Sit down.”