SOUTHERN MOMMA AND ‘EM TOUR
Where: Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
When: Oct. 14th, 7:30pm
More Info: www.comediandarrenknight.com
One of the perks of parenthood is the ability to publicly embarrass your children but comedian and social media star Darren Knight has flipped the script by basing a popular internet character on his own mom and grandmother and the expressions he heard growing up in Alabama. Knight’s Southern Momma is known for spouting such catchphrases as, “cut them eyes at me one more time,” and “damn Randy, hell,” which sounds more like ‘hay-ull’ in Knight’s syrupy southern drawl. His family was mortified when he originally posted the videos two years ago but their opinions have softened a bit since Southern Momma went viral. “It may have started out that way but it’s funny how fast they can change their mind when you start paying a few car payments,” laughs the Munford, Alabama native.
Over 2.2 million followers and 2.1 million subscribers have viewed Knight’s Southern Momma at the ballpark, on the 4th of July, at the flea market, picking up the kids from school, going to church, and meeting the ex’s new girlfriend. These are the kind of videos that can literally eat hours of productivity.
With a cataclysmic hurricane was churning a few hundred miles offshore, it just made sense to hammer out a phone interview with Knight as a distraction from the drudgery of emergency storm prep. “When my assistant told me where you were, I said ‘Jacksonville, NC, right?’’ says Knight. “When she said ‘no, Jacksonville, Florida’ I said, ‘oh hell, she needs to get the hell up outta there!’”
Now that Irma has passed and Jacksonville is still standing, Knight will deliver a night of homespun, southern fried observations on family life in the south and beyond with the Southern Momma and ‘Em Tour Oct. 14 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. Knight promises the show isn’t just an hour and a half of him standing on stage yelling at invisible children. He touches on subjects from navigating the airport to corporal punishment but for hardcore fans of his social media videos, there will be plenty of Southern Momma to go around. “A lot of the subjects kind of tie into the character people see on social media and some of the other material looks at issues we all face. I know it’s pretty wide open there but I’d say one third of the show is how we were growed up and raised,” says Knight.
Knight’s Southern Momma is familiar to those that “growed up” in the south. She is sassy and brassy whether she’s hollering at invisible young ‘uns to ‘git out of them woods before you git snakebit’, greeting the neighbor with a ‘hey hun!’ before rolling her eyes or getting half-past lit at the Little League game. She’s not always appropriate. Hay-ull, she ain’t even nice, but when seen through Knight’s lens, Southern Momma is always funny.
When Knight posted his first video, he and his friends were excited when it was shared a few thousand times on social media. By the end of the week, the first Southern Momma video amassed over 9 million views. “That first video had to have been two years ago now. I seen a video a friend shared on my [Facebook] wall of a guy who was doing something similar. He was playing the role of a woman and acting crazy. I said ‘hell, I think I could do. I just think I could do it better’,” he says.
Knight is also trying out new characters. He’s recently introduced Old Man Steven, who is prone to calling businesses with off kilter requests like whether he can rent a storage unit for his dead wife until he can afford a proper burial. Even Randy, Southern Momma’s long-suffering husband, made his first appearance. “It started with Southern Momma and it’s still Southern Momma. We’ve established ourselves such a large fanbase off this character that people want to see. We have fun with it but we’re doing other things, too,” says Knight. “I don’t want to dig myself into a character rut, so to speak. We want everyone there to be able to relate to our comedy and a 57-year-old truck driver from Illinois might not relate to Southern Momma.” Plenty of people do relate to Southern Momma and Knight says they are quick to make a connection whenever they see him out in public. “I’ll be in the middle of Wal-Mart and someone will scream out ‘cut them eyes to me’,” he says. “It’s hilarious.”
While Knight is experiencing is the sort of insta-fame that’s attainable through social media, he is quick to defend his comedy skills. He agrees that reaching mass audiences on the internet is cutting corners from the stand-up comedian that road-dogs from shitty venue to shittier venue to make a name in the business. But he argues that the shortcut is available to anyone willing to turn on the camera and put themselves out there. It’s just a different means to the same end. “There’s comedians that have been doing it for years and their only pay is a steak dinner at whatever place they’re performing at. That’s the beautiful thing about social media is that now it’s not Hollywood telling you who it is you need to like. Now we get to pick who we think is funny and that’s great,” he says. “That’s why Hollywood doesn’t like people like me because we’re taking bookoodles of money from them and they are pissed about it. They don’t know how to control it, they don’t know how to evolve into it so when you talk to people ‘in the biz’ they are not fans of this. They say it’s 15 minutes of fame and if it is, that’s fine. I’ve already gotten everything out of it that I wanted. I’ve got my family, I’ve got my health and things are good. But the thing about it is, if you’re funny, you’ll know it. People will tell you and they’ll tell each other.” Catch Knight at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 14th and check out Knight’s website at www.comediandarrenknight.com.