Comic Darren Knight enjoys the meteoric rise of Southern Momma 

click to enlarge FREDERICK CARPENTER
  • Frederick Carpenter

The Southern mommas who raised Darren Knight know that he was listening to everything they said; their words made him a near-instant comedy success.

In early 2015, Knight was working in the loss prevention division at a Sears in rural Alabama and dabbling in stand-up comedy when he shot a video in his living room and posted it to Facebook. In the video, Knight channeled the verbal style of his mother and grandmother, two colorful women who employed phrases like “Cut them eyes at me one more time!” in their day-to-day parenting.

Within hours, hundreds of people were sharing Knight’s post, and Southern Momma was born.

“I just remember seeing the views,” said Knight, who performs 7:30 p.m. Friday at Rose State College Hudiburg Chevrolet Center, 6420 SE 15th St., in Midwest City. “It got up to, like, 5,000 views, and that was just the craziest thing ever. Later that night, it got to 10,000, and it was at a million by the end of the week.”

Within weeks, it was nearly impossible for Knight to go into the Wal-Mart in his hometown of Munford, Alabama, without someone walking up and saying, “Hey, hun.”

“I guess when people started coming up to me in public and saying, ‘I tell my kids, ‘Cut them eyes at me one more time,’ that was about a month after the video was posted,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow. This must be something here.’”

Knight’s numbers on social media continued to skyrocket as Southern Momma spread like kudzu vine. Things picked up in a big way just as his fortunes in retail took a nosedive; he was laid off from his loss prevention job in February and signed a production contract by the end of the month. Knight started his North Meets Southern Momma tour in July, and his shows consistently sell out — even the gigs booked for mid-2017 are selling briskly.

“It happened so fast, I didn’t have time for it to sink in,” he said. “I went from filming videos in my living room in my trailer and putting them on YouTube to performing in front of thousands of people at some of these shows.”

Knight’s tale is light-years different from most stand-up comics, who typically toil away at comedy clubs for years before catching a break. Knight started performing stand-up not long before his first video went viral when friends convinced him to go up at an open mic at The Peerless Saloon & Grille in Anniston, Alabama. He said there is an enormous difference between doing his act into a cellphone camera and keeping a live audience laughing, but he was able to bridge that gap quickly.

“It was a big transition, but it’s been amazing,” he said.

Knight said he is currently in talks for a sitcom and pay-per-view specials, and his style is prompting comparisons to Blue Collar Comedy Tour players like Jeff Foxworthy. But he said Southern Momma resonates because it comes from someplace real.

“It is deep-seated and deep-rooted,” he said. “It’s my mom — these are things I heard growing up, and they’re things we say to our kids in our family today. I like to say that 40 percent of Southern Momma is my mom and the other 60 percent is my grandmother, because she’s a bit more animated. She has those old Southern sayings, and my mom just carried it over to me. But the inspiration is definitely the women in my family. I think that’s why Southern Momma really took off the way she did, because many generations can relate to what Southern Momma says, and I think everyone can relate to the problems she deals with in the videos.”

Tickets to Friday’s show are $20-$45. Visit okcciviccenter.com or call 405-297-2264.

Print headline: Dixie revolt, Southern Momma took Darren Knight from social media to comedy touring success.

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