In the pilot episode of cartoonist Keith Knight’s new Hulu show "Woke," the main character Keef is putting up posters in a park when police officers show up, draw guns and slam him to the ground. The cops think he is a suspect in a string of muggings because he "fit the description": a six-foot-tall Black male. The nerdy character, played by Lamorne Morris, is understandably shaken after the incident.
Actually, he is more than shaken — inanimate objects start to take on the features of the cartoons that he draws and talk to him about the microaggressions and acts of racism baked into everyday experiences. He becomes, as his roommate says: "woke." After a summer of civil unrest and protests over police brutality and systemic racism the show seems particularly prescient, but the semi-autobiographical plot is in reference to something Knight experienced 20 years ago. He joins host Frank Stasio to share a preview of the show and to talk about his own "woke" moments. Knight is the co-creator and executive producer of "Woke."
Comparing the police profiling moment in the show to his real-life experience:
It did make me double and triple down on the work that I was doing about police brutality and racism and profiling in the US that I was doing in my comics. But for the show, we used it as this dramatic turning point. I think it's basically essentially cramming 30 years of my life into an eight-episode season. But it's that moment where your third eye opens. … We basically use this platform, the show, to take a look at the macro and microaggressions of race in America and what it's like — like, you can't just be who you want to be. … You have to maneuver through all this stuff. And you're not taught this when you're a kid.
On the kinds of everyday racist things the show highlights:
It's microaggressions all across the board every time I look at any late-night television show. I have to sit there and watch a less-talented white dude make all this money hosting the show while his much more talented Black bandleader — much more talented — plays music and is charming and does all that stuff. But you know, they could carry a show on their own. We get microaggressions all the time, these reminders — why is the NBA logo like some white dude? What is that? And so those are the type of things that we like to poke at in the show.