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Get ‘Woke’ with cartoonist Keith Knight at a screening of his Hulu show at Salem State

Knight, a Salem State alum, will also be getting an honorary degree from the school.

Cartoonist Keith Knight is the co-creator of the semi-autobiographical show "Woke," now in its second season on Hulu. Photo by Cornell Watson for The Washington Post

It’s not many cartoonists who see decades of national success and notoriety — and even fewer who see a major TV show based on their work. But not many cartoonists are Keith Knight.

The Malden native and Salem State grad is in town this month to accept an honorary degree from his alma mater, and to host a community screening of Hulu’s “Woke,” the show Knight co-created based on his syndicated comic strips “The Knight Life,” “The K Chronicles,” and “(Th)ink.”

“It’s such a juxtaposition when it comes to being a cartoonist, because you work by yourself, like just alone, all the time,” Knight recently told Boston.com. “Being on a TV show is like being part of a huge symphony orchestra where everybody has to do their job for it to be [successful].”


The show follows the adventures “Keef Knight,” a Black cartoonist on the verge of national syndication who tries to keep his work as innocuous as possible to appeal to a wider audience — until an incident of police brutality prompts him to, well, wake up to his responsibility as a voice in the Black community. Also, it’s a comedy, complete with talking Sharpie markers and trashcans voiced by the likes of J.B. Smoove and Cedric the Entertainer.

Keith Knight:

“I would say that my character is the Charlie Brown of activism — he’s trying to do the right thing all the time, but it just keeps on sort of backfiring on him,” Knight explains. “I think there’s a lot of people out there that see the word ‘woke’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be preached to, I’m not going to watch the show.’ And then, finally, someone gets them to watch it and I hear so many people saying, ‘Why didn’t anybody tell me this was going to be funny?’” 

A police brutality-inspired cartoonist comedy might sound a little too on-the-nose in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, but Knight — who notes the entire first season was filmed prior to that incident — says it has a timelessness that goes beyond recent events. He points out his own personal experience with police brutality, which inspired the main character’s catharsis in the “Woke” pilot, happened over 20 years ago.


“And Black folks will tell you that this is an evergreen subject that will exist 20 years from now,” says Knight. “So when all of this is said and done, I think the show is still going to have legs.”

Knight will host the free community screening of an episode from season 2 of “Woke” at Salem State University’s Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts on May 20 at 10 a.m. Registration is required. 

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