Woke- The Black Seinfeld
Wake up, comedy lovers! Here is a sophisticated comedy full of sweet surprises (and some sour ones for the characters in it) that is worthy of 27 minutes of your time to peruse at each offering. It concerns a certain successful black cartoonist named Keef Night (who is suspiciously similar to a real life successful cartoonist named Keith Night….perhaps there is a connection….) who, in the first episode runs innocently afoul of the local San Francisco police and is knocked to the ground and accosted by them. This brings the lightly damaged Keef to the understanding, or ‘wokened’ understanding, of what other black folk are experiencing in our modern day U.S. society.
Unfortunately, the seemingly soft head banging Keef received from the cops leaves him with occasional delusions (or are they?) that his favorite drawing pen and other normally inanimate articles of society are talking to him and about him and coaching him into expressing his blackness and his rebelliousness against the forces that seem to want to keep him suppressed. When he acts on their suggestions it often backfires on him, making him question their reality and his sanity. Undaunted however, he continues on his quest to further his cartooning career and his envisionments of a better world for all and especially his black brethren.
Aided in his quests are his roommates Gunter (white, but understanding) and Clovis (black and somewhat obnoxious, but likable). He is also helped by Ayana, a friend who runs an independent magazine for the black community and a Hispanic entrepreneur named Laura as he sets out to let the world, or at least the Bay area, know who he is and what he stands for. Of course, along the way he gets advice, condemnation and support from a host of paranormal characters who invade his reality at select times such as a talking trashcan, cans of malt beer in a cooler, toast, butter and a paper bag all of whom can speak and offer unsolicited advice at opportune and inopportune times. (Seinfeld never had it this difficult- he only had to deal with looney fellow New Yorkers who at least looked like humans). California is made even weirder by this added menagerie.
Episodes are richly conversational and given that the story is set in the real Keith Knight’s former abode of San Francisco anything goes and does! The energy of the town itself adds a lot to the character of the series and a richness of bohemianism that makes it a unique television piece. It gives a substance to the series that one doesn’t find in most shows. Keef finds himself in a number of misadventures such as having to do an awkward TV piece with the cop who nailed him apologizing in a superficial, artificial way, self-demolishing a filmed presentation meant to promote his cartoons, helping set up a fundraiser for Ayana that is attended by mostly whites who she suddenly realizes makes up most of her readership and getting clobbered by an unknown assailant in a koala costume irate over a negative comment that our hero has made and other debacles.
The characters are wonderful and well acted. Lamorne Morris makes a great Keef with his intelligence and his humor. Especially rich are Blake Anderson as the token white guy Gunter, the wonderfully talented Sasheer Zamata as Ayana, and, although he never appears as a person, J.B. Smooth as the magic marker’s voice.
The show was good enough to garner a 74% rating from critics and 75% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. It is not the show for those hypnotized by the usual run of the mill sitcoms- Woke goes boldly in many different directions. Also its language and adult situations might be a turn off for those more prudish. It is definitely for mature audiences.
Woke has survived two seasons but unfortunately has been discontinued for a third. I originally thought it was due to low viewership or the unfortunate timing of the term ‘woke’ becoming a dirty word amongst conservatives, but according to Wikipedia the cancellation was due to the scourge of covid stopping production. Hopefully the series will garner a revival- it is that good and that special.
The two complete seasons of Woke can be viewed on the Hulu channel for $7.50 a month along with other fine series and movies.