Knight died Thursday night in Los Angeles, his family announced through an agency rep. Additional details, including cause of death, are not being released at this time. “Knight’s loved ones ask that their privacy please be respected during this extremely difficult time,” the rep said.
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Knight’s career was not only in a good place, but his star was on the rise. After writing for a string of hit shows — from Netflix’s critically acclaimed raunchy comedy Big Mouth to ABC’s beloved Black-ish — Knight segued to co-creating, executive producing and starring in the new Peacock series Bust Down.
Starring opposite his team of co-creators Chris Redd, Sam Jay and Langston Kerman, the show follows a group of friends working low-wage jobs at a casino in Gary, Indiana. Bust Down debuted in March. Also with Jay, Knight worked on the HBO series Pause With Sam Jay as an actor, co-executive producer and writer.
Originally from Seattle, the L.A.-based Knight recently wrapped filming Chelsea Peretti’s feature directorial debut, First Time Female Director. He frequently toured with his stand-up act across the globe and appeared on a half-hour Netflix special that aired in 2018 as part of the Comedy Lineup series.
In a 2018 interview with Respect, Knight said he got his first job in the industry as a writer on the animated Lucas Bros. Moving Co. when he was close to 20 years old. Co-creators and identical twin brothers Keith and Kenneth Lucas “heard about me from somebody, I don’t know who, and they were like, ‘Aye, come hang out with us, come smoke,’” Knight recalled.
Riffing on the sitcom Sister, Sister, Knight suggested that there was a third sister who got left out and became evil. The Lucas brothers were impressed enough that they asked him to join their show. “I was like, yeah, and that’s that.”
Knight credited stand-up legend Dave Chappelle and the animated Boondocks for inspiring his career in comedy. “One hundred percent the reasons why I do what I do,” he said. He would eventually open for Chappelle on tour, one of the many stand-up acts that he joined on various stages, including Joel McHale, Eric Andre, Moshe Kasher and Aziz Ansari.
In the same interview, he opened up about the experience of not only writing for Big Mouth but voicing the character of DeVon. “Being a writer is amazing and just being in the room with some of the most brilliant people alive, and I get to sit across the table with people like Jordan Peele and Maya Rudolph,” he said. “It’s surreal but it’s a lot of work, work.”
His death came as a shock to the comedy community, with many insiders expressing grief and disbelief on Friday. “We are devastated by the passing of Jak Knight,” reads a joint statement from Knight’s Bust Down family, Peacock and Universal Television. “He was a brilliant comedian, visionary and artist and we were all lucky to experience his greatness. Our hearts are with Jak’s family, friends and community during this heartbreaking time.”
Comedy Central, which named Knight a comic to watch, posted a tribute on its official Twitter account, calling him “a hysterical and honest comedian. We will miss him tremendously.” Music producer, DJ and rapper Steven Ellison, best known by his stage name Flying Lotus, called Knight “unapologetically bold and hilarious.”
“A phenom,” posted Eddie Della Siepe. “An incredible talent and more importantly a great guy.”
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