Severn Darden was a gifted comedian, and an original member of The Second City Chicago-based comedy troupe.
He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and attended the University of Chicago.
Darden’s offbeat and intellectual sense of humor, appropriate for someone who attended the University of Chicago and in fact a major element in the style of The Second City at that time, is evident throughout his work. It is exemplified by the opening remarks to The Metaphysics Lecture (introduced as A Short Talk on the Universe): "Why — you will ask me — have I chosen to talk about the Universe, rather than some other topic. It's very simple: there isn’t anything else!" This lecture, loaded with digressions, was ostensibly given by Prof. Walther von der Vogelweide, a reference to the famous medieval poet of the same name.
Another Prof. Walther von der Vogelweide lecture (with the assistance of the rest of the Second City cast) was Free will and necessity in the light of Oedipus Rex, or What would have happened to Oedipus if he had read the book before going on the journey. The professor plays the role of Oedipus and refuses to perform the actions that would cause his fate, but other circumstances produce the same results.
The Second City sketch Football Comes to the University of Chicago satirized the university and its intellectual students, presenting a possible explanation for the failure of the attempt to introduce football. A typical coach teaches "Football 202" and struggles with the intellectual students. Darden plays a student named Morgenstern who states his field is the "history of arithmetic". When the coach mentions the football positions called "ends", Morgenstern interrupts and asks where the beginnings for those ends are, because all ends must have beginnings, according to Aristotle.
Another good example of his offbeat humor is the way he squeezed the phrase "Know thyself" into the seven-character limitation of a New Mexico license plate: NOYOSEF.
Darden appeared in various movies and television series, and is well remembered for playing the alien scientist Apploy in "The Secret of Bigfoot" and "The Return of Bigfoot". The comedy The President's Analyst is probably the best movie example of his performing persona. In it, Darden has a major role as a low-key Soviet agent. He also played an offbeat villain in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
He died in 1995 of a heart attack in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had lived for many years, aged 65.