Even if you don’t know Bashir Salahuddin or Diallo Riddle by name, the likelihood that these college friends turned writing partners have made you laugh is extremely high. As Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writers, they scripted viral “Slow Jam the News” segments. Riddle was a bright spot in Marlon Wayans’ short-lived sitcom Marlon. And Salahuddin has been charming GLOW fans as Cherry Bang’s sweet husband, Keith.
This summer, the duo seizes the spotlight as co-creators of two new series: Comedy Central’s South Side and Sherman’s Showcase on IFC. Each of these richly detailed comedies affectionately sends up the unique characters, tropes and injustices that define a specific corner of black culture. But that’s where their similarities end.
Premiering on July 24, South Side is the more conventional of the two, with all the rapid-fire jokes and zany digressions of a Tina Fey joint. Set and shot in the working-class Chicago neighborhood of Englewood, it finds two hapless new community-college grads, Simon (Bashir’s brother Sultan Salahuddin) and K (Kareme Young), locked out of their respective fields. Stuck doing repo for a rent-to-own store, the pals pursue such absurd side hustles as selling black-market Viagra at nursing homes. Their misadventures bring them into conflict with an amusing cast of locals, from checked-out lawyer Allen Gayle (Riddle) to Sergeant Turner (Chandra Russell), a happily crooked cop. (Salahuddin plays her partner Officer Goodnight, an otherwise straight arrow with a habit of handing out undeserved beatings.)
Sherman’s Showcase, which debuts on July 31, is a stranger project, like Documentary Now! meets Soul Train. It’s framed as a series of infomercials for a DVD compilation of a 40-year-old music variety show hosted by Salahuddin’s shady Sherman. There are sharp musical parodies; spot-on period costumes; amusing impressions (Mary J. Blige, Lana Del Rey); and appearances by executive producer John Legend, Tiffany Haddish, Quincy Jones and more.
Though Showcase is more allusive and ambitious than South Side, both shows are funny. And Salahuddin and Riddle’s distinctive characters are the clear highlights; even tiny roles pop. Something tells me they have hundreds more unforgettable singers, scammers and strivers in them, all clamoring for the screen time they deserve.
This appears in the July 29, 2019 issue of TIME.
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