Are you ready to laugh? Yes, or no? I mean, really laugh like when you first heard Eddie Murphy get “raw” or when you discovered the work of the late Richard Pryor? If the answer is yes, then I am suggesting that you mark your calendar and get ready for “South Side,” because Comedy Central had the good sense to greenlight the series created by Diallo Riddle, creator and executive producer of “Officer Goodnight” along with Bashir Salahuddin, creator and executive producer of “Allen Gayle.”
The press notes make a big deal about “South Side” being set in and around the working-class neighborhood of Englewood on the south side of Chicago. I’ve never been to the south side, but I know all of the characters in the hilarious series. I’m betting that once you watch the series that you will know those characters just as well.
“South Side” follows two friends who just graduated from community college, now they’re ready to take over the world but until they do, they’re stuck at “Rent-T-Own,” a retail and rental crossroads where “South Side’s” ensemble of quirky characters come together. Despite the obstacles of inner-city life, these friends and their co-workers all strive to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. Brought to life by local Chicagoans, both in front of and behind the camera, this show gives viewers an authentic portrayal of what life on the South Side is all about.
Salahuddin and Riddle star in the series, alongside Sultan Salahuddin and Chandra Russell. First season guest stars include Lil Rel Howery, Nathaniel “Earthquake” Stroman, Jeff Tweedy, Lisa Raye McCoy, Kel Mitchell and Ed Lover.
Riddle is an Emmy and WGA nominated writer and actor, as well as a producer and showrunner who also moonlights as a DJ. Born in Atlanta, and a graduate of Harvard University, some of his credits include IFC’s upcoming series “Sherman’s Showcase,” which he co-created and is executive producing with his writing partner Bashir Salahuddin. He is also a series regular on “Marlon” and can be seen in HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
Salahuddin has an Emmy nomination. He was born and raised on the south side of Chicago as one of eight kids and later graduated from Harvard University. In addition to his work on “South Side,” Bashir can be seen in IFC’s upcoming series “Sherman’s Showcase.” Additionally, Bashir has starred in Lionsgate’s “A Simple Favor,” 20th Century’s “Snatched,” and the SAG-nominated Netflix series “GLOW.”
Salahuddin and Riddle were previously consulting producers on “The Last OG” at TBS and developed their pilot “Brothers in Atlanta” with Broadway Video at HBO. Before creating their own shows, they were staff writers on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where they wrote such notable pieces as “Slow Jam the News with Barack Obama,” and “The History of Hip-Hop with Justin Timberlake.”
This is an edited conversation phone conversation with Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Hey now, I’m so sorry that I could not meet you both in person. Things are finally being fixed in my Harlem apartment. I don’t know if I should be happy or terrified. Can you say gentrification is a bitch? Let’s start the conversation with you, Mr. Riddle.
DIALLO RIDDLE: Ok.
LAS: I love your last name. Mr. Riddle. Please, come to the front Mr. Riddle. And the Emmy goes too, Mr. Riddle. All kidding aside, you are an Emmy and WGA nominated writer and actor, producer, showrunner, and you moonlight as a DJ. So, when do you find time to sleep?
DR: I also have three kids. I don’t know what sleep is anymore. It’s crazy. I try to get a solid four or five hours every night, I’ll probably die soon.
LAS: Damn, you’re funny. This is why I need a podcast. I describe the comedy in your new scripted comedy ‘South Side’ as smart and slow.
DR: That’s my favorite Usher song.
LAS: Riddle, damn your quick but that’s what I should expect from a Harvard graduate.
DR: We both went to Harvard.
LAS: I know but he (Bashir Salahuddin) had eight siblings, I don’t know when he had time to study to get into Harvard.
DR: I had five siblings, I’m one of six.
LAS: Did you think when you started at Harvard that you would have a successful career as a writer on television?
DR: Actually, yes. We met at Harvard and we figured out pretty early that we liked the same type of stuff to laugh about. It was years later after we graduated, we were having dinner at my parents’ house. They had moved into a place called Park La Brea. They had sold their house and they just wanted a smaller place. My mother said, ‘hey you guys are really funny. Why don’t you guys write a script?’ At the time we thought that she was crazy, but looking back that was the beginning of us actually writing together.
LAS: Your mother is a smart lady!
DR: We really started our careers as writers. You know, a lot of people brag that their managers put them together but no, we were friends. Then we started acting in the stuff that we were writing. Truthfully, because sometimes we could not find someone to deliver the lines the way we wanted them delivered.
LAS: So, you both always loved being actors?
DR: Yes, giving him some credit he always knew that he wanted to be an actor even in college he would create a one-man play, and for me, as a writer, I was the guy who wrote a book in the third grade.
LAS: Pardon? Did you say that you wrote a book when you were in the third grade?
DR: Yes, I did. I was eight-years-old and I was published. I would go to the library and I would fill out the little slip to check out my book. It was a World Word II spy thriller. The main character was named Ripple and he was a Black fighter in World War II and he was going to assassinate Hitler.
LAS: I can see the Netflix original animated series, now. I want to be in that writers’ room!
DR: I’ve never told that story in an interview so I’ve just given you a worldwide exclusive.
LAS: What’s the secret to a successful writing partnership? Advice?
DR: You have to listen to your partner and you have to respect them. At the end of the day, we’ve known each other long enough that we can always be honest with one another.
LAS: What I loved about ‘South Side’ is that I know all of the characters and I’ve never been to the South Side of Chicago.
DR: We love that you said that! That was the goal of the show.
LAS: Goal reached, Mr. Riddle. Hey now, I’ve not forgotten you, Bashir Salahuddin.
BS: I didn’t think you did. I play Officer Goodnight on the show.
LAS: I love that character! Gosh, you are not well. I mean that character is not well. You are understatedly ‘flippin’ funny.’
BS: Thank you. So are you.
LAS: (laughing) I also really like his partner, Sergeant Turner. Her comedy has levels.
BS: Chandra Russell, she’s my wife. She’s a natural treasure.
LAS: Stop it. Really? She’s talented. I want to chat with her and find out if you are a natural treasure!
BS: We will arrange that for you. Not a problem. We grew up with a lot of the actors so we know all these people personally, we know how they are funny. So, when we are writing the show it allows us to give them every opportunity to score.
LAS: You have rich characters. They are all good. There is not one that does not work and that’s rare.
BS: The show is excellent. It’s the best show on TV.
LAS: (Laughing) This is where I need a podcast, how do I describe your deadpan tone and pitch? Onwards. What do you want people to know that I’ve not asked?
BS: Even though our show is called ‘South Side,’ we’re not trying to elevate the South Side above any other part of Chicago. Specifically, when it comes to Black folks, we are all Black — different experiences, different circumstances and sometimes similar challenges. The reason that you felt you could still feel the love when you come from North Philly, South Bronx, Harlem, Atlanta, South Central, Los Angeles, Montreal, wherever, I just want to say we are so proud that our show is providing a place for people from places like that to show how funny they are and the diversity of their interests, and we’re excited that everybody from those places or that have never even been to those places watch our show and enjoy themselves. And I think that we won.
“South Side” will premiere Wednesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.