Exclusive Bashir Salahuddin & Diallo Riddle Interview
Most everyday people only care about the stars but it’s the Diallo Riddles and Bashir Salahuddins of the very small and very white world of Hollywood that power everything we love about the talent-thirsty industry.
Once upon a time (before Al Gore invented the internet or something like that), you never met the creatives, visionaries or showrunners behind your favorite shows, but now, more than ever before, they’re on the forefront of promo campaigns like our favorite new duo Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin who went from “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to cultivating their very own Comedy Central show.
A refreshingly authentic series about Chicago called “South Side” that’s hilarious when it’s not revealing the heart, soul and beautiful sense of community that make the city so special.
Billed as an aspirational comedy, the series follows two friends who just graduated community college with dreams of taking over the world but there’s one small problem: They’re stuck at Rent-T-Own–an endearingly run down rent-to-own store that attracts the south side’s most ridiculous characters (who, in one episode, refuse to return an X-Box).
Think Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” but in Chicago (which you undoubtedly will) until you realize the series has a different energy that makes it completely unique. That, and the naturally funny cast of regular-smegular people from the community sprinkled into cleverly written episodes.
As fans of great TV, we loved the music, zippy editing, cinematography, relatable characters in relatable situations, guest stars (we won’t spoil it), attention to very Black details and classic ’90s sitcom feel that set the tone for an amazing interview with two of Black Hollywood’s brightest talents.
How did you get your big idea to Comedy Central?
[Bashir] “South Side was very organic. Diallo and I always wanted to do a show about one of our hometowns–we actually developed a couple ideas around Atlanta (where I’m from) unfortunately we hit some walls with those.
And then, with “South Side,” we really looked around the landscape and tried to figure out who was filming comedies that felt unfiltered and pure and we just felt like between The Chappelle Show, Key & Peele–we just felt like Comedy Central just kept making shows where you were seeing great stuff and it felt like the comedians were really doing the jokes the way they want to do them, how they want to do them.
At the same time, whenever I’m home for Thanksgiving and Christmas I would be hangin’ out with my boys and just lmao and it kinda reminded me of the friendship me and Diallo have and other friendships that he has and it’s like ‘wait a second, we have all these great, funny people in our lives’ and if you ask most people who the funniest person they know is they’ll say ‘oh my cousin is hilarious, my auntie is so funny’ and, you know, it’s like ‘well, let’s put those people on camera’
So, we really developed a show about these two guys who are fresh out of community college and now they wanna take over the world. So, you know, it’s a blue collar vibe but it’s really starring a lot of Chicago people who have not even done a lot of acting–just naturally funny people.
…my wife is in, my brother is the main character, two of my boys from high school are in it, Diallo is it, a lot of our family and friends are in it… and it’s just people in our lives who make us laugh naturally and what we ended up with was this really hilarious show that shows people a side of Chicago they don’t get to see, especially the south side, and showing people that we can have fun and we can laugh and be light and silly and all those things…
And it’s still as authentic as something heavier. I know a lot of Chicago-based shows deal with pretty tough stuff and it’s like ‘yea, that stuff has a place and then we also have a place too where we can have fun’ because I think there’s nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves”
We have to ask this question–because, working in this space we know you had to present this to people who may not look like us-[Diallo] Oh yea! Yes!
We don’t want to say the room was mostlyyyy white buttttt–[Diallo and Bashir] “It was all white!” (laughs)
[Bashir] “The President of Comedy Central, you know, he’s just somebody who really gets it and came to us four years before we pitched the show and was like ‘look, I think you guys are great if you ever wanna do a show come and see me–let’s figure something out’
Sometimes people say that and what thats means–and I think this is what you’re speaking to–it means they wanna throw some names on there that’ll satisfy some sort of diversity interest but ultimately still develop something that looks like everything else and has the same tired vibe as everything else.
Kent Alterman of Comedy Central was the opposite–he was like ‘no, no, what do yall really want to do and he actually championed it and supported it and there were definitely a lot of notes and things we had to figure out but every single frame of that show is our vision and I think it shows in what you saw and doesn’t feel like something that was watered down.
The City of Chicago is not a soft place–it’s a hard place–and I think luckily for us our comedy is a hard, sharp comedy that’s about some tough stuff BUT they were super supportive and like ‘tell your truth’
And so, the answer to your question really is that we just made the right choice in who we partnered with and I would encourage all people who are developing projects to really think hard about who you work with because if you make the right choice the person will help you create value and broaden what you’re doing in a wonderful way
And if you make the wrong choice you’ll look up and wonder like ‘what is this we made this looks nothing like I wanted to make -[Diallo]- “Yea” – so we got lucky”
Do you talk to other showrunners and creators in the space?
[Bashir & Diallo] “All the time!”
[Bashir] “We literally just hosted Issa Rae at the Clusterfest in San Francisco and she couldn’t be more of a delight and an intelligent, genius showrunner and helluva talent. And to be able to just chat with her about the process of showrunning and to know that we have a somewhat similar background because we got our start doing web material and she got her start on Awkward Black Girl–she created it and was doing her own thing–and to know we share the DNA of people who did their own thing before TV figured us out–that was special”
What would be a success, in your eyes, for “South Side?”
[Bashir] “For me, I always tell people that what you see about Chicago on the news is a small piece of a very big pie and we’re gonna give you the rest of the pie. And, you know, we feel like if the city of Chicago, especially Black Chicago, if more and more people start to think first ‘hey, isn’t that the funny place where everybody is really hilarious and has a good time’ vs. ‘hey, isn’t that the place where I just saw somebody who got hurt on the news’
You know, that is beginning to move the dial in the right direction. I don’t just want people on the outside to see that and think that about Chicago. My deeper goal is to have the people who actually live there begin to also self-identify moreso–which they already do but you just don’t hear about it–but self-identify moreso as a place of joy, as a place of comedy, in the same way Harlem is all about culture, specifically Black culture
[Diallo] “I’m the only person involved in the show who didn’t grow up in Chicago but, as a person who didn’t, I can guarantee you that not only will you come out of it feeling like you know a lot more about Chicago but you’ll also understand all the ways that the south side of Chicago has similarities and relationships with all the other south sides of Atlanta, Inglewood, North Philly–all the neighborhoods where we are–you’ll understand the humanity that exists in Chicago and you’ll be a lot less likely to believe lies that get spread when people say it’s all violence and mayhem”
“South Side” debuts tonight at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central!