Happy Juneteenth! Despite the difficult times that America is going through right now, this holiday is a day of celebration and joy and BOSSIP plans to see to it that the jubilee fills our readers’ hearts with happiness.
We were recently afforded the opportunity to talk to two very talented and conscious brothas who believe that the Black liberation and the Black experience can be absolutely hilarious. Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle are the creators, writers, and stars of Sherman’s Showcase, a variety show comprised of comedic sketches, original musical numbers, and all sorts of rug-cuttin’ dances. Season 1 premiered on the IFC channel on July 31, 2019 and it was recently announced that season 2 will be hitting TV screens in 2021!
That said, you won’t have to wait until 2021 to see what Bashir and Diallo have been working on because Sherman’s Showcase aired a VERY special Juneteenth program that is guaranteed to have you laughing your a$$ off. Contrary to what 53% of white women’s president said recently, many, many, MANY people are aware of Juneteenth and have been for quite some time despite the fact that it was not and is not taught in schools.
Bashir: I grew up on the south side of Chicago I didn’t know anything about Juneteenth. It wasn’t taught in any of my schools. No one was mentioning it. I didn’t hear about it until I got to college and I met some kids from Texas and they would talk about it. It was really quite embarrassing to wait until 19 to learn about it. I think that’s changed now. More and more young people know about it. Especially now.
Diallo: I was a weird kid. I fell in love with history in the 3rd grade. I was probably reading something like Encyclopedia Britannica and fell in love with the history of wars. Growing up in Atlanta you drive by Civil War plaques and markers everywhere. So I learned about Juneteenth and Reconstruction and all that. Growing up in Atlanta the Civil War was never far away. It’s funny that Porsha Williams is so famous for Real Housewives and I just think of her as Hosea Williams daughter.
Obviously, you taped this special some time ago What is it like to be living through the current climate with this special getting ready to drop?
Diallo: We did not choose Juneteenth. Juneteenth chose us. When we first started writing this thing it was called the Black History Month Spectacular because it was supposed to air in February. The network said something came up and asked if we could air it later in the year and we thought it was dope to have a Black History Month Spectacular in June because I always feel like there is no reason to stop learning your Black history. So at the time we thought it was funny and an advantage and by mid-February, the pandemic started and after that, the demonstrations began. All of a sudden, June was looking like a very special time. When they asked about June 19 we said “we’ll take it”. Yes, give us Juneteenth. Most TV shows are down and not sure when they will shoot again. I’m so happy that there’s a Sherman’s in 2020 to give us all a moment of levity.
Bashir: The universe caught up to us. My father was an Imam. We were raised Muslim. We used to have to get up early on Saturday morning while all my friends were watching cartoons and clean up garbage. My father said we couldn’t live in a neighborhood and have it looking like that. My mother was that mother, she wanted to know that we knew this stuff and would expect us to write a report about it and everything. When I met Diallo we were goofballs and we would joke about stuff but all of our work in comedy, at its core, echos all the things we learned and the way we were raised. If you’re a fan of comedy, you’ll love our show, but if you grew up in the types of household we grew up in, then you’ll get so much more out of it.
Diallo: You’ll catch those extra levels.
At the risk of spoiling the surprise, two of the cameos in this special are two of our favorite people, Jemele Hill and Phonte Coleman of Little Brother and Foreign Exchange. We spoke to both of them about their experience on the show and what drew them to Bashir and Diallo’s work.
Jemele Hill: I was a combination of surprised and honored when Diallo asked me to be part of this. Bashir and Diallo are geniuses to me. It was a no brainer. I didn’t know what role I was going to be playing at first, but when I got the script and discovered I was playing myself, it eased my nerves. The one role I’m pretty sure I won’t f**k up is playing me.
Phonte serves as not only a cameo performer but also the writer and co-producer of many of the songs you’ll see on the show including the theme song. Tigallo talked to us about his longtime friendship with Diallo and how he became a staple of Sherman’s Showcase.
Phonte: Man, it goes back to like 2007-2008. There was a singer from Atlanta who I loved named Donnie and he had a page on MySpace. The guy who was running page was my home Craig Bowers who plays Count Craig on Sherman’s Showcase. Craig was running a label that was putting out Donnie’s music. I ended up doing a verse for Donnie and me and Craig stayed in contact. He hit me one day and said these guy have an online show called The Message and they wanted to work with me, that was Diallo and Bashir. Fast forward to 2014, they got an HBO pilot for a show called Brothers In Atlanta and I had a role in it. A few weeks later HBO pulled the plug. Fast forward a few years later the told me they had a new thing with IFC and that’s how we landed Sherman’s.
The Mad Walrus sketch/song was a joke from high school. Back then we used to cypher and my homie Sean would always jump in and do some reggae type stuff and we would clown and be like “You not the Mad Lion, you the Mad Walrus!” Just trying to think of the most unwieldy animal possible.
Sherman’s Showcase is hilarious but in today’s society, hilarious can quickly turn into heated vitriol when jokes are received by a public increasingly sensitive to comedy’s fundamental tenet of edginess and habitual line-stepping. We asked the brothas how they held themselves accountable for the content they produce.
Diallo: Going back to the dancehall track that Phonte came up with, there was a part where I was like “Listen, we all know kids get they butts whipped but do I want to come up with an anthem for something that I actually don’t do to my own kids?” I really had to think about that. My father was a painter he always said that as a Black creative you have to think about what you put out into the world. That’s the conscious of the Black creator. At the end of the day we decided that we would contextualize it by having Sherman jokingly say “Some of these songs have not aged well.” Giving things perspective and context makes it so that we can all laugh along. You never want to hand a gift to the enemy.
Bashir: That’s why I feel that you really have to make the room comfortable because once it gets out there you really can’t control it. I don’t really do social media but I know people are misconstrued all the time. You might gameplan and do something that you think racists can’t take and flip it but they will. So you have to accept that once it goes out of the room…
Diallo: It’s everybody’s.
Bashir: You need to be prepared for that and you have to be smart about it.
These two brothas are really onto something special and we can only hope that season 2 of Sherman’s Showcase is as impactful to the audience as we’re sure this Juneteenth special has been. If you missed it, you can watch it now On Demand through your cable provider or HERE on IFC’s website.
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