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Diallo Riddle Changes the Portrayal of Chicago With 'South Side' Sitcom

When Black life in the city of Chicago is portrayed in media such as television shows like Showtime's The Chi, oftentimes only the gritty violent aspects of the city are shown. However, South Side showrunners and Emmy-award nominated producers Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin are forgoing the violent narrative and depicting entrepreneurship and bonds between family and friends through humor with their sitcom. In 2019, South Side made its debut on Comedy Central and now, two years later, has found a new home and a new audience on HBO Max.

"I think there are a lot of misconceptions, especially if you're not from there," Riddle said about working to show the area in a positive light. "The news media makes it seem like it's death and mayhem 24 hours a day. If it were, people would not ever want to go home. They love their neighborhood. But anytime you talk to somebody from South Side, Chicago, they sound like they're from the southwest side of Atlanta, they sound like they're from South Central LA and they love their neighborhood. People love where they're from. So our show exists, in part, just to correct the misconceptions that are out there in the world. We want to set the record straight," Riddle added.

South Side follows two friends who embark on a path of entrepreneurship in Chicago's Englewood community, after graduating community college. As we are reintroduced to the main characters, played by Salahuddin's brother Sultan and Kareme Young, we find them working at a rent-to-own business. Riddle, who aside from co-producing the series also stars in the series, spoke about the family environment onset and off, which consists of the Salahuddin brothers along with Bashir Salahuddin's wife, Chandra Russell. He shared that although he is not a part of the Salahuddin family, he and Bashir (the two first met in college) were able to build a family by choice working together on Chocolate News, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as cranking out comedy and TV shows with everybody from Maya Rudolph to Drake to The Last O.G. to Sherman Showcase, which just won an Emmy.

Riddle and Salahuddin also draw upon their own family backgrounds, growing up in large Black families, when coming up with jokes for the series. "I'm one of six, he's one of eight. And so we were creating the shows, and the legacy of that tradition at play was the idea that when you sit down around a big table full of Black people, it becomes a competition to see who's the funniest. We're going to tell some jokes, so we're gonna laugh and have a good time. And I think that's one very cool thing about our writers room is that we try to sort of recreate what those families [go through]," Riddle said.

Beyond Black family traditions, a sense of authenticity is brought to the series by bringing professional experiences that cast members have experienced in crafting storylines, in particular, with the concept of the rent-to-own business plot this season. Riddle explained, "Take the character of Q. In real life, Quincy Young worked for Rent-A-Center, which is a very similar operation. And he was like, I have so many funny stories from when I worked at Rent-A-Center, and he would make Bashir and I laugh with these stories, so we were like this is a TV show. This is hilarious. The idea that there's a place that rents people stuff and has the nerve to reclaim it if you miss one payment. So we're like that's a good workplace comedy to start from because it also goes to the fact that we feel like some of these businesses have predatory lending practices. It allows us to say something about the world while we're making you laugh, " he added.

While Riddle is appreciative of the initial platform that Comedy Central provided for the series, he is now grateful for the added creative freedom and expansive audience reach that HBO Max has provided that Comedy Central isn't currently able to do. Besides working with HBO Max, Riddle and Salahuddin have signed a multi-year deal to work on projects for Warner Bros. TV.

South Side is currently streaming on HBO Max.

Photo Credit: Kevin Scanlon

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