'Sherman’s Showcase' nails ‘sophisticated silliness’ with original songs and sketches (Exclusive)

 

By: Brittany Jones-Cooper

A lot of shows have soundtracks, but few have soundtracks filled with hilarious original songs with titles like, “Drop it Low (For Jesus).” 

It’s safe to say that "Sherman’s Showcase" isn’t like most shows. For starters, creators Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle wrote 27 original songs for the comedy, 15 of which appear on an album currently streaming on Spotify and iTunes. The music is an integral part of the program, which uses a mockumentary style format to chronicle the 40-year run of a fictional '70s inspired variety show -- complete with dancers, sequined costumes and a non-aging host named Sherman McDaniels, played by Salahuddin. 

When the writing partners pitched the concept to IFC, they explained that it was going to be like "30 Rock" was to "SNL" for a show like "Soul Train." 

"We really wanted to present you with clips of the wild moments in the history of the show, commercials for movies that didn’t exist, and bring on actors to talk about TV shows that didn’t exist," Riddle told Yahoo Entertainment. 

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Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle together
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Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle together
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 30: Diallo Riddle (L) and Bashir Salahuddin attend the Los Angeles Series Premiere Of IFC's New Variety Sketch Show "Sherman's Showcase" at The Peppermint Club on July 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 30: (L-R) Diallo Riddle, John Legend, Freddy Scott and Bashir Salahuddin perform onstage during "Sherman's Showcase" Premiere Party on July 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JULY 25: Frank Scherma, Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin of Sherman's Showcase speak during the IFC segment of the Summer 2019 Television Critics Association Press Tour 2019 at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 25, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 25: (L-R) Diallo Riddle, Bresha Webb, Andrew "King Bach" Bachelor and Bashir Salahuddin attend the AMC Networks portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour on July 25, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 16: Creator/Executive Producers Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin attend the Comedy Central South Side 2019 Series Premiere Party at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on July 16, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1086 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedy writers Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on June 24, 2019 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 21: (L-R) Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle speak onstage at the 2019 Clusterfest on June 21, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Clusterfest)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MAY 30: (L-R) Bashir Salahuddin, Sultan Salahuddin, Chandra Russell, and Diallo Riddle attend LA Press Day for Comedy Central, Paramount Network, and TV Land at The London West Hollywood on May 30, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: (L-R) Michael Blieden, Chandra Russell, Sultan Salahuddin, Diallo Riddle, and Bashir Salahuddin of Comedy Central's 'South Side' pose for a portrait during the 2019 Winter TCA at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 11, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: Bashir Salahuddin (L) and Diallo Riddle of Comedy Central's 'South Side' pose for a portrait during the 2019 Winter TCA at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 11, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Corey Nickols/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 11: Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle attend the Viacom Winter TCA 2019 panel on February 11, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 19: Actor Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle attend the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Official Kickoff Party Hosted By SundanceTV during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at SundanceTV HQ on January 19, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images)
Writers Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle attend the "All Access" screening at the Crosby Street Hotel on October 8, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/WireImage)
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The songs and sketches on the show center around black popular culture and lean into the absurd. Like the track, “Vicki is the water warm enough?” which features a fictional singer named Charade (who looks a lot like Prince), preparing to take a bath. In other episodes, Ne-Yo makes a cameo as the frontman of a fake band named Galaxia, and all-girl group named RWKSY (Real Women Know Something, Y’all) performs their song "Drop It Low (For Jesus)" -- a track that focuses on thinking about the Lord, even when you’re at the club. 

Combining music with comedy is not new for the duo. 

Salahuddin and Diallo met at Harvard University where they were both a part of the all-black a capella group called “Brothers.” The pair went on to write for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," where they received Emmy nominations for creating “Slow Jam the News.” 

After "Fallon," the duo wrote for other shows like "Marlon," and worked to get their own projects off the ground. In July, they had two shows launch on two different networks. "South Side," a comedy set in Chicago, premiered on July 24 on Comedy Central. The first episode of "Sherman’s Showcase" aired that same week on IFC, a network that Riddle said embraced the “sophisticated silliness” that he always wanted to dabble in. 

“We set out to do something we had never seen before,” he said. “'Sherman’s Showcase' has a level of cool that I don’t think has been championed by our industry.”

Part of that cool factor comes from the fact that the show is immersed in black culture. Like HBO’s "A Black Lady Sketch Show," created by their friend Robin Thede (who they met in a comedy troupe called Cleo’s Apartment in 2004), Salahuddin and Riddle take pride in writing and creating a show that explores humor in the African American experience and sheds light on black history. 

“It’s important for me to catalog and give a bit of life to these things, because it’s our history and we need to remember it,” said Riddle. “Also, it’s ok to laugh, because black people wrote it.”

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