'Sherman's Showcase' nails 'sophisticated silliness' with original songs and sketches

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 tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin perform onstage during Sherman's Showcase premiere party on July 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC)

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 Riddle 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 Tonight Show Starring 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,” says Riddle. “Also, it’s OK to laugh, because black people wrote it.”

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