The running gag in a comedy scene filmed by the Comedy Central network has to do with the venerable Chicago institution Harold’s Fried Chicken on west 63rd Street in Englewood.
A man walks in, orders his chicken and asks for extra mild sauce. The manager won’t give him anymore because she said he has single handedly hurt the mild sauce industry with the number of mild sauces he constantly asks for.
This is a taste of the humor in a new show South Side. It’s a comedy set in a rent-to-own store that wrapped up filming in the city this week.
Even a workplace sitcom feels the weight of trying to accurately represent black Chicago. When the rest of the country hears about the South Side of Chicago, too often it’s about gun violence.
“We want to show you this is a place that has philosophers and astronomers and teachers and people who will sell you stuff on the street and people who will come to your house and fix your car better than anybody,” said Bashir Salahuddin, an executive producer of South Side.
In other words, the breadth of blackness.
This is personal for Salahuddin, a graduate of Whitney Young Magnet High School. He attended Harvard University, but the pull of acting and theater thwarted his plans to become a doctor. He’s written for several television shows, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
“I grew up on 83rd and Halsted and 72nd and Constance, and my experience in Chicago is a lot more fun and joyous. And my experience of Chicagoans are a lot more happy and more positive, and it’s really important to show that and show the fuller picture,” Salahuddin said.
That doesn’t mean he’s erasing the challenges confronting the city. South Side is funny while focusing on employees trying to get ahead as they face socioeconomic and political challenges.
Season 1 of South Side is expected to debut next year. A number of Chicago comedians and actors will be featured such as Lil Rel Howery and LisaRaye McCoy. And many are behind the camera as writers. The sitcom has filmed at the South Shore Cultural Center and Kennedy-King College. And the show will introduce an audience to up-and-coming funny men and women.
Salahuddin said when local residents see the crew filming, they do two things: ask to be an extra or ask if the show is going to make the South Side look bad.
For the latter, Salahuddin answers of course not. South Side will appear on the network that gave us pop culture staples like Chappelle’s Show, The Daily Show, and South Park. With that kind of stage, perhaps the world will begin to see the South Side the way Salahuddin and other South Siders have long viewed it.