Fraternal Order of Comedy Nerdery
Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin met as Harvard undergrads, where they bonded over the simple realization that “We were the only two guys, particularly the only two black guys, who either of us knew with same depth of comedy nerdery,” Salahuddin recalls. It seems they still haven’t found a third.
After moving to Los Angeles and logging nearly four years as staff writers for Jimmy Fallon, the two are readying their Lorne Michaels-exec produced HBO comedy “Brothers in Atlanta,” for which they serve as creators, showrunners and stars.
“We tried to go from subtle to super-broad,” Riddle says. “There are at least two references to ‘Jules and Jim’ in our pilot. And also ‘Aliens.’”
Riddle, who was raised in Atlanta, plays an aspiring local DJ, while Chicago-native Salahuddin plays a transplant with dreams of becoming a singer. While there are clear autobiographical elements in the premise, the two hope to tackle far bigger themes through the show, using the city as a microcosm of black America.
“We both watch a lot of ‘Simpsons,’ and we’re going to treat Atlanta like our Springfield,” Riddle says.
They hope that the show is steeped in the city’s culture while reflecting both writers’ sensibilities.
“We both come from big families with strong black men in the home,” Salahuddin says. “We were always imbued with this sense of social responsibility.”
“But we also have a rule that it has to be funny first,” Riddle adds. “We could do a whole unfunny episode that ends with, ‘Tyrone, give me the gun…’ But we really don’t want to do that.” — Andrew Barker
Show: “Brothers in Atlanta” (HBO)
TV inspiration: The two variously cite “The Simpsons,” “Airplane!” and Steely Dan as benchmarks, but place special emphasis on the Eddie Murphy classic “Coming to America.” “I feel like my whole life I’m constantly chasing that film,” Salahuddin says.