At the tail end of Sherman’s Showcase premiere episode on IFC, a hilarious skit that features a church-going woman named Renita singing the hit song, “Drop It Low (For Jesus)” with faux choir group RWKSY (Real Women Know Something, Y’all) closes out the program.
As she’s praising a higher power, she simultaneously advocates for women who enjoy flexing their knee muscles and shaking their backsides in brightly lit clubs. Since the show’s premiere, Renita’s provocative message has made its rounds on social media.
But like the many different skits on the show, the comedic scene came unexpectedly. Sherman’s Showcase’s format is a mix of Saturday Night Live and Soul Train, encapsulating some of music and pop culture’s most memorable moments while being interpolated with impromptu style and celebrity cameos, like witnessing Tiffany Haddish taste soups and raving about how good they are. Then suddenly, John Legend (who executive produced the show through his production company, Get Lifted, with award-winning producer Mike Jackson) returns as one of its hosts to say something quirky and—random.
The program was created by dynamic duo Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin, both comedians and writers who first met at Harvard University and later worked together on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Before making it big in Hollywood, they’ve always wanted to create a sketch show like Sherman’s. Its formula is like taking a peek at someone’s most private, hilarious, and cringe-worthy thoughts. And it’s all intentional.
“Sherman’s Showcase gives us an opportunity to do something chaotic like the early days of Saturday Night Live, which we always really loved and cherished,” Bashir tells VIBE over the phone. “In some ways, I would say that Sherman’s Showcase had the longest gestational phase because since we started writing 20 years ago, we always thought about writing our own comedy show.”
As the episodes funnel in, viewers witness the likes of Common, Quincy Jones, Ne-Yo, Vic Mensa, and Marlon Wayans, among others. For Legend, it’s quite the treat to feature musical guests on the show.
“The good thing about it being musical is that it’s not just actors, there are lots of people who work with me in the music business that come on the show as well,” Legend says. “I think people just want to have fun, and a lot of actors and musicians don’t get a chance to do this all the time. I don’t get a chance to do things like this all the time either.”
The show’s antics are fun and as a viewer, it feels like you’re time-traveling between different worlds. Bashir notes there will be jokes about old acts like Blondie and Stevie Nicks while still keeping that classic feel of Motown and Soul Train. It’s the ‘70s but with assistance from this generation’s talent like Haddish. Their methodology is simple and relies on the consensus of the public boardroom.
“Our philosophy has always been, if the room is laughing at it, we’re going to give it a shot,” Riddle explains. Amid the comedic craze they’ve created with this show and Comedy Central’s South Side, they’re using the sketches as a litmus test for Hollywood to see how they can expand the stories—whether it’s a fake commercial or a movie— beyond a one-minute short into a 90-minute feature.
— MAD DECENT (@maddecent) August 13, 2019
“For us, it’s a chance to do music and TV in sort of a proof of concept kind of way,” Diallo explains. “If we can execute it on Sherman’s Showcase then all we have to do is walk in somebody’s office and say, ‘Hey, let us make the long-form version of this.’”
“And at least in the case of the original music, it’s already come to fruition because we played it for Mad Decent, which is Diplo’s record label,” he adds. “They said, ‘We want to make this soundtrack.’ It’s almost like wishing, thinking and believing things you want into existence. To me, that’s the power I’ve given it.”
Sherman’s Showcase airs on IFC Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST.