Show creators deem the issue untouchable – “There’s nothing funny about it.”
In the Comedy Central program “South Side” — midway through its inaugural season — they have shown a willingness to feature real-life stories and characters involving the setting of program, the city of Chicago. However, in a recent interview, the show’s creator and head writer declared firmly that the most risible story to come out of the city this year is completely off-limits. There will be no mention at all of the Jussie Smollett controversy.
Describing the incident as “embarrassing”, writer/producer Bashir Salahuddin told The Wrap that they will not be addressing the Smollett story in any fashion. “It’s a straight-up tragedy,” Salahuddin says by way of explanation. A tragedy — describing the hoax that Smollett himself perpetrated all because he wanted to leverage a better salary for his role on the primetime drama “Empire”.
“South Side” follows the lives of two men living in South Chicago, plying their trade and also working side hustles for extra money. The program has incorporated stories and sports figures rooted in the city, so the question of whether the event surrounding Smollett — a Chicago resident himself, and the location of his hoax — was a valid one. But the head of the show has shut down any mention of the incident.
This continues the hesitancy of many in the entertainment industry to train a satirical eye on the people and events on the left side of the political spectrum. Recall during the Obama years how reticent the late-night talk shows, and Saturday Night Live had been to make sharp comments or crack jokes that were overly critical of the President. Contrast this with how swiftly Donald Trump was served up on these same shows, well before he had even been inaugurated. (It is noted, SNL was willing to create a segment that mocked Smollett.)
This desire by content creators to treat one side with kid gloves shows a self-neutering that completely undermines any of the commentary and satirical heft to which they might try staking a claim. Salahuddin, a former head writer for Jimmy Fallon, wants to seem to have a social commentary bite, but in turn he has removed some of his own teeth. “The whole situation is unfortunate,” he says in sidestepping the story entirely. “There’s nothing funny about it.”
Nothing funny. A celebrity stages his own hoax, and does so for venal purposes. The hoax itself was a comedic misfire, and the players involved also carried mockable traits. Now roll in the involvement of corrupt local officials, the media coverage, and Smollett’s own behavior in the media following the incident. Hell, you even have a number of national political figures and Presidential candidates who foolishly weighed in on the “attack”.
Despite all of that fertile material the head writer cannot see anything that could possibly be used for show content. This will not do much to illustrate just how connected to the inner workings of the city the show will be going forward.