Lights, camera, action. It’s comedy night at the dinner table. Your audience is your entire family, and you’re competing for the attention of the table. An especially hard challenge as you are the baby of the bunch. Son of famed Atlanta fine artist, John Riddle (whose mural is currently on display at the Arts Center MARTA station), this is where Diallo Riddle curated his comedic prowess. Those dinner and a show experiences serve him well today.

A graduate of Benjamin Elijah Mays High School, Riddle would go on to Harvard University where he would meet his comedy partner Bashir Salahuddin. The pair would later matriculate to Los Angeles to begin their careers. Riddle’s talents would be recognized, and eventually he found himself as a writer on “The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon”. While there, Riddle would be the originator of several iconic sketches such as, “Slow jam the news” and “The History of Rap”.  

On May 1, 2013, Riddle’s hard work paid off, leading him back to Atlanta with the announcement of a television venture with famed Saturday Night Live creator, Lorne Michaels. A pilot for “Brothers in Atlanta,” a show about making it big time in the big peach was put into pre-production for HBO. 

A great success on all fronts, the project would recruit talents like Maya Rudolph and Jaden Smith. The pilot would be filmed in 2015 and would attract great attention as the number of shows on mainstream television centered on the city of Atlanta. Something at one time was virtually non-existent. Unfortunately, after garnering much hype- HBO announced the project was not moving forward on Jan, 22 of 2016.

“I would argue that if you did a survey of every single network and every single black writer, and I know them all, who had a project that on a network, that person will be able to tell you a specific story about NBC ABC, but everybody’s got a story,” Riddle says. “An executive comes along who unfortunately didn’t get the vision and that’s really hard. It was a very difficult time in my life personally, but I’m so grateful that we went there. We had really hoped that not only would this be a great show, but that it would open a lot of doors for us to do other things both as writers and performers.”

Diallo Riddle as Allen Gayle from “SouthSide”. Photo courtesy of HBO MAX

“Don’t let failure define you”

Riddle would not let that failure define him. Continuing his work as a writer and creator, he would go on to write for shows like, “The Last O.G,” “Maya & Marty,” and even star in a few like, “Marlon” on NBC and “Black-ish” on ABC. Even lending his musical tastes to the soundtrack of Atlanta-filmed, Baby Driver. While all of this was going on, Riddle did have a show waiting in the wings, “SouthSide”. Set in the southside of Chicago, the show follows a similar premise to his Atlanta-based one.

“I think though the balance to our credit, we sort of have to grow beyond the loss of “Brothers in Atlanta”, because ultimately I think focusing on that, would’ve killed “SouthSide,” Riddle said. “I’m very proud of how we moved on.”

“SouthSide” sees Riddle playing Chicago attorney, Allen Gayle, whose self-centered exploits often put him in precarious situations. “SouthSide” is now in its third season, which just premiered on HBO MAX on Dec 8.