South Side is an inside joke even outsiders will get | Small Screen | Chicago Reader

South Side is an inside joke even outsiders will get 

The Comedy Central series offers a nuanced, and incredibly funny, depiction of Englewood you won’t see on the news.

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click to enlarge Chandra Russell as Sergeant Turner, Sultan Salahuddin as Simon James, Kareme Young as Kareme "K" Odom in Comedy Central's South Side

Chandra Russell as Sergeant Turner, Sultan Salahuddin as Simon James, Kareme Young as Kareme "K" Odom in Comedy Central's South Side

Courtesy of Comedy Central

Comedy Central’s South Side isn’t interested in making north-siders—or any nonsouth-side Chicagoan, for that matter—laugh, but it’s sure to get plenty of kicks out of them anyway. 

The show often feels like an inside joke only natives of the area would understand, yet central characters Simon and Kareme and their larger community feel like folks anyone can relate to. As in any other neighborhood, people argue, bond, and compete when it comes to making a dollar. 

When viewers first meet best friends Simon (Sultan Salahuddin) and Kareme (Kareme Young), the recent graduates of Kennedy-King College are ready for all the world has to offer. But like most recent graduates will tell you, the job market doesn’t have much to offer at all. The two find themselves back working the same seemingly dead-end nine-to-five jobs at Rent-T-Own—a riff on Rent-A-Center—in Englewood, where they spend most of their time trying to repossess furniture from neighbors and friends who’ve stopped paying on items. 

While there is a lot of drama in the show, there are even more laughs. We see the duo unsuccessfully pursue a myriad of side hustles, including but not limited to peddling erectile dysfunction pills and selling popcorn outside of Chatham 14 Theatre after seeing another guy sell two bags of popcorn for a dollar—a guy who also was in possession of a microwave he stopped paying on from Rent-T-Own. Crooked cops roam the city—because Chicago—and make it clear they’re in pursuit of the same thing Simon and Kareme are: a bag of cash. 

South Side’s Englewood isn’t the Englewood in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq or even the one shown on the local TV news. This Englewood still struggles with violence, but it also has a community of people who love each other, hate on each other, or “treat” each other, as south- and west-siders would say, and hustle nonstop. We see Rent-T-Own’s Englewood employees beef with workers at the west-side franchise, a very Chicago rivalry nonnatives would likely not be aware of. 

The Reader even receives a mention in episode two.

Created and written by several south-side natives, the show doesn’t shy away from the downfalls of the community but highlights them through a series of seamless jokes that make it clear that while the people of Englewood may face adversity, it’s a neighborhood full of diverse people like any other.  v

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