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A Meandering Meditation on Columbus Short, 'Studio 60,' and Soup

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Short_lOh, actor-dancer-choreographer Columbus Short—a few brief months ago, your name might’ve been mistaken for must-avoid special feature on the Bicentennial Man DVD. At best, you could’ve hoped for the immortal tag, Guy Who Slept With Britney Spears But All We Did Was Sleep, Honest. And today? You’re the star of the surprise hit Stomp the Yard. And that’s not all! You’re also party to the slo-mo multi-Prius pileup that is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

In case you haven’t been watching (and unless you own a Learjet made of non-conflict diamonds, you haven’t been), Short plays Darius (pictured), the only black staff writer on the SNL-ish Studio 60. Being the only black writer on Studio 60 is almost like being the Only Staff Writer Period, except that’s there’s also an Only Woman Writer (Lucy Davis) flitting around, plus a Damaged Genius (Mark McKinney) who Yodas to and fro, giving the greenlight to awful-sounding pitches like “The Husky Gymnast.” So Darius already has his work cut out for him, one would imagine.

Ah, but there’s another wrinkle! Darius is soon butting heads with Simon, the Only Black Castmember of Studio 60, and the guy who “saved” Darius from a life of dead-end club bookings and laughless stand-up. Now Simon expects payback, in the form of Darius’ fealty: Simon wants his pawn’s pen on every “black” sketch, which, I guess, means every Simon sketch, since Simon, on stage and backstage, is a character defined almost entirely by his blackness.

But Darius doesn’t want to be Simon’s, er, serf, so he passes the”black” stuff along to Only Woman Writer (also Lonely Woman Writer,natch—but that’s a rant for another day), who doesn’t understandcontemporary African-American vernacular, presumably because of herwomanness, her Britishness, and her poorly-writtenness. And thisprompts Simon to “kick [Darius’] ass nice and slow,” in the smugphrasing of overseer, exec producer and Godlike writer-of-everythingMatt Albie.

Where’s all this going? Nowhere good, I’m guessing. Putting Short’scharacter in a kicked-dog posture, with Simon doing the kicking, mightbe a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of H.N.I.C. syndrome.But something about Albie’s complicity in it is just… icky. I senseAaron Sorkin sidling up to something he doesn’t really understand—whichprobably means (and I’m just spitballing here) that he’ll cut hislosses in the near future. So don’t get too attached to Columbus Short,whom I keep wanting to call Campbell Scott, who makes me think of soup.And my own name, which is what it all comes back to, anyway. I’m nowso far up my own blog, there’s no hope for return. I’m going out forsoup. Here endeth the free-association.