The hype surrounding stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael is justifiable and warranted.
At 26, Carmichael is having a breakout year. A shining supporting role in Neighbors, which has earned $150 million at the American box-office since May and another $100 million globally. An HBO hourlong stand-up special directed by Spike Lee from The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, in the can and awaiting an air date. And a pilot presentation with NBC that impressed the Peacock Network enough to ask him to do a second pilot with a quick turnaround.
It’s enough to draw comparisons to Dave Chappelle. Which also may entirely justifiable and warranted, too.
Even though he’s still only in his mid-20s and just three years removed from his first Montreal performance as one of 2011’s “New Faces,” Carmichael has an ease and assuredness about him onstage that suggests a decade more of experience than he has — and in his Tuesday performance, he carried that maturity into an extended conversation with a group of 13-year-old boys who’d scored front-row seats in his audience.
If the fathers of those boys hadn’t yet given them “the talk” yet about girls and women, then they learned plenty in an hour listening to Carmichael. The comedian even jokingly apologized to them upon discovering they’d been there the whole time.
Though his apology came only in jest, too.
Just a few minutes earlier, Carmichael had paused, leaned against the stool atop which his notebook had premises at the ready, and asked: “What can I talk about? What can I get away with? I’m trying to figure you guys out…” Another pause. “Why is there a stigma against child pornography?”
Carmichael doesn’t seem to be one of those young button-pushing comedians who pushes said button just to enjoy the brashness of his youth.
Instead, he’s wise enough beyond his years to pre-emptively apologize not only for eventually becoming the type of success to forget where he came from, beat any legal rap against him, and cheat on the wife he doesn’t even have yet. “I’ll cheat like a Kennedy,” he clarifies, imparting a theory that different rules of fidelity apply to an ambitious spouse than to a poor, slacking one. The same rules apply to a more successful wife, too, he added: “If Mariah Carey is not cheating on Nick Cannon right now…” Why joke about adultery when it’s not yet a life experience for him? “Adultery is a funny thing to talk about, and I want to talk about it,” he said. “It’s a real thing!” He added: “Fairy tales don’t have sequels for a reason.”
Carmichael has some other bits that run the gamut from solid thought-provokers to premises still waiting to find their eventual winning punchline. He wonders about the janitor for the Illuminati, about the notion that some people associate a pop-cultural landmark with an infamous date rather than the actual tragedy that made the day unforgettable, about what he’d do if he’d had sex with Will Smith, and about the children of famous people not living up to their parents. “Nobody gives a fuck about Martin Luther King’s kids. If they were giving a speech next door, you’d still be here at my show.”
He’s working on some material regarding guns, ever the hot-button topic in America.
More relatable to him and to us, his opening remarks about his approachability and safety relative to other young black men. More memorably provocative, perhaps, his insistence that “talent is more important than morals” when forgiving Woody Allen, Chris Brown or Michael Jackson.
I’m not sure Drake falls on that sliding scale for Carmichael. While asking his teenaged audience members for their opinion on Drake, Carmichael zinged the Canadian actor/rapper by describing him in just four words: “If JCPenney sold black people.”