The other night I was watching Saturday Night Live, and Jerrod Carmichael was the host. In his monologue, he made a self-deprecating joke about being the "least famous host in Saturday Night Live history." I knew who he was from his sitcom, The Carmichael Show, which aired from 2015-2017 and which I thought was quite sharp and funny. But I admit that I had kind of forgotten about Carmichael and did not immediately pick up on who he was when it was announced he would be hosting.
He gave a strong monologue, commenting on the Will Smith/Chris Rock affair without even mentioning it by name. He also mentioned a stand-up special on HBO and the fact that he had come out as gay.
I watched his stand-up special Rothaniel today. It was quite unlike most stand-up specials I've seen. It was very raw, intimate, and full of vulnerability. I'm not sure how scripted it was, but it felt very unscripted. When I found out Bo Burnham had directed it, I was not at all surprised because it had his fingerprints and candid style over much of it.
Rothaniel plays out almost like a "fly-on-the-wall" conversation between Carmichael and the audience. There is no big introduction. The crowd and venue are very small. Carmichael arrives through the club entrance just like everyone else and gets on stage almost nonchalantly. He sits on a stool the entire time. We welcomes questions and comments from the audience. There are awkward pauses and silences as he figures out what he wants to say and how he wants to say it.
It certainly has many funny moments, but I would not consider it funny the same way a typical comedy set might be. Mostly, it is Carmichael riffing on his family, secrets they've kept, being a gay Black man in a conservative family, and speaking truth.
I found it so powerful. I really enjoyed it, though much of Carmichael's journey remains largely unresolved in many ways. What I enjoyed most was how brutally and heartbreakingly honest Carmichael was about everything. I recommend watching it if you get the opportunity.