After undergoing scrutiny for his ‘offensive’ stand-up performance at University of Chicago in mid-February (2017), and having his recent special called out as a ‘questionable taping’ from various media sources, Jarrod Carmichael is undoubtedly no stranger to overcoming the persistent pest of adversity in comedy.
The most notable aspect of being a comedian is recognizing and accepting that not everyone is going to like you; not everyone is going to get you; your jokes, your humor. If that wasn’t difficult enough to come to terms with – people will judge you, and will verbalize it – in front of an audience. The reality is, somehow, comedians have to find a way to accept this fact on a very real, honest level with themselves, while staying true to their greatness and knowing who they are through it all. Standups are people who deal with heightened, self-induced levels of external and internal criticism on the daily. Carmichael has continued to rise to the occasion when challenged with the threat of exposition. He responds to this inconstant catalyst effortlessly, improving his routines and polishing his material to perfection; delivering his messages with flawless execution.
In Jarrod Carmichael’s recently released (Air Date: March 11th, 2017) HBO special, “Jarrod Carmichael 8”, you get nothing short of his very best. Contemplative, conversational and unapologetically honest, Carmichael amicably captures the audience’s attention with his signature charismatic confidence; fearlessly tackling his darkest innermost thoughts and delivering them with natural fluidity.
In his recent interview with BUILD for ‘BUILD Series New York City’, Carmichael states,
“That’s where comedy is the most fun and at its best – when exploring an unpopular thought or emotion on stage. I like to treat audience members like the adults that they are, and we can have a discussion. You can completely disagree with me, feel the opposite of how I feel, and still listen and still understand. My job is to articulate my point; I try to articulate my point and hopefully you laugh at the end. Or, at least feel something.”
Instead of being threatened by disapproval or negative feedback, Carmichael finds himself heedlessly embracing it,
“I like to say things that at least can be meaningful. I know I’m doing my job when I see someone react, other than laugh. Just to see someone give me a reaction. Comedy a lot of times has just become this ‘court jester’ thing where everyone just says the craziest, brashest, most outlandish, absurd silly thing and it means nothing. And I don’t want to say things that don’t mean anything…I don’t like mindless content, I’ve never liked it – I like to think about what I’m watching, what I’m taking in, what I’m listening to. So, even music, I can’t listen to music that doesn’t challenge me in any way, and I never could. So, it’s just kind of who I am as a person, I guess embedded in my DNA, to just really want to feel something, figure something out and not just tell jokes for the sake of telling jokes.”
Carmichael makes it clear that his sets are not created without the depth of conscious reflection; delving into the importance of what it means for him to be a standup comedian,
“You should have an intention. The line is where your intention is. If your intention is to just say some crazy sh** into a microphone, then maybe you shouldn’t have a microphone. If you’re intention is to explore a thought, then there is no line.”
When questioned about the timeline for his creative processes, considering the length of time it takes for him to develop comedic content, Carmichael emphasizes the importance of methodically exhausting each concept and its purpose in entirety,
“It makes the process a little bit longer, but more fulfilling, because I’m waiting for true perspective. That will resonate and it will stick with people longer, and people will care about it longer – as opposed to quick, cheap, crazy things…Certain times you’ll have a thought you just aren’t ready to talk about, because don’t know exactly what the point is. You feel it, and you have the intention to say something, but you don’t really know how to say it. You just have to wait it out and wait until it comes full circle emotionally for you.”
Wise beyond his 29 years, Carmichael continues to utilize his comedic talents to impact audiences with his transcendental truth. When describing how this special differs in content from his previous specials, Carmichael states,
“I think the thoughts become more complete; this special is more cohesive. The first special I did, the intention was to capture just me in the process, documenting me mid-process (onstage) and to just record. This one is more cohesive; it’s more of a character exploration.”
There will always be varied opinions, judgment and opposition to overcome when you stand alone at the forefront of a crowd, center stage, vulnerable for the world to see. However, most comedians agree that the risk of comedy is followed by a great sense of reward and purpose. The relational experience between act and audience creates providential moments of impact in the universal collective, and is an exchange that Carmichael values with sincere transparency every moment he takes the stage.