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Jerrod Carmichael Goes Deep on Rothaniel, Honesty, and His Emmy Campaign

Jerrod Carmichael is on an honesty tour—and he’s finding it a little exhausting. The acclaimed 35-year-old comedian, previously best known for stand-up specials like Love at the Store and his NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, has entered a new phase of his career and life with Rothaniel, his latest act from HBO in which he comes out as gay. The very funny, very touching hour-long piece, filmed before a live audience at the Blue Note Jazz Club and directed by close friend Bo Burnham, digs deep into his family biography and legacy of secrets, developing into a kind of confessional as Carmichael seeks to unburden himself, before the world, of what he’s spent his whole life carrying.

Since Rothaniel’s April release, Carmichael has kept its authentic spirit alive in his personal day-to-day, maintaining tough conversations with those he’s closest to and continuing to frankly discuss the experience of being out after years of fear. He’s spoken on talk shows about his strained relationship with his mother, who’s struggled to accept his sexuality, and says he’s still working at breaking some old, frustrating habits in his craft.

This occasion, though, is a little unique: Carmichael is here for a Little Gold Men interview, plainly illuminating the strange contrast of promoting a very personal experience for awards attention. As expected, though, he’s game. In our wide-ranging interview, which you can read and listen to below, he goes deep on the craft and technique of Rothaniel, the emotional and technical work it took to get here, and the prospect of Emmy love. “Do I think I deserve gold for it?” he asks bluntly. “Yes.”

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Vanity Fair: I wanted to start by asking you about it being pride month. Of course, you come out in the special, so this is your first pride month being out to the world. Are you getting into it?

Jerrod Carmichael: If having sex with men counts as pride, then yes.

That definitely counts as pride.

Okay, well then yes. Then I’ve been celebrating all year. [Laughs.] No, it’s good. It’s funny, June 1, in my calendar it said “first day of Pride,” and then it said, “Mom’s birthday.” And I just thought that was hilarious.

Oh, man.

I was like, “That’s making me believe in God again.” Well. actually didn’t stop believing, I’ve got to stop joking like that.

That’s quite a contrast, though.

It’s one of those things that you just see it and you’re like, “Yeah, of course.” Of course life has to line up that way in order for me to have a sense of humor.

This is a very personal project, on many levels, and we’re talking for an awards podcast. I’m curious how that part of talking about the special and talking about your life has been for you in a context that is, inevitably, a little promotional and quite exposed.

Yeah, I have conflicting feelings about that. Because on one hand, I would always prefer to just release things, and then you find it, and I go and work and then come back when I have something else to say. But I do want people to see it. It’s the best work of my life so far. And it means a lot. And like you said, it’s very, very personal. So when I’m promoting, it feels weird because as a piece of art, as a thing that I made, as a thing to say “tune in,” that feels a little false. And even this very thing here—because I was thinking about this, the Little Gold Men podcast. I don’t know how to talk about it because it’s such a real thing. In many ways, do I think I deserve gold for it? Yes. As a craft, there’s a piece of art. I love it. As a personal document, it’s alive and changing.

Speaking personally, it really touched me, and I know it’s touched a lot of people—and I would think that you’ve encountered a lot of that sentiment as you’ve talked to people about it, whether in this kind of interview or not.

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