Jerrod Carmichael freely admits that he isn’t going about finding TV success in the simplest way, but the stand-up comic turned co-creator and TV star has a bigger wish: He wants to start conversations. Not fires or controversies, conversations. In the first seven episodes of NBC’s The Carmichael Show (which officially returns on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET), the series has done exactly that with storylines centering on protesting, guns, and infidelity. On Sunday, Carmichael’s show will continue that trend by asking its viewers to consider whether you can separate the artist from their work when the family discusses their apprehension about going to a Bill Cosby concert. The episode is likely to piss off some viewers, but that wasn’t enough to deter Carmichael from talking about it. In our interview, he discusses fear in television, not coming off as preachy, pushing out episodes at a faster pace, and why his show is more conversational than topical.
What are some of the positives associated with doing the show in front of a live audience?
We have a cast that are all performers. That, either through stand-up or on Broadway or other outlets, are used to coming alive in front of an audience, so I think it really awakens the best part of my cast. Also, you get an immediate gauge on how people are receiving the content, you know? A lot of times, if you’re doing single cam, then there’s a bit of a delay. You have to kind of edit and screen before you can get a true response from people who aren’t involved, but we get this immediate response so you know how things are playing almost immediately.
Is there any frustration associated with tackling topical material without the ability to be on in an instant? Something like The Daily Show, obviously, they can be on it the same day or even South Park, which can get an episode up in about a week. How long does it take, usually, for an idea to get to a point where it’s shot and ready to air?
Yeah, there’s a bit of a gap right now. Hopefully, if we move forward, I would like for it to be closer. I would like more of a two-week period more than anything. Just in case it is something topical that we want to cover. I mean, that’s just the beauty of South Park. It’s just like piecing together an episode of things that are happening right now in culture, so we’re a bit further out than I’d like to be, but I wouldn’t want to do same week and I wouldn’t want to do live. But a little bit closer.
So there’s been no want to do a live episode at some point?
I mean, if it feels right. I wouldn’t do it for the novelty of it. I mean, we want to piece together the best show possible and I think there are benefits in editing and benefits in getting takes and having alts and piecing together certain things, but if it made sense. Listen, I definitely have a cast who are capable of it and that would be excited to do it, but I would only do it if it made sense.
What, if anything, has changed going into season two?
I think it’s just a bit more comfort. A bit deeper in the exploration of things. Even more comfortable, just like anything else, where you get like really excited about … For instance, we all knew each other and all love each other, so now, it’s even more so. I think the relationships grow and I think that translates on camera.
Is there a possibility in the future of seeing your character’s work situation and introducing new characters?
Yeah. It’s like we try and make it as organic as possible. We wouldn’t [do it] to show the office just for the sake of that’s what you do, you know? There’s a chance for a lot of things. If it feels right and if I can think of an exciting perspective or story of what we could gain from that, then absolutely. I would love to show Jerrod’s work, whatever that is.
Obviously, there’s always that line between smartly tackling an issue and seeming preachy. I don’t think The Carmichael Show has crossed that line, but is that a conscious concern?
Yeah. We want to make sure that the perspective is as true as possible and that it reflects those topics in a real life conversation. You’re not preachy in everyday conversation. You’re analytical and you have an opinion. You have a point of view and you express that. You argue that, but I think it’s not the intention for any episode to have a lesson or a moral or something to gain from it from that perspective. My intention is to explore. My intention is to explore topics or explore something and to come at it from all angles, so I think it’s as preachy as The McLaughlin Group. You know what I mean?
Yes. I forgot that was still on.
Yeah, yeah. Oh, come on. You can’t forget about John McLaughlin!
Guys gotta be like 150 years old.