Back in 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO and all-around not-nice person Dan Cathy had some pretty disgusting things to say about same-sex marriage. The only problem? To quote Jerrod Carmichael, “Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches are so good.” Such is the type of uncomfortable, yet funny dichotomy that best describes the 27-year-old comedian’s philosophy of stand-up, which he says “comes from a really honest place.”
With an HBO comedy special, Love at the Store, directed by Spike Lee and a scene-stealing role in the 2014 film Neighbors, Carmichael is about to flex his comedic muscles even further in The Carmichael Show on NBC. Ahead of the new sitcom’s premiere on Wednesday, the North Carolina native geeked out with us over Chick-fil-A, stand-up, and the art of the discussion.
One of The Carmichael Show‘s first promos features a Seinfeld-esque synthesized bass track. It seemed oddly appropriate…
It seemed oddly appropriate or inappropriate?
That’s hilarious. They like to add music to those things. I will say, if it was up to me, it would just be a scene that played without any music, but they really like the music.
You worked on a pilot back in 2014 with NBC. Is this a continuation of that, or something entirely different?
It’s newer. It’s kind of both. I met NBC in 2011, we did a presentation in 2013, and then a pilot. This is a newer thing, a newer idea, but it’s still kind of a continuation… It honestly depends on which lawyer you talk to.
Seems like you got a boost from Neighbors and working with director Nicholas Stoller.
Yes! We had what I like to call one of the more “interesting” weeks ever. When NBC decided not to go with the presentation that I did, it was the same week that Neighbors came out, which was also the same week I shot this HBO comedy special, Love at the Store. Just this crazy week. That’s why I said it was a continuation because, afterwards, they were like, “Ah, we’ll keep figuring it out.” Then Nick Stoller came on board and helped out tremendously.
He’s executive producing, but he also wrote the first show, yes?
He helped write the first show, is the executive producer, and contributes. We actually wrote the pilot together.
You’re obviously front and center on camera, but you’re also working behind the camera in the writers’ room.
It’s so important to keep the vision all the way through and be involved with every step of it. Especially being a stand-up comedian, having that amount of control over my words is really important to me.
Has it been difficult to switch between the two?
They both use the same muscle, the same part of my brain — being a stand-up, and being a part of the show. My stand-up comes from a really honest place, and I tried to keep the show in that same zone. Not necessarily listening to the rules of sitcom or the rules of structure. Instead, it’s just my honest thoughts and feelings. When I was coming up with the show, I would have these great conversations with my family and friends, and there’d be these great lines that were said. I didn’t just want to go to the writers’ room, turn that part of my brain off, and write a sitcom with jokes. It was important for me to have these moments, and I tried to keep as many of them in the show as possible. That rule permeated and dictated my writing.