From Trump to Cosby, ‘The Carmichael Show’ is turning a mirror on America
Renewed for Season 3. It was more a stamp of confirmation than a sigh of relief for Jerrod Carmichael and the cast — Loretta Devine, David Alan Grier, and Amber Stevens West — of NBC’s excellent The Carmichael Show. Based on Carmichael’s life, the Emmy-nominated multicamera sitcom is about a vibrant and idiosyncratic North Carolina family. Scripts touch on everything from politics to mental health to religion — and even popped off with a “fresh and transgressive” take on Bill Cosby. Carmichael, 29, who some are saying “might be the next Jerry Seinfeld,” ended Season 2 with a “President Trump” finale that gives away no sign of what to expect in Season 3. Just like in real life. “It is going to be the saga that develops over the summer and until we come back,” Carmichael told Deadline. “So I thought, let’s leave it on that.”With your show, did you start using social in ways that you hadn’t in the past?
I use it more now because of the show. I do it now because, you know, you make a thing and you’re really proud of it and you obviously want people to know and to get the word out. When I’m not doing the show, I don’t keep the apps on my phone. Like, I refuse to. I don’t keep Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. But it’s really addicting, easy to get caught up in. People say funny stuff on Twitter and Instagram is like a coffee table book in your pocket.
So you delete a lot of apps from your phone in an effort to stay focused.
When you’re creating something, there’s an incubation period. It’s a period where you have to let it exist as its own separate thing, and see what else grows in that. A lot of times, we’ll put out half of an idea, because we get excited … about that initial spark. Instead of letting it grow, sometimes it’s easier — for an artist, a comedian, whatever — to just tweet or put something on Instagram. But I like that incubation period. It’s not weighted.
A lot of comedians will take to 15-second Instagram videos or 30-second Twitter videos or Vines. Have you felt pressure to do that?
I knew that wasn’t necessarily how I create. My buddy Yassir Lester is so funny on Twitter. And I think his tweets could go in a book. And he’s also a great writer, so I mean, you can do both. I’m just not good at it. Some people are amazingly good at it. Like KingBach on Instagram. Or Brittany Furlan. But it’s just not me. I’m like, ‘Hey! I’m going to need like five minutes before I can even get started!’
One of the most memorable episodes of The Carmichael Show is the Cosby episode. When episodes hit a nerve, do you feel the need to respond?
On Twitter, I favorite every criticism, and I favorite every compliment. If it comes from an honest place, I’ll receive it equally. It all goes to the same place to me.
Apple or Android?
iPhone. Listen, I think we should all just get on one accord so I can iMessage everyone on flights. And group chats could be easier to manage.
Are you a pretty frequent emoji user?
No! I use them somewhat, if I’m speaking with someone who uses emojis. I barely like texting.
Is there an app on your iPhone that you love, but other people are not feeling?
What about video games?
I used to play a lot of Madden and NBA Live, but it’s been a long time. My dad plays Madden every day. Like literally every day. I probably haven’t played since like PlayStation 2 or 3? We’ve got one of those retro gaming systems — I’m looking at it now — and I’ve been playing a lot of Super Mario 3 and a lot of Mario Kart in my dressing room.
Do you listen to any podcasts?
Know what’s crazy? I’ve never really heard a podcast. I’ve done a few, and I think they’re really fun. I usually do it if a friend has it, so I’ve done like Chelsea Peretti’s and Marc Maron’s, and Comedy Bang Bang is really fun. My friend Felonious Munk has one that I did that was really fun.
Last book you read?
[Michael Wolff’s 2015] Television is the New Television. It talks about media outlets and social media versus traditional media and the threat of overtaking and how all media eventually kind of becomes traditional media. You look at YouTube and all of the sudden there’s a longer commercial break and you can’t skip ads and it kind of becomes traditional! There was a book on mental illness that I read [called A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi].
What attracted you to the book about mental illness?
It was about these patterns … in leaders — in [Presidents] Lincoln and Kennedy. These overlooked patterns that were hiding in plain sight of society. It’s an interesting study into their lives. When I can, when I have time, I’ll go to Barnes & Noble and just get lost. It’s my favorite thing to do, and I haven’t done it in a while.
What will you always be the champion of?
I’m always trying to conquer — it’s somewhere between consciousness and intention. Just trying to be a champion of the intention and a champion of making sure that the intention aligns with the product.
Where does your courage come from?
Curiosity. And realizing that you can be right. Your thoughts matter. How you feel matters. The curiosity about how I feel about various things and what I can contribute, drives me. Your voice is really important. And that’s in any field. Anything.