In a new HBO special, stand-up comedian and onetime sitcom star Jerrod Carmichael officially comes out as gay.
Airing Friday at 9/8c, Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel sees the comedian discuss secrets that were kept during his parents’ marriage, including his father’s infidelity. Once it was “out in the open,” he says, “I was left alone feeling like a liar because I had a secret — one that I kept from my mother and my father, my family, my friends and you, all of you… and the secret is that I’m gay.”
After a few seconds of silence, the audience bursts into applause, with one woman shouting, “We love you!” After “accepting the love,” Carmichael goes on to express how conflicted he was about saying out loud that he is gay.
“My ego wants to rebel against it,” he says. “I rebelled against it my whole life. I never thought I’d come out. I didn’t think I’d ever, ever come out. At many points I thought I’d rather die than confront the truth of that, to actually say it to people. Because I know it changes some people’s perceptions of me. I can’t control that. I’m from an environment where you’re kind of raised to be a man, whatever that means.”
During one of Carmichael’s previous HBO specials, 2019’s Home Videos, the comedian returned home to North Carolina, where he sat down for a Q&A with his mother Cynthia. After asking his mom to reflect on the extramarital affair that Cynthia’s husband once had, Carmichael asked if she had ever been attracted to women.
“I’ve hooked up with dudes before,” Carmichael revealed at the time, after Cynthia said she’d never had those feelings for a woman. Her response? “Well, OK. That’s your option. I like men.” The conversation ended shortly after that exchange, and there was no further discussion of how Carmichael labeled his sexuality. (Towards the end of Rothaniel, Carmichael reveals that there has been distance between him and his mother since he came out to her.)
Directed by Bo Burnham, Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel was taped in February before a live audience at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Carmichael, who previously headlined the semi-autobiographical NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show for three seasons between 2015 and 2017, is set to make his Saturday Night Live hosting debut this weekend.