Comedian Jerrod Carmichael publicly shares that he is gay in his new HBO special Rothanielpremiering Friday night.
In Rothaniel, the comedian, who is set to host saturday night live this weekend, details coming out while sharing stories about his family history, including one that recalled the moment he caught his father cheating on his mother and the feelings that came with holding on to that secret.
“I don’t know if I would’ve said anything if I had the courage because I only saw this secret as something that could’ve torn our family apart,” he says, adding that he later made his father tell his mother the truth. Reflecting on the event made Carmichael share the internal conflicts he was left to confront.
“Once that was done, I was left alone feeling like a liar, because I had a secret,” he says. “One that I kept from my mother and my father, my family, my friends, and you, all of you. Professionally, personally. And the secret is that I’m gay.”
After taking a moment to pause, the audience erupts into cheers, leaving Carmichael to express his gratitude. “It means a lot. I’m accepting the love, I really appreciate the love. My kind of ego wants to rebel against it,” he says.
“I rebel against it my whole life. I never thought I’d come out. I didn’t think I’d ever, ever come out,” he explains. “Probably 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.”
Carmichael later reflects on coming out to his friends, even sharing his best friend’s comical reaction in which he said he “felt like he was tricked into having a gay best friend.”
Later on, he reflects on his family’s reactions, including his brother and parents, admitting that he “hid it” from his mom because he “was afraid that his reaction would be to just go inside with it.” He recalls his mom telling him, “I can’t go against Jesus” and says she has since been “trying to accept it.”
In a teaser released ahead of the special, Carmichael said he wanted to focus the conversation on secrets: “I’ve been trying to be very honest because my whole life was shrouded in secrets and figured the only route I haven’t tried was the truth.”
Rothaniel was taped in February at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City. Bo Burnham directed while Carmichael, Burnham, Eli Bush, Matthew Vaughan and Josh Senior executive produced.
It marks Carmichael’s third HBO stand-up comedy special, having made his HBO debut in 2014 with Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store. The special was followed by Jerrod Carmichael: 8 in 2017. In 2019, Carmichael premiered the two-part video diary Home Videos and Sermon on the Mount on HBO.
Rothaniel debuts on HBO on Friday at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT and will be available to stream on HBO Max.