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Jerrod Carmichael's Rothaniel could be the future of comedy, showing that standup doesn't need to punch down to be effective

  • "For obvious reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way comedy and the language of violence have become long-standing bedfellows," says David Dennis Jr. "A great comic knows how to deliver a dynamic punchline. And if they did phenomenally well during a set, they killed. Several comedians have long adopted the aggression we use to describe their art form and have defiantly stuck to the notion that effective comedians have to actively be fighting against something. Oftentimes that something is a group of people who a lot of us already pick on, or in comedy parlance, 'punch.' And now that the punched have more avenues to express their refusal to sit back and take it, comedians are struggling to understand how to evolve. Jerrod Carmichael’s latest HBO stand-up special, Rothaniel, is a revelatory, brilliantly uncomfortable and emotional exploration of the self that feels like the evolution these comedians have been pretending is impossible. Rothaniel, and the Saturday Night Live monologue Carmichael delivered a few days after the special went live, comes out of nowhere as an answer to the comedians’ — and their fans’ — plights while offering a future in which comedy can do more than make us laugh at people who don’t deserve our ridicule."


    • Jerrod Carmichael's Rothaniel is everything Louis CK's Sincerely is not: "The title of C.K.’s special might lead you to believe that it, like Rothaniel, contains a key to its contents — that C.K. is perhaps ready to level with audiences about his conduct and open up about what’s changed since the scandal," says Aja Romano. "Instead, he seems to armor himself against a world he’s decided to battle. In conversation with Rothaniel, Sincerely offers us a striking glimpse of how 'confessional' comedy means very different things depending on who’s doing the confessing. The hugely delayed nature of the Grammys, delayed even more thanks to Covid-19, means watching Sincerely now, two years after its release, feels like an anachronism: C.K.’s performance was just days prior to the beginning of the 2020 lockdown, for an audience that perhaps understood the concept of an enclosed confessional space very differently than Carmichael’s intimate nightclub audience did two years later. The contrast between the two shows couldn’t be more striking: Carmichael softly working through his coming-out process to a small venue of often utterly silent listeners; C.K. greeting a crowd of 1,500 people who gleefully applaud his every dictum on pedophilia, disability, gay sex, and his sexual misconduct."
    • Carmichael talks to Seth Meyers about hosting SNL and his mom's reaction to Rothaniel

    TOPICS: Jerrod Carmichael, HBO Max, Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel, Louis CK: Sincerely, Louis CK, Standup Comedy