Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (2022) | Transcript

Features Jerrod Carmichael in a standup comedy show at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.
Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel


We were waiting for you.

I’m happy you’re here. I’m happy all of you are here. I have so much to tell you. You’re comfortable? You can talk back to me. I want you guys to feel that. This only works if we feel like family. I know the camera’s here and it’s a whole thing. It’s a big night, it’s a lot of pressure. That kinda thing, you know? I want you guys to feel as comfortable as I hope to be. We got a lot of shit to talk about. I’m happy you’re here. I need you.

I wanna talk about secrets! Secrets! I should whisper it, right? I carried a lot of secrets my whole life. I feel like I was birthed into them. One of my biggest, one of my last held secrets is my name. My name is not Jerrod. Welcome to the show, everybody. I thought we were being honest tonight. Jerrod’s my middle name. I was given the name Jerrod by my brother, Joe. He’s, like, seven years older than me. They just trusted a kid to name a kid, but whatever. I’m thankful for that. Without him I’d have to go by my real name, my first name, which we don’t talk about. It is not good. I don’t like it. I’ve always hated that name, no one calls me that except for my mom.

My dad named me… He combined his dad’s first name and my mom’s dad’s first name and mushed them together. Not to make something elegant, like William Edward or something like that. It’s more like Toyotathon.

I hate that name. I’ve hidden that name my whole life. I used to get it removed from the yearbook. Every year in high school I would bribe somebody. It’d cost me 20 dollars to get my first name taken out of it. I never let people see my driver’s license. I had it taken off my bank cards. I’ve always been ashamed of it. I’ve always hidden it. And it’s funny because it’s a name given to me to honor two people. It’s supposed to be this gift to both my granddads.

And it almost seemed kind of fucked up that I hide that, that I like tuck it away, but that’s because you don’t know my grandfathers. If you knew them, you’d know keeping a secret is the only way to honor them. That’s kind of who they were. They were granddads.

I’m named after two men who most of their lives, most of their sex lives at least were secrets. My mom’s dad had four kids with my mom’s mom, his wife, and four kids outside of that marriage, just kind of scattered about. My dad’s dad had five kids with his wife and about 23 outside of the marriage. Yeah. I come from a long line of cool n*ggers.

23. Dillon, South Carolina. Jim Gowens is his name. We don’t have the same last name because my dad was an outside kid. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s no easy way to say your grandma was a side piece. I wanna say it was something else. They’d prefer I used terms like “affair” and whatever, but nah, that’s not what it was. She was fuckin’ a married n*gger and that’s just…

So my grandma had three kids by a married man, my uncle Pete, my dad, my aunt Nell, and his wife found out and confronted my grandma about it. I like to think it was on some “Color Purple” shit, like she crossed the field or whatever. But she confronted my grandma and demanded that she stop sleeping with her man, and my grandma fucked him again and had my Aunt Cat. I think she’s where I get my ambition from.

My aunt Cat is proud of that, by the way. She’ll tell everybody her origin story. She’s like: “Don’t nobody tell me who to sleep with.” “And then she fucked him again and had me out of spite.” “That’s me, I’m the spite baby.” She loves that shit.

But we don’t really talk about it. We don’t really talk about it. My dad doesn’t really know his dad, but he still felt enough pride to name me after him.

My mom’s dad was also like a cheater, but she lived in the house that he was cheating from. And so when you’re that family, you learn not to say shit. My mom, I guess, learned from her mom.

I’m trying to paint a picture of a world before Destiny’s Child, where women got cheated on and it didn’t play out like a Terry McMillan novel. It was much more quiet than that. They just kind of existed with the secret. They knew, but they didn’t know. It’s weird, it’s like generations of that, generations of just seeing things, not seeing things.

I saw my parents’ sex tape. This is kind of a side tangent. I was about twelve years old. I came home from school early. I would watch my dad… If you got a dad or an older brother, they might’ve had a porn stash. This was the ’90s. My dad kept his tapes in a Nike box in the bedroom closet on the top shelf, beside a gun and a jar of nickels.

And I remember putting this tape in, and it was about 15 seconds before I started recognizing the bedroom. I know those sheets, they got lemons on them.

But that’s the thing, I never told my family. I never told my parents that I’d seen that. It’s odd because it’s one of those things… You can’t talk about sex with your parents, not that anybody really wants to, but you just can’t. And you’re only here because your parents fucked, isn’t that kinda funny? Your dad came in your mom and you’re here.

Have you ever been watching a movie with your parents and a sex scene came on and you just gotta be, like, “nope, no it’s not”.

Things that exist, but don’t exist. It’s things that are right there, hiding in plain sight.

My father had me and my brother with my mom, and then he had four kids with a bitch named Raneta. It’s not that I hate her name. It’s just that it sounds like a villain in a Tyler Perry movie.

And other kids, he had other kids. My dad was, he was really out there, man. He was really, really out there. And I knew about it since I was a kid. It was a small town, and it’s a secret that he thought he was keeping from the family. He thought he was doing a good job keeping the secret. But I found out. I never told him that I knew. My brother found out. He didn’t tell him.

It’s funny to live in a house with someone knowing who they are, knowing that they’re cheating on your mom and not saying anything to him.

He used to go out on Friday nights, he would say he was going to work. My dad is a truck driver, which by the way, if you’re cheating on your wife and you’re looking for a profession that allows just long blackout dates, get your CDLs and hit the road. I really recommend it.

He would say he was going to a second job on Friday nights, but he would get dressed up, and I mean dressed up by North Carolina dad standards. He tucked his t-shirt into his jeans. He would say he was going to work with cologne on. Do you understand what I’m saying? It’s just, like, a liar.

And it would just leave me as a kid knowing that… It’s weird to know it, to know, to really, really know, and not say anything. I was scared. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know what I could’ve done. 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. If my mom found out, I thought it would be over. He was fucking my homeboy TJ’s aunt. This was this story TJ told me about, and that’s hard because TJ, he didn’t want to snitch. In the hood… I didn’t wanna snitch!

He told me, he was like: “Man, I came home from school the other day” “and I went to my aunt’s house” “and your pop was just there on the couch.” What? He’s like: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was just on the couch.” He saw my dad sitting on the couch. He walks in, he’s excited to see my dad. He knows my dad very well, they used to play Madden together. He knows him. He’s like: “Mr. Carmichael, what are you doing here?” And my dad, being caught, under pressure, you know what he did? He just squinted his eyes and pretended he was somebody else. I don’t know how that was supposed to work. He literally was just like: “Mr. Carmichael? I don’t know who you’re talking about.” He just grabbed his shit and got the fuck outta there. My father. And TJ was there with his aunt and he said: “Do you know who that was?” “That’s my best friend’s dad. That’s Joe Carmichael.” And she said: “Joe Carmichael?” “He told me his name was Jerry Rice.”

That’s right, that’s right. My father was telling bitches his name was Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. Do you know how absurd that is? And I got so many questions, things he won’t talk about. Did you say it? Did you act surprised? “Did you go: What? There’s another Jerry Rice?” Was it all part of the game? Did he go: “Yeah, my name is Jerry Rice. I know. I get it all the time.” How did he react?

He was a wild man, he was really out there, really, really out there, just holding it in, just holding it all in. He had a double or triple bypass surgery, I guess that’s where it went. It’s fine. I’m paying for his health insurance. Don’t groan for the man. I’m keeping him alive right now.

I made him tell my mom. It became too much. It’s a secret that I think I was happy keeping as a child because I thought it made sense for the family, but then it was embarrassing, first of all. Because people knew. It seems like everyone knew, but my mom, and that’s really tough because my mom is a very sweet, loving, trusting, Christian, God-fearing woman, who was just standing by her man, trusting her husband. And my dad was just, you know, he was really out there.

I got really drunk in London and I was like: “It’s time.” “I’m gonna confront him about it.” And it’s hard. This was hard because this is a tough man. Again, he kept a sawed-off shotgun in the closet by the porn, and it’s not easy. It’s not easy. I was really afraid, but I remember starting the call saying: “Listen, this will all go well as long as you don’t lie to me.” And I was just almost in tears and just so emotional. “I know about everything, man. I know about Renita,” “and the kids, and the blah blah blah,.”

You know what he said? He actually said: “I always knew you’d be the one.” That’s what he said. He knew.

So I made him tell my mom. He waited until I was back home in North Carolina to tell her, fucking pussy. I know, that’s a pussy thing to do, right? He waited. He needed the support. He waited until I was home. And this was his big plan to tell my mom. He was like: “Okay, so you and your brother, you take her out to dinner.” “I’m gonna stay home. And then you bring her back from dinner.” “You drop her off, she’ll come in the house, and then I’m gonna tell her.” And I was like: “Okay, you want me to hide a gun behind the toilet, too?” “What kinda Godfather plan is this?”

But I went along with it. It took a lot for him. That dinner was the worst dinner I’ve ever had in my entire life. I took my mom to a hibachi restaurant.

Earlier that day, I had taken my nieces to see the “Trolls” movie. I love going to the movies with my nieces. It’s the best. They’re not my kids so I can just get high and do fun shit with them, it’s the best. And we’d seen the “Trolls” movie, and I don’t know if you’ve seen it, spoiler alert. The premise is that these are these colorful trolls that are singing and all types of shit, and if something devastating happens to them, they lose all of their color. I remember thinking that the whole dinner, that whole night is just looking at my mom, just looking in her eyes going: “She’s going to lose her color.” It was really, really scary.

Mind you, all of this happened at a hibachi grill, so I’m looking in her eyes, but there’s a flame and we gotta clap every couple minutes. He’s juggling salt and pepper shakers. “Yay, okay. My mom is about to be fucking destroyed,” “but this is a great trick.” I get mad when I don’t get a Japanese chef. Sometimes they’re Mexican and they’re just passing them off as… Anyway. How many Japanese chefs are there in North Carolina? I’m piecing this together now.

I brought her home. I dropped her off. I went to my brother’s house, and we waited by the phone very, very anxiously, me, my brother, and sister-in-law just waited, very nervous. And then my mom called. I could hear in her voice that she’d been crying. And I’ll never forget, her first words were: “I’m okay.” And he told her, begged for her forgiveness. She forgave him, she stayed.

It’s kinda anti-climactic, I know. She actually made him breakfast the next morning. I’ll never forget that fact. And mostly because it’s an embarrassing fact to admit. It’s not how I thought the story would play out. It’s somehow worse. But it was out in the open.

And once that was done, I was left alone feeling like a liar because I had a secret, one that I kept from my mother, and my father, and my family, my friends, and you, all of you, professionally, personally. And the secret is that I’m gay.

Thank you for that.

We love you.

That’s very sweet. I really appreciate that. It means a lot. And I’m accepting the love, I really appreciate the love. My, kind of, ego wants to rebel against it, you clap and you’re very sweet and you’re very kind, and I appreciate it. Part of me wants to be like: “I’m fucking gay.” “I’m not fucking retarded.”

Because I can feel it, bro. I can feel it. There’s a lot that happens coming out. I’m telling you guys and I see the Yankee fitteds. Some of y’all are just like: “Shit, we at a gay show, bro?” This is for HBO. You know how many n*ggers just turned the TV off saying to their girl right now “we gotta watch something else”? Like, y’all clapped. A lot of you clapped and you felt it. Some of you didn’t really wanna clap. You were just like: “We gotta do that shit. We’re in New York and there’s cameras.”

That’s okay, I get it. I came out to my friends.

We love you.

I wanna accept that, you know? It feels like I didn’t earn it. It’s like, what did I do, suck a Dominican dude’s dick? And then y’all clapped for that, you know? Because I rebelled against that. I really did, bro, I rebelled against it my whole life. I never thought I’d come out. I didn’t think I’d ever, ever, ever come out. Probably at many points in my life I thought I’d rather die than confront the truth of that. I didn’t actually say it to people, because I know it changes people’s, some people, it changes their perception of me. I can’t control that. I’m from an environment where I was, kind of, raised to be a man, whatever that means. Didn’t expect gay babies, you know what I’m saying? You don’t see old ladies looking at a toddler being, like: “Look at his cheeks. I bet he’s gonna be a top.” “Get that baby some prep now.”

I feel you, bro. I’m with you. I’m from the hood. Sometimes I’ll be in the shower like: “N*gger, I’m really gay. Fuck, dude!” You know? Shit is shocking to me, too. I didn’t know. It’s fucked up all my relationships. I had a boyfriend, me and that n*gga talked to each other like men. We’d say shit like: “I wanna suck your dick, bro.” None of that gay shit over here. Sometimes we’re making out and just whispering “no homo” to each other. Just tonguing that n*gger down being, like, “pause”.

I feel you. I got mostly straight friends. Them n*ggers didn’t wanna hear that shit. My homeboy, Jamar, said… This is one of my best friends. I let him sleep on my couch when he needed it. I was always there for him. He told me he felt like he was tricked into having a gay best friend. He said: “I would’ve never signed up for this.” And I said: “N*gger, you owe me 85000 dollars.”

Gotta accept the love, man. I need the love. I need it. I was really out here lying, though.

That’s the thing, I came out too late, a little too late. That “it gets better shit is for the kids”. That’s not for an adult man figuring himself out. They don’t want that. Nobody wants that shit. All my friends felt like I was just duplicitous, like I was just lying to them. They didn’t know who I was. They all reacted like Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire. They were like: “The whole time?” They were very mad about that shit.

It cleared up my relationship with all my black homegirls. My friend Ashley told me before I came out she could sense it. She was like: “Please just tell me you’re gay so this all makes sense.” I guess there are only so many times you can Facetime a woman to see if your outfit looks okay before they start having some questions. They were the toughest. Black women were the toughest people to come out to, but also the most supportive. I’m very, very thankful for all of the black ladies in my life who have supported me through that, through all of it, all of it. They’re not homophobic at all. They’re racist as a motherfucker. They don’t like that I had a white boyfriend. See? You see what I’m saying? You see that change? You can be gay, but n*gger, what? You date white boys, really? Is that a shock? Surprise, surprise. No more secrets. I’m gonna tell you all.

You heard her say “wow”? That’s the sound of a Black woman that feels doubly betrayed.

My sister is on that shit, too. Listen, I’m used to it. I grew up just in the hood on some real strong masculine shit. It plays out. Look, I’ll say this, I actually think that it is important to say this, I believe in the black family. I think that black men should marry black women, and have black babies and raise them to be smart, just good citizens, educated. I think that’s very, very important. A hundred percent. I think gay black men should be able to fuck whoever the fuck we want. What is the consequence? There are no black babies coming from the kind of sex I have, okay? It’s all getting flushed. It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.

The black girls, they try. I would send them pictures of my boyfriend and they would ignore that he’s white. They would just be like… I remember I sent a picture to my homegirl Tiffany and she was like: “He got some pretty glasses.” I was like: “Nah, bitch, it’s not the glasses.” “Look at the skin of my vanilla king.” I didn’t call him that. I’m hiding nothing from you guys.

But your name.

Now you guys are too much like my family. Let’s go back to the audience-performer relationship we had before. It’s a lot. I’m really happy we had this moment of…

My brother texted me earlier today and said: “I’m missing my first special taping,” “but I know it’s necessary. I love you.” That’s very sweet. I love him. He’s there for me as much as he can be. He tries. He tries and I love him. I love him a lot. I love Joe so much. He’s all I got in a lot of this. I wish he’d try harder. I’m probably a little mad at him, a little bit mad. He’s my big brother, he’s supposed to protect me. He loves me despite, that’s the thing. It’s a little condescending, you know? It’s love with an asterisk. “I don’t really fuck with the gay shit, but I still love you.”

That’s that masculine shit. I could feel the distance between us. And I hate that because no one would want that. It makes me feel unwanted. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me. It’s like he’s looking down on me and accepting me despite.

It’s especially hurtful just because I make so much more money than this n*gger. It’s not even close. I don’t wanna be gross and talk about money, but the difference is millions and millions of dollars.

I love my brother a lot. He’s a nice guy. Nice as… I’m saying that. He has five kids who I love a lot, a lot. My nieces mean a lot to me. My oldest niece, Joliette, she’s fourteen now and I like talking to her. I think she’s so smart and she’s really beautiful. Her face reminds me of my mom’s. I have a five-year-old niece and then four-year-old twin nieces and I love them. I like spending time with them because I’m not hiding anything when I’m with them, I’m just with them. We’re just there playing. We’re just eating ice cream or they’re trying to braid my hair. They are easy to talk about it with, you know? Joliette, there’s no pre-tense.

It’s harder with the older ones. I came out to my dad again. I say again, cause he forgets. It’s cognitive dissonance. I have to remind him. I have to re-up every so often. There’s a part of him that likes that I came out. I don’t think he necessarily wants a gay son, but he likes that me coming out takes some of the heat off him. Like when he first found out he was like “no, it’s cool”, “I fucked up, you fucked up”. “You gay, I did what I did… Que sera…” My father’s dream is that I’m bi. That’s all he wants. That’s all he wants, the hope, somewhere on the horizon, that I’m still getting pussy. That’s all he wants. He’s probably actually disappointed in both of me and my brother. He’s probably looking at us like: “Wait, so you gay and you only fuck your wife?” “What kinda nerds am I raising here?”

I told my dad, I said: “I know two things for a fact.” “I will never be an astronaut and I’m a gay man.” And you know what my father said? He said: “Don’t give up on the moon, son.”

I hid it from my mom for the most part. I was afraid that her reaction would be to just go inside with it. I love her a lot. I love her dearly. And I’m trying to describe her without sounding cliché and describe the love that I have for her. I really feel like I was one of her closest friends. I feel like I have always looked out for her.

I remember on the call, the last time I talked about being gay with my Mom, she said: “I can’t go against Jesus.” And it just bothers me. I get it, cause she’s… She’s doing the best she can. I think. She’s trying to accept. I don’t know what she’s trying to do. I think she’s trying to accept it. Part of me knows she’s at home trying to pray the gay away. I get a little mad sometimes. Any time I don’t match with a dude on RIA I’m like: “I bet that bitch over there praying to God.”

I feel it too. It fucks with me because this is a religion that I still believe in. I’m still a Christian and it’s taken a lot, it’s taken a whole lot because I’ve had to reconfigure God and what God is and what he means in order to accept myself. I had to kind of rebuild. And with my mom…

I’m sorry. A lot of it is not really… It’s kinda happening in real time, so it’s not totally worked out. Forgive me.

I think she’s… She thinks not reacting is the best reaction. I think she’s been rewarded for staying quiet, you know? It’s like with her dad, so she gives me nothing. Even hate starts to feel like love because that’s acknowledgement. It’s not just nice. It’s not pleasant, it’s real and that feels… I think that would feel better. I wish she would yell at me. I wish she would tell me to not come home. I wish she’d call me a f*ggot like my Uncle June Bug did. Yeah. It hurt my feelings, but I was like: “N*gga, your name June Bug.” I’d rather get called a f*ggot than June Bug. Anything, anything, anything.

She’s nice. She’s sweet. She ignores it. The worst of her is cold, like really, really cold. I mean she’s a nice lady, but like, there’s a part of her that’s really… She can shut people out. She can ignore, she can block and like, go inside.

But you gave yourself so many years. Why don’t you give her that time?

I’d love to give her all the time in the world, you know? I don’t know how much time it would take. I don’t know how much time we have left. Just in general, one of my biggest fears is my parents funeral, just the thought of one them dying without saying everything, without contending, without expressing it all.

And my mom’s in her early sixties and she has time and she’s… I also just don’t know if that’s when people change.

They do.

Maybe. I don’t know. It sounds like a joke, but like part of me feels like if I ask my mom to change this much about her is like, you ever see a 90-year-old get a college degree? On the news… And you’re like: “Bitch, now?” “Good luck in the fucking job market.”

It’s not that I don’t find hope for change, but I think even if she was young, there’s a part of my mom that’s very, very cold. I know it because I have it, I can be that. That’s why my last real secret is that I’m… People think I’m nice. Nah, I’m like my Mom. Fuck everybody. Very selfish. Very, very, very, very selfish. I smile. Very polite about it. I lie to everybody face. “Yeah, we should get dinner!”

You know, lies. How you lie to people? I’m afraid of not… Man, just like my Mom, is that performance of like who you’re supposed to be. Like I’m afraid of not smiling. I smile a lot. I feel like if I don’t smile, I look like the n*ggers that shot Malcom X. I know.

I’m afraid of things getting awkward. Like weird. Like even this moment, I’m like “man, I should probably think of a joke”. Shit is falling apart out here.

Do you wish you didn’t tell her?

No, no. I stayed in the closet for a long time. I think because of my mom I felt like… It’s not like I could bring a dude home to her, so what’s the point? But as much as she believes in God, I believe in personal growth and feeling free. I feel freer.

We say things like: “Sometimes you grow and you gotta leave people behind.” “People are in your life for a reason or a season.” Or these kinds of cliché sayings. It’s hard when that person is your mom.

You think a lot of the guilt is your dad’s guilt?

I carry some guilt. I think because I was complicit in the lie, I guess. I thought I was protecting her. I always felt like my mom’s protector. I always felt like… I’m trying to explain this concept. I always felt like… I always felt like the result of her prayers.

My mom, one of her favorite Bible verses is, I think it’s Jeremiah Chapter 33: “Ask me and I will tell you things you don’t know and can’t find out.”

Do you think without your mom’s approval you’ll be okay? That eventually this will be something that you’ll be okay with?

I think without my mom’s approval… I’d like to believe I will be okay. I think I’ve spent a lot of time trying to supplement that love and I’m very thankful because I have some very, very good friends. Really, really good people who are there… I think it’s something that I kind of search for. When there’s distance between me and my mom, it’s the times I feel the most like an orphan. I feel abandoned. I’m sorry, that laugh was fake.

I’m trying to make jokes. I wish this moment weren’t so weird, man. I think like, what do I want from her? I know she’ll see this. I don’t know what will happen. You guys got any ideas? I don’t know what else to…

I’ve been trying to be very honest because my whole life was shrouded in secrets. And I figured the only route I haven’t tried was the truth, so I’m saying everything. Here’s everything. I feel okay. I’m very thankful for tonight.

Rothaniel. My name’s Rothaniel.

Goodnight, everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. Thank you.


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