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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

Accolades and Awards for Rothaniel: The Complete List

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Since it is officially the one-year anniversary of Rothaniel's premiere today, I wanted to compile all of the awards and critical responses for Jerrod's masterpiece.

First, the MAJOR awards he's won—

  • Emmy Awards 2022: Jerrod has won ONE Creative Emmy

Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special (same category Bo won for Inside the previous year!)

  • WGA 2023: Jerrod won ONE award for Comedy/Variety Specials

Next, the lesser-known awards and accolades he's won:

  • International Online Cinema Awards: Best Variety, Comedy or Music Program

Out MagazineComedian of the Year

New York Times—Best Special of 2022

It’s not often that “beautiful” is the first word that comes to mind about a stand-up special. For some, that might even sound like a backhanded compliment. When did beauty ever make you laugh? But Jerrod Carmichael’s “Rothaniel,” a radically intimate, cinematically shot production, is a departure for him and stand-up more broadly. Its melancholy tone and patient pace set up new kinds of clever jokes. And its exquisite aesthetic features stunning and unexpected shots staged by the director, Bo Burnham, that emphasize the theme of mystery and secrets. Carmichael’s language manages to be unorthodox and elegant, and the way he interacts with the audience displays a vulnerability that is as moving as it is funny. (Streaming on HBO Max.)

Look, would anyone really call “Rothaniel” drop-dead hilarious stand-up? Probably not. But perched somewhere between Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” and any number of late-night Dave Chappelle pop-ins, the third special from the former “Carmichael Show” star has big things to say, even if the funny quotient remains naggingly incomplete.
Rather than a traditional comedy club or theater, New York City’s Blue Note Jazz Club hosts Carmichael’s slow-burning reestablishment of self. Bo Burnham, who also directed Carmichael’s 2017 HBO special, “8,” keeps things intimate and uncertain. When long-simmering secrets are revealed — whether parental infidelity, his sexuality or true first name — there’s a gut-wrenching sense things might go south as cameras watch helplessly. (There hasn’t been a special anywhere near as vulnerable since Gary Gulman’s 2019 docu-hybrid “The Great Depresh.”) That’s just what happens when the hardships prompting the most transformative comedy are voluntarily exposed to public scrutiny, and that’s the exact same tightrope walked by the greatest comics in history.
It might not have been the funniest, yet “Rothaniel” remains the most impactful comedy release of the year.
“I want to talk about secrets,” Carmichael says, at the start of his riveting HBO standup special, addressing an intimate live audience from a folding chair. What follows is a carefully crafted confessional that pivots from his family’s history of infidelity to his own coming-out story, of which the special is a part. But he never pleads for the audience’s embrace: he simply unfurls himself and earns it. “Rothaniel” is directed by Bo Burnham, who has become an invaluable collaborator on other comedians’ projects (he also directed Kate Berlant in two excellent shows that appeared this year, one on Hulu and the other Off Broadway), and he wisely gives Carmichael room to breathe. During long, resonant pauses, Carmichael appears to collapse into himself, only to flash his seductive eyes and remind us who’s steering the ship. Like “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Rothaniel” is, in part, the story of a queer person’s search for connection with an uncomprehending parent, and I haven’t stopped thinking about Carmichael’s sudden gaze at the camera, daring his mother to love him as he is.

Before Rothaniel, Jerrod Carmichael was a well-regarded comedian who hadn't quite broken through to comedy's top tier. He had the talent, but he hadn't quite found the subject matter that would define him as a comic. It turns out that he needed to get honest. In his third stand-up special, Carmichael reveals two things about himself that the public hadn't known before. One is that his first name isn't actually Jerrod; it's Rothaniel, a portmanteau of his grandfathers' names. The other is that he's gay. The special is raw in the sense that we're watching Carmichael work out some big stuff in what feels like real time, but it doesn't feel raw, because Carmichael's laid-back persona and quick wit make the vulnerable, emotionally intense material go down smooth. He's figuring himself out onstage in front of us, allowing himself to be as messy, imperfect, and refreshingly real as any comic has ever been. Carmichael went to the Emmys in a white fur coat with no shirt underneath, won the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special, and said in his speech, "I wanted to win, I'm happy I won. I made something that was of great personal consequence to me, and this definitely contributes to the meaning of it." He's honest but guarded in a way only he can pull off.

Jerrod Carmichael acknowledges not only the pressure an audience may feel once they realize that a filming makes them part of the performance, but also how he must feel knowing he’s recording this for posterity. So he unpacks his shame regarding his birth name, regarding the unfaithfulness and consequences of such by all three of his paternal ancestors, and regarding his own sexual conduct. In a lighter moment, he rationalizes: “if you knew them, you’d know keeping a secret is the only way to honor them.” For all of the seriousness of his revelations, Carmichael does manage to keep things from getting too dark. First, with the cultural references to Destiny’s Child, Terry McMillan, “The Color Purple,” and Tyler Perry movies. Later, as the audience indeed takes the comedian up on his offer to make the room feel like a family gathering, weighing in with observations and questions. But the audience mostly acts here as his surrogate therapist. Guiding him and supporting him through this hourlong confessional that helps him move forward into the light. It’s an hour that’ll have you talking and thinking about what comedy can do and what it can be.
In 2022, he released his third stand-up special, Rothaniel. Directed by his close friend Bo Burnham, the special showed Carmichael in a deeply personal and vulnerable light. While delivering the best set of his comedic career, Carmichael broke new ground by coming out as gay in front of a live audience and HBO cameras. The news was so elegantly intertwined with the rest of his set that it played like an intrinsic maze of self-realization. He sat atop his stool, shining in a silky red button-up, never more exposed, and gave the most important performance of his life.

Daily BeastFunniest Performances of 2022 (there is a factual error though—Jerrod hosted SNL on 4/2/22 or the day after Rothaniel premiered, not a week later!)

Jerrod Carmichael has been one of the most accomplished stand-up comedians on the scene for years. But nothing could have prepared comedy fans for what he managed to do with his 2022 HBO special Rothaniel (also directed by Bo Burnham). His decision to come out as a gay man on stage may have been the headline, but the secrets didn’t stop there. Carmichael’s ability to remain present, surprising, and, most importantly, funny was unparalleled in this astonishing hour of stand-up. And six days later, he managed to do it all over again in the year’s best Saturday Night Live monologue, which managed to help us all move on from “The Slap.”
The best stand-up comedians aren’t always funny. In fact, the great ones do more than just sling jokes. They use stand-up as an opportunity to clarify something—either for themselves or the audience. In his latest HBO special, Rothaniel, Jerrod Carmichael does both. Stylishly directed by Bo Burnham, Rothaniel is a poignant exploration of Carmichael’s identity and his and his family’s propensity for keeping secrets. This is heavy stuff, but Carmichael navigates it with enviable grace and uncensored emotion. I won’t ruin it by saying more.

Jerrod Carmichael’s intimate HBO comedy special is a delicate movement between different forms of storytelling, from confessional comedy to memoir and prayer. Carmichael uses humor to access a more honest register, allowing him to untangle threads of his knotty relationship with his mother and come out as gay. The special, directed by friend and fellow comedian Bo Burnham, plays like a communion, a spiritual meeting between Carmichael, his family’s past and the unknown terrain of their future.

VarietyBest Comedy Specials of 2022 (we all know how his Golden Globe hosting gig went by now haha)

Plenty of standup specials will make you laugh so hard you’re brought to tears. Jerrod Carmichael does that in his Emmy-winning “Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel” — but even more tears flow from its raw emotion. Carmichael, already a critical favorite for past routines and his landmark NBC sitcom “The Carmichael Show,” is open and honest in “Rothaniel” as midway through the special he comes out as gay — and then recounts the struggles he’s faced with family and friends along the way. Of course, he has the perfect director in Bo Burnham — himself a pro at knowing how to tell poignant, personal tales that are relatable, honest and funny. “Rothaniel” was like nothing else in 2022, which is why it was no surprise that Carmichael would win the Emmy for variety special writing. The special, as well as Carmichael’s concurrent turn as guest host on “Saturday Night Live,” is why so many fans are looking forward to seeing how he approaches his next gig: Hosting the 80th Golden Globes on January 10.

Finally, here are some accolades from other celebrities/comedians over the past year:

  • Janelle Monáe

  • DeAnne Smith in Vulture (and as an audience member myself, I can tell you that the Q&A was not scripted!)

Jerrod Carmichael’s Rothaniel was fascinating to me in its rawness and in its artifice. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine all the questions the audience asked were scripted and set up. There’s no audience in the world that is that on top of it, actively listening, and able to ask the precise, therapeutic questions to move the story forward. And yet the result didn’t feel scripted at all.

  • Megan Gailey in the same article

There may be some recency bias at play here, but nine different comedians highlighted the breathtaking beauty of the snowy, jazz-filled walk that Carmichael took to and from New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club in Rothaniel. Megan Gailey praised it for being “really simple and beautiful,” and Howery called it “so brilliant.”

  • Lil Rel Howery (I found out about this rave from a favorite Twitter account...follow them if you haven't!)

  • Bill Burr (in an article by his director, but it counts!)

I really didn’t want to watch after Bill laid it out to me the way he did. “It’s so good, the stand-up, the directing by Bo Burnham, makes you want to rethink everything you’ve ever done. Makes me feel like a hack.”
  • John Mulaney discussing the current trend of confessional comedy during a Hollywood Reporter podcast interview:

I think there's always been confessional, perhaps vulnerable...I think there's always been work from comedians that is, is like that. I mean, Nanette and Rothaniel are so excellent that they did...uh, redefine something.

As you can see, Rothaniel has made a tremendous impact in popular culture, and I can't wait to see what Jerrod is up to next!


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