Jerrod Carmichael and Clothing: Part 1 (a thread published on Twitter on 4/9/22)
Updated: May 17
#Rothaniel is a masterpiece comedy special Jerrod and Bo dropped last Friday (not an April Fools joke!), and it currently has a 93 Metacritic score.
Watch it on HBO Max if you haven't!
While there have been many think pieces about the special since it premiered, I haven't seen a ton of discourse about Jerrod's sartorial choices and what they mean (specifically how they relate to Black pop culture).
So I'm going to do that now. Let's go!
First, some background.
Jerrod started doing stand-up in 2008 at the age of 20, and his clothes were typical relaxed wear (think t-shirt and jeans).
He wore a sweater, jeans, and his favorite Timberlands for his first special, Love at the Store (we'll see those shoes again soon!).
Where things change with his clothing intentionally is when he met up with Bo and they made 8, Jerrod's 2nd HBO special.
This special uses Jerrod's casual outfit (denim jacket, jeans, and his Timbs) to explicitly contrast the comic with the audience (who were told to dress formally and had on suits and fancy dresses).
The discrepancy makes Jerrod stand out even more and is highlighted in this amazing video essay where creator Josh Kingsford points out how the crowd contrasts with the comic (a fact Jerrod brings up himself during the special!).
After 8, Jerrod took a break from stand-up comedy (much like Bo) to focus on acting and directing...until 2022 with the release of #Rothaniel.
Similar to 8, Jerrod's newest special showcases the comic's penchant for symbolic clothing and appears to be in conversation with famous Black entertainers.
Here are four major influences I would argue are informing the meaning of the special and its place in stand-up history.
1. Richard Pryor
The GOAT helped Jerrod form his views on comedy. In this interview, Jerrod explains that "my dad showed me Richard Pryor. And it was like, 'Oh, this is art.' This is a man’s genuine thoughts and feelings and I just wanted to be a part of that lineage of that art and have some type of artistic integrity."
In an interview for The Tim Ferriss Show, Jerrod said Pryor's his number one comic: "Richard Pryor, I mean just for being raw; you’ve got to say Richard. He’s the Tupac of comedy; every list...because he was honest, right? So Richard Pryor for honesty."
You can also see a neon sign with Pryor's name in a few shots of Jerrod's special at the Comedy Store (it's next to Robin Williams in the pic below).
But the most significant similarity is Pryor's famous outfit in Live in Concert.
With matching red flowy shirts and black pants, Pryor and Jerrod are deeply interconnected in style and meaning (Pryor being a queer comic and Jerrod coming out as gay).
2. Eddie Murphy
When you think of a comedian in a red outfit, whose mind doesn't jump to Murphy's iconic red leather suit in Delirious?
At the time when I attended the Rothaniel taping, I could only see Jerrod's head and torso from my seat, so I didn't pick up on the Pryor aspect until after I had seen the trailer.
However, I stand by the relationship between the two comedians (not to mention Jerrod's gestures, like his hand on his head).
Plus, Jerrod brings up Eddie Murphy in a number of interviews.
In this article from The Boston Globe, Jerrod says, "I watched Eddie Murphy’s interview on [Inside] the Actor’s Studio where he said, 'The best advice is not to take any advice.'"
3. Bill Cosby
While not clothing related, Kathryn VanArendonk puts Cosby's influence on Jerrod best in her Vulture review:
"It also evokes and rebukes Bill Cosby, the most famous Black comedian who talked about fatherhood and performed while seated."
Cosby was well-known for sitting in a chair for his sets, and Jerrod is specifically referencing this by sitting for the duration of his special.
And the controversial Cosby is still someone Jerrod cites as an influence (and had a whole episode about him on The Carmichael Show!):
"It’s hard to say Cosby now to someone without then a slew of other questions but as far as a comedian, he was excellent. His control over a room was great."
4. Michael Jackson
I first saw this mentioned in a tweet the day after Rothaniel came out:
And after doing some research, I totally get it (especially the white socks with black shoes).
And, of course, Jackson's famous Thriller outfit is indelibly linked to red and black clothing.
I hope you've enjoyed this deep-dive thread into Rothaniel and clothing!
For more on Jerrod's clothing, please click here for the full list of deep dives.