Comedian Jerrod Carmichael comes out as gay – then nails SNL debut with ‘homophobic cousin’ joke

Jerrod Carmichael smiles at the camera while wearing a blue-purple top in front of a bright yellow background

Jerrod Carmichael came out publicly as gay in a candid HBO special ahead of his SNL hosting debut over the weekend.

The comedian recalled moments from his family history which influenced his coming out journey in his new special Rothaniel, which aired on Friday (1 April) but was taped earlier this year.

At one point in the special, Carmichael described to the audience at New York City’s Blue Note Jazz Club how he discovered that his father was unfaithful to his mother over an extended period.

Carmichael admitted that he “was left alone feeling like a liar” after his family’s secret was “out in the open”, because he also “had a secret” that he kept from everyone in his life.

“One that I kept from my father, my mother, my family, my friends and you. Professionally, personally. And the secret is that I’m gay,” Carmichael said.

The 34-year-old looked visibly relieved as the audience applauded him for sharing his truth, and he told the crowd that he is “accepting the love” even though his “ego wants to rebel against it”.

Later in the special, Jerrod Carmichael shared that he “rebelled against it my whole life” and “never, ever” thought he would come out publicly.

“At many points, I thought I’d rather die than confront the truth of that, to actually say it to people,” Carmichael said. “Because I know it changes some people’s perceptions of me. I can’t control that.”

Carmichael admitted that his relationship with his mother had changed after he came out as she is a religious person, but he has hope that it will improve in the future.

“As much as she believes in God, I believe in personal growth and feeling free,” he said. “And I do feel freer.”

The special debuted shortly before the acclaimed comedian hit the Saturday Night Live stage for his hosting debut on Saturday (2 April).

Jerrod Carmichael mentioned coming out on the HBO special during his opening monologue and joked with the SNL audience that he has “been gay for like 48 hours”.

The news was met with boisterous applause which Carmichael said is a “nice and an expected response in New York”. He joked that he moved to New York City because “you can ride the bus for free, and people just give you a free pizza” if “you say you’re gay”.

“Honestly, if you say you’re gay and in New York, you get to host Saturday Night Live – this is the gayest thing you can possibly do,” Carmichael added. “We’re basically in an Andy Warhol fever dream right now.”

Carmichael said he’d been asked to address when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage during the Oscars by SNL head Lorne Michaels, who claimed “nation needs to heal”. But Carmichael said he had “so much gay stuff” to do before he could even attempt to “heal the nation”.

“I’ve got so many homophobic cousins,” Carmichael said. “I can’t even heal my family [and] you want me to heal the nation?”

Jerrod Carmichael rose to prominence in the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene and won hearts for his brilliant sitcom The Carmichael Show. The show followed a fictionalised version of the Carmichael family and ran for three seasons on NBC before being cancelled in 2017.

Rothanial is Carmichael’s third HBO stand-up comedy special. He made his HBO debut in 2014 with Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store. This was followed by Jerrod Carmichael: 8 and his two-part video diary specials Home Videos and Sermons on the Mount.

Carmichael previously hinted that he had same-sex relationships in the past in Home Video. In the 2019 special, the comedian told his mum: “I’ve hooked up with dudes before.”

Carmichael told the New York Times that it was just a “thing I said to my mom” while they were talking about relationships during the HBO special.

“I was just talking to my mom. Thing came up. I said it to my mom,” Carmichael said. “Now we’re eating peas at ABC Kitchen.”

He continued: “But that’s how I feel about everything that’s in there — it’s just like, ‘Yeah, and then that happened’.”