Comedy is obviously meant to be funny but at its core, comedy is also meant to be uncomfortable. Jerrod Carmichael explored that discomfort in a major way for his new comedy special “8” that aired this past Saturday on HBO. Shot at the Masonic Hall in New York City the venue itself looks like it was used intentionally for the purpose of more intimacy than the normal stand up show.
From the first frame, I knew that this would not be the typical stand up special. The show opens with a very tight camera shot of Carmichael as he ponders if we (America) will be ok. He was referring to what life will be like under Donald Trump. Carmichael didn’t stay on Trump very long but I did find it interesting when he made the point that all we had to do is be nice to him. Carmichael went on to say that the kid in school who was always bullied now has a gun. Very interesting perspective because I never really thought about it in that way.
Carmichael’s delivery was deliberately conversational throughout, almost as if he was holding the hand of the audience as he walked them through these very uncomfortable topics. Politics, race, animal rights, love and relationships dominated the show. I felt like he was somewhat rebelling against the new age, 21st Century, “Everything Matters” crowd. There’s even a moment in the show where he admits that he doesn’t care about animals and he’s challenged by an audience member from the balcony. This is where the venue comes into play. Carmichael was able to interact with his audience at a moment’s notice and it allowed a conversation that otherwise wouldn’t happen at a normal comedy show.
One of the highlights of the show for me was when he touched on why he buys the things he buys. He admitted that the things he wastes money on are just to overcompensate for as he called it a “Shitty childhood”. Then he delivered a line that I will never forget, “Every pair of Jordans comes with a story”. Wow! For anyone who grew up unable to buy Jordans and other expensive things, you never forget being unable to afford those things. The truth in the statement was brutal and if you find any sneaker head and ask them, I’m sure they’ll agree.
I thought the show dragged a bit but only because of the subject matter and the audience’s reaction to it. When an audience is so uncomfortable that they don’t know if they should laugh, you’re not going to get the typical pace or highs and lows of a normal show. I didn’t know what I thought of the show after my first watch, I felt there may have been things I missed so I watched it two more times. There are many layers to “8” and I think Jerrod Carmichael’s point of view is refreshing and necessary not only for comedy but also for the people who don’t want to see what life is like outside of the Politically Correct bubble. With his success in TV, movies and standup, Carmichael is at the forefront of the new generation of comedy and will be around for a long time. On its own I think “8” was a breath of fresh air, but with new comedy coming from titans like Rock, Chappelle and Seinfeld later this year, I look forward to lining it up next to new material from the greats. Those guys are my comedy measuring stick. Overall I give “8” a B+ and highly recommend that you check it out. You never know what you may find outside of your comfort zone.