Watch: Comedian Jerrod Carmichael Opens Up to Ellen: Gay Jokes were 'Smoke Bombs'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday May 30, 2022
Originally published on May 16, 2022

Jerrod Carmichael
Jerrod Carmichael  (Source:Screenshot/'The Ellen DeGeneres Show'/YouTube)

Newly out comedian Jerrod Carmichael appeared on Ellen's talk show to promote his new film, "Count to Three" — and, while he was there, he discussed gay jokes from earlier in his career and his eventual embrace of authenticity, IndieWire reports.

Carmichael, who came out in a HBO comedy special, "Rothaniel," last month, recalled that he had made an earlier appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Carmichael admitted that during his earlier appearance, he was "closeted and I was really, really afraid," but added that Ellen had been an "inspiration" to him, The Hollywood Reporter recounted.

"It's one of those things where it's like I had so much to say to you and you were definitely such an inspiration — in a specific way — and I almost missed that opportunity to come and say it to you, and it's like really nice to be able to be here again. I'm very thankful for that," THR quoted Carmichael as saying to Ellen.

The comedian went on to tell Ellen he was grateful for the way she had "faced coming out at a time when it was impossible" — a time, he noted, when DeGeneres' own coming out was so groundbreaking that it became something of a watershed moment.

Carmichael admitted that he was "terrified" when he came out on his HBO special. "I never thought I would do it; I never thought I would say it; I never thought I would publicly be out and gay." Now that he has come out, Carmichael said, "it's a relief."

The comedian addressed how, earlier in his career, he had made the LGBTQ+ community the butt of his jokes.

"I'm sure some of the bits — and things in my life that I deeply regret — were, like, products of self hate," Carmichael admitted. "Like, denying who I really was." His anti-LGBTQ+ material, he said, was a matter of "throwing punches and missiles... all smoke bombs, all distractions fro who I really was and what I was afraid of."

Ellen gave Carmichael props in turn. "You're going to help a lot of people," the longtime talk show host said. "As long as there are examples of healthy, successful people, that helps parents not be scared, because the whole reason parents are scared of having gay children is because they think they're going to get hurt, they're going to get beat up, they're going to commit suicide. And the only way that keeps happening is because not enough people come out and represent."

Watch Carmichael's appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.