22 October 2014 | StevePulaski
Rarely has nihilism been so uproariously funny
Jerrod Carmichael, at twenty-years-old, reminds me of a younger Anthony Jeselnik with his often controversial and off-color sense of humor, minus the arrogance Jeselnik loves to play up on stage. Carmichael is much more relaxed, smiley, and amused by his own thoughts, and his debut standup comedy special, Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store, plays like a "greatest hits" collection of his stray thoughts that he may not have had the opportunity to share previously. He doesn't seem to be purposefully offensive, but somebody who is paraded by a barrage of tasteless thoughts that he simultaneously finds funny and contemplative. With this, he is also a risk-taker for such a young age; how many comedians that young would question if we really care about tragedies such as the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin, comment about how he remembers September 11, 2001 partly because of the terrorist attacks but also because Jay-Z's album The Blueprint came out that day, and ponder if a woman was being raped in an alleyway and saw a shooting star, would she use her wish to wish the rape was over or for the obligatory million dollars?
Such jokes are some of the dozens in Love at the Store, and with the wrong focus and delivery, could've fallen with a loud thud and send Carmichael home with little sound of laughter and amplified groans and scoffs of disgust. But Carmichael is about as calm and nonchalant as he could be, considering this is his first comedy special and the first time he'll be seen by a broad audience on premium cable. He is humble, quiet, and smooth in his delivery, occasionally sneaking a peak at crumbled notes in his pocket, adhering to my notion that most of the material we are viewing was collected sporadically and due to passing thoughts. Carmichael's demeanor gets him far, and the fact that he's so mild-mannered and relaxed makes us forget about the inherent controversy of much of things he's saying.
I can compare myself to Carmichael in the regard that I, too, have had many thoughts that I want to get out to the public, with some being humorous, some being controversial, and others bearing the potential to get me in trouble (and, sadly, have). He attends to the thought that if Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were still alive today, he'd likely be selling out by doing mattress or insurance commercials, and even states how the day the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre took place would be the worst day of your life if you found out you had herpes that day so much so that you wouldn't even think about those kindergartners being killed.
Carmichael, as stated, frequents his notes during the performance, and with the special being filmed at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, an informal venue by appearance, this sort of practice may not be atypical. On the other hand, I'm not sure if Carmichael's occasional disjointed subjects are because of his own personal fault or the fault of the editorial department for a lack of consistency. Nonetheless, there's little to complain about with Love at the Store, as Carmichael delivers fifty minutes of strong, original material in a manner that is especially unconventional given the subject matter. If there was any notion that nihilism cannot make for a rousing good time and humorous material, I think both Carmichael and Jeselnik have officially squashed that assertion.
NOTE: Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store will air throughout the months of October and November 2014 on HBO.
Directed by: Spike Lee.