Back in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., 24-year-old comedian Jerrod Carmichael is taking a brief vacation at his parents' house, doing all the things he can't do while touring. Sleeping a lot, for example, as well as consuming an abundant amount of ice cream cake.
"Everyone in my family brings something to the table, and whenever I'm here, it means we're going to be eating a lot of ice cream cake," says Carmichael. "I've been here four days and we're on our third cake."
Some R&R is exactly what the exhausted performer needs. In four years, Carmichael has become one of the country's most promising young comedians. Labeled one of the top 10 comics to watch in 2011 by Variety, he is getting attention thanks to his laid-back delivery of fearless and controversial material about relationships, race and his own financial struggles.
Carmichael's standup career wasn't premeditated. It was only after a friend's excessive encouragement that he reluctantly gave comedy a try. He discovered a natural talent and began performing in the Winston-Salem area. One day he made a life-changing decision.
"At the time, I was 20 and my life was on autopilot," he says. "I was working in a shoe store and didn't know where I was going, so one day I found myself moving to Los Angeles to live with a bunch of strangers and make a go at comedy."
Carmichael began performing in the backwaters of the L.A. comedy scene, playing any joint with a microphone. Restaurants. Rooftops. Once even a nursing home, where during his performance he overheard a woman say a little too audibly, "I'm glad we didn't have to pay for this."
Perseverance was the key. Carmichael's now-confident stage presence and sharp deliveries have made him a regular at comedy hotspots like the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store.
"It's a constant realization, looking up from time to time and seeing how the crowds and opportunities continue to improve," says Carmichael of his budding career. "Curiosity dictates a lot of the things I do, so whatever I do next will be because I feel strongly about it."
Last question. Does Carmichael know where he'll stay when he performs here? "I'm not sure, but I think I'll be fine," he says. "I don't think you've lived until you've found yourself lost somewhere on the streets of Madison, Wis., at three in the morning with nowhere to go."