Jerrod Carmichael is opening up about coming out.
During an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Friday, the 35-year-old talked about his decision to come out in his recent comedy special as well as the impact Ellen had on him and his family.
Jerrod explained that during his first time as a guest to promote his NBC series The Carmichael Show, he was “closeted” and “really, really afraid.”
“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,” he shared.
He added that he was “specifically thankful for you,” telling Ellen that her decision to come had a huge impact on him and joking that she was “a gay white Desmond Tutu just spreading love.”
He said, “We both faced whatever obstacles coming out and everyone has their own personal journey, family things and personal things to overcome. But you faced coming out at a time when, I mean, it just was impossible. There was no precedent. There was no Ellen DeGeneres to come out to show you what it’s like.
“I watched it with my mom. I watched all of it. I watched your sitcom. I watched you talk to Oprah. I watched the interpretive dance in the special,” he continued. “My mom watched you and she laughed at you and you were welcome in the home. It’s no small thing. I don’t want to discount that, because it’s really huge. Being Southern and Christian and these things — the idea of having a gay person welcome in my mother’s home — it seemed impossible. And you did it.”
Ellen responded by calling Jerrod her hero and revealing that she had texted the comedian “right away” after his special aired. She also asked how Jerrod had felt while making the live comedy show, with Jerrod admitting that he felt “very terrified” and that it was “a release and a relief.”
“You shot it in February, and then it just started airing recently, so that’s a long time,” Ellen said. “I can’t believe it didn’t leak. I can’t believe that didn’t come out until right before you hosted SNL.”
The host also brought up a joke Jerrod had made in his first special, in which he joked about the best way to come out. “Why would you do that unless you were floating the idea out there to see how people would react?” she asked.
“I mean, it’s all part of removing myself from it. I felt distant from it. I think a lot of my act was that it wasn’t personal. It’s all projection,” he answered. “So I’m saying things about gay people the way I would say things about relationships or women or politics or anything.
“I’m sure some of the bits and things in my life that I deeply regret were a product of like self-hate and denying who I really was,” he added. “So I think the material and a lot of those things — like when I wasn’t talking about myself, I was talking about everybody else outside of myself, just throwing punches and missiles as much as I could. All smoke bombs, all like distractions from who I really was and the thing I was afraid of.”
The pair ended their conversation by discussing the response Jerrod had gotten from his family. The comedian had previously shared that they haven’t quite accepted his identity yet. While he acknowledged that the situation was “not easy,” the distance between him and his family is “OK.”
He continued, “I’m making the decision to be sturdy, kind of accepting things that are and things that I can’t change,” joking, “[I] sound like I’m just saying the serenity prayer right now.
“But it is a long time coming for me to be able to be in that position. It means some distance from a family, but that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be. I hope that it changes, but that’s what it is right now. It doesn’t mean it’s a sacrifice of happiness and I think that’s really, really important to say as well.”
Watch the segment below.