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‘The Carmichael Show': Finding Comedy in Current Events

Depending on your point of view, Jerrod Carmichael meeting sitcom legend Norman Lear a week to the day "The Carmichael Show" premieres on NBC is either an incredible coincidence or a twist of fate foreshadowing success.

For Lear, 93, is the hit producer behind such television comedy classics as "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons," "Maude" and "Good Times." Such shows, Carmichael says, along with "Cheers, "The Cosby Show" and "Murphy Brown," were a constant in his youth and continue to inform his work.  

"It was amazing," he says of the meeting the following day via phone from Los Angeles. "He's great, so smart. And I got the chance to tell him 'thank you' and how much his work inspires me."

Carmichael rose to pop culture prominence in 2014 due to a role in the big screen hit "Neighbors" and his own HBO comedy special, "Love at the Store," directed by Spike Lee. With "The Carmichael Show" (premiering Wednesday, August 26 at 9/8c), the 27-year-old rising star transfers his conversational stand-up style to the sitcom format, finding humor through misinformed and misunderstood characters grappling with current social events. 

"It's new for me," says Carmichael of making the format shift. "Being a new creative outlet there is always a lot to learn. The curve was trying to bring the same truth of my stand-up to this outlet. Really just kind of figuring out how to have the other side of the argument. Making sure that we had the full argument.

"I always lean toward stories or shows that make me think, make me feel something," explains co-creator and writer Carmichael of his hopes for "TCS," which is semi-autobiographical. Set in Charlotte, N.C. (Carmichael was raised in Winston-Salem), the series revolves around the relationships Carmichael has with his often politically incorrect father, Joe (David Alan Grier), Bible-quoting mother, Cynthia (Loretta Devine), ever-hustling brother Bobby (Lil Rey Howery) and therapist-in-training girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West). 

"TCS" maintains a multi-camera format giving it a classic series feel. And like those above-mentioned sitcoms of the seventies and eighties Carmichael says are "always playing in my house," the new series is not afraid to tackle of-the-moment issues, filtering upcoming topics such as gender identity, racial profiling, religion in schools and presidential politics through the lens of familial humor. 

"When you are talking about current events a lot times comedy just naturally happens," Carmichael explains when asked how he maintains a balance between the seriousness of certain subject matter and the desire to create laughs. "You start getting enough perspectives in one room and comedy is going to occur. You're always going to have people who disagree with one another and as long as you can keep it true to conversation, true to perspective, I don't really worry about the comedy. Making sure the perspective is there is priority number one and jokes just come out of that."

"The Carmichael Show" debuts with back-to-back episodes Wednesday, August 26 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. C on NBC. 

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