“Keep your friends close and your Muslims closer,” joked the family patriarch, Joe Carmichael, in the first 10 minutes of last night’s episode of NBC’s hit comedy, The Carmichael Show. To set the scene, Joe and Cynthia Carmichael, artfully executed by actors David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine, are peering out of their Charlotte, N.C. front window and startled to see a Hijab-wearing woman and her husband moving in across street. The sheer thought of living that close to folks who follow the Islamic faith sends the family into a collective tailspin.
Known to tackle even the thorniest of hot topics, the sitcom takes on the very-real subject of Islamophobia in a post 9/11 world. Based on the musings of 28-year-old, stand-up comedian and writer, Jerrod Carmichael, the series isn’t skittish about shedding light on universally controversial subjects while punctuating the conversation with comic relief. EBONY caught up with the show’s creator, who also plays a fictionalized version of himself, to discuss why this narrative makes for such an interesting debate right now.
“The show is here to expand consciousness. Everything said [on the show] has intention behind it,” noted Carmichael. “Listen, I know I’m still racially profiled when I’m walking down the street in a hoodie, and I can be standing directly under a billboard with my face on it. But, that fear is still very real. The show is here to create that dialogue.”
On the heels of the recent San Bernardino shooting and living in a world where the threat of terrorism is sensationalized by mass media, last night’s storyline brings this state of fear to the forefront. Boston transplants and Pakistan natives, the Carmichael’s new neighbors are Americans in their own right living in a society where everyone assumes their faith automatically qualifies them as radicals. The juxtaposition of the two families, one African-American and the other Muslim-American, share the emotional and psychological baggage behind being negatively profiled in modern society.
Nuanced and superbly written, there have been episodes that have explored other issues as deep as gentrification of the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement to the uneasiness in worshiping the comedic genius of Bill Cosby amid his now infamously scandalous reputation, all in just the first two seasons of production. We can’t wait to see what they’ll be talking about next.