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Lil Rel Howery says Chicago sitcom will be personal first, political second

Lil Rel Howery (left) and Jerrod Carmichael discuss their show "Rel" on Thursday during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California. | WILLY SANJUAN/INVISION

Learning from their work on “The Carmichael Show,” comedians Lil Rel Howery and Jerrod Carmichael say they’ll take a different approach to political and social issues on their new sitcom set in Chicago.

Carmichael and Howery are executive producers on “Rel,” an upcoming series starring Howery and based on his stand-up comedy and his life.

“The Carmichael Show,” which was canceled last summer after three seasons on NBC, took a blunt approach to tackling such hot-button issues as police violence and the n-word.

Deadline reports that, during a Thursday presentation to TV critics, the “Rel” team promised a contrast on the new sitcom.

“On ‘The Carmichael Show,’ we built from the argument out,” said producer Mike Scully, who has worked on both shows. “Jerrod was like, ‘We’re going to do Ferguson.’ I was like, ‘Wow, when does the family go camping?’ ”

On “Rel,” the situation will come first, the issues later. Howery gave the example of an episode set in a Chicago laundromat that’s been taken over by a gang. Tying the issue to a mundane situation in Rel’s life is a way of “keeping the conversation honest,” he said.

Carmichael noted that Howery’s stand-up “comes from a very personal place,” as opposed to his own more political comedy. “We’ll try to bring the truth but with a different perspective,” he said.

“Rel,” which is shooting in Los Angeles, debuts with a preview episode Sept. 9 after NFL broadcasts. On Sept. 30, it debuts in its regular time slot at 8:30 p.m. Sundays, after “Family Guy.”

The “Uncle Drew” and “Get Out” star plays a father on the West Side whose marriage ends when his wife has an affair with his barber.


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