Review: Patrice O’Neal “Mr. P” A Final Bow From An Amazing Comedian
Upon hearing of Patrice O’Neal’s passing we spent a lot of time re-watching clips from his 2011 stand-up special Elephant In The Room after. In it he just slayed taboo topics about sexism, race, and harassment of others. It was simultaneously hilarious and sad at the same time because we realized there would be no more new honesty coming from Patrice in the future.
Word got out that Mr. P would be released shortly after his passing and we all got a bit excited knowing there would be one last recording of the man in action. What was supposed to be an album recorded at the D.C. Improv became his swan song, his final essay to the world.
Colin Quinn dedicates the album stating “if you want to understand what comedy is supposed to sound like, you have to listen to this. If you want to understand what a comedian is supposed to sound like listen to this.” There’s an edge to Patrice O’Neal that’s controversial and raw. People would not necessarily want to hear women being compared to dogs and or late night hookups being dismissed as nothing more than working for a corporation. But that’s O’Neal taking stabs at finding honest truths on the topic rather than a comedian looking to say something shocking.
As he tackles religion, stating that while he believes in God, he finds it really hard to care about things others care about, natural disasters like Tsunamis (“you die from that bullshit?) or making deals with God for an airplane to not come crashing down (Ground Karma!). He flexes anger about how the government fucks us all while trying to be slick about it. He deals on the TSA pointing out just how ridiculous a concept the false sense of security it provides. But while there’s focused rage, there are hints of insecurities in his act. It’s clear he’s pulling some of the more salacious material from his personal life, almost asking, “am I the decent person?” because he feels a certain way.
One of the greatest moments on Mr. P happens when he attempts to do some crowd work and unearths “Tolu”. It’s about as spontaneous a moment one can get at a comedy club and O’Neal mines the uniqueness of one man’s name for nearly 5 minutes. It’s completely improved and shows how fast on his feet O’Neal is. It’s a character trademark that takes comedians with a good act and elevates them to a funny person looking for funny in any situation.
On the album O’Neal states, “It’s not fun if everybody’s laughing” and there’s not much of a truer statement about Mr. P that can be made. He wants to tell his audience a thought to elicit a reaction. While he hopes it’s laughter, he’s just as fine with a groan as long as it’s honest.
The loss of a great comedic mind like Patrice O’Neal is hard to take, anytime someone leaves us early under bad circumstances is. But what makes the situation even more upsetting is that Patrice not only possessed an unbelievable comedic mind; but by every account we heard, he was also just a terrific person who would help any friend in need. He always was in search for his own truths, Mr. P is not just a joke teller. And while he doesn’t always sync with “the norm” he always syncs with Patrice O’Neal. He pulls humor by walking a different line. He doesn’t just prod his audience for a laugh, he only asks them to find humor in honesty. It’s the only source of wealth in his world, and there’s no comedian richer when trading in this currency.