Last night in New York City, some of comedy’s biggest names gathered once again in support of a comic, a friend, and his family, for the 4th Annual Patrice O’Neal Comedy Benefit at the New York City Center. It’s hard to believe that more than four years have gone by since the passing of comedian Patrice O’Neal. He was one of the best, on the verge of mainstream-crossover success, and a powerhouse on stage with legendary status in the scene. And every year that has gone by, his closest friends in the comedy community have come together to not only celebrate O’Neal, but keep his spirit alive and support the family that survives him.
Names like Dave Attell, Godfrey, Russ Meneve, Rich Vos, Rachel Feinstein, Greer Barnes, Artie Lange, Jim Norton, and Louis C.K. (who filled in for Bill Burr as he was stuck in Los Angeles because of snow storm Jonas) all took part. The performances were fantastic despite a few expected drunk hecklers in the crowd and the distraction of a fight breaking out in the first few rows. The show had everything and I’m pretty sure O’Neal was there in spirit, soaking it all up from the side of the stage as well as the back of the room.
The snow filled streets of New York City couldn’t stop a passionate fan base from seeing their comedic heroes under one single roof. It was the fourth edition of a benefit created by one of the most supportive groups on planet earth, comedians. They may fight amongst themselves at times and be jealous during others, but one thing is for sure, they will always have each other’s backs in a time of need. This exact sentiment was echoed by Louis C.K. while making his surprise appearance slotting in for Burr to a standing ovation.
Rich Vos played host for the evening despite coming off a fresh root canal procedure. The perfect man for the job, he teased the audience at one point leading them to believe a potential Opie & Anthony reunion could occur, but quickly took a hard left while slamming both explaining they could never be in the same room ever again. He handled a fight quite nicely that broke out in the first few rows of the crowd, restoring peace. Vos did however get heckled several times, thwarting all but one with veteran experience. He gave credit where credit was due to the one that broke through replying, “Hey, that was a knock-out man.” And then proceeded to inform the previous hecklers that they could learn a thing or two from “over there”, much to the crowds delight.
Godfrey, Barnes, and Attell all had stand-out sets while C.K. simply worked on another level. The 3 1/2 hour show felt half that time and it easily could have gone on for another 3 1/2 with no complaints. And as the crowd filed out, you could feel and hear the enthusiasm behind recaps of the nights best moments. Everyone left a winner, no different than how you felt after leaving any Patrice O’Neal show. Comedy may not be able to bring someone back from the dead, but it surly can revive their spirit reminding us of what’s really important in this life as we reflect on the bullsh*t and face the thoughts and ideas that lay within all of us. We miss you Patrice.