Over the last ten years this website and my work has often revolved around those with a compelling story, the under reported actors who seek to somehow change or impact the world. Those individuals are often writers, activists, journalists, NGO workers in forgotten corners of the world, and sometimes public figures. One group of people that is hardly ever mentioned here yet has a tremendous role in our society, are comedians. They perhaps never get mentioned as I myself do not often meet them in person, but rather I admire them from a far. But I recognize their influence nonetheless, and take great meaning from the way they look at and explain the world. A world where it is increasingly hard to be a comedian as subjects and language get labelled as unacceptable, taboo, and even flat-out banned.
One comedian who stood up and refused to compromise with those who sought to tell him what not to talk about or use in his comedy, was the great Patrice O’Neal. The man who once explained that he “spoke for funny”, and believed strongly in the right to try and be funny. In his hilarious and sometimes bizarre wisdom he spoke truths that deserve to be remembered long after his tragic death. “Funny jokes and unfunny jokes come from the same place. You should be able to attempt to be funny.”
Much of the world has never heard of Patrice O’Neal. To them he was never famous so he shouldn’t be compared to any of the greatest minds in the history of comedy. As Patrice himself often said over the past year “I’ve got my phone on, but fame still hasn’t called.” Like so many amazing artists of this era, the mainstream market place didn’t want anything to do with him. Just as many young and lesser known content creators (including citizen journalists!) are often told to compromise their values and thoughts in order to make money and become known, Patrice was often given similar advice. Advice he famously shit all over as he would attend meetings with entertainment executives and proceed to make fun of their previous programming choices, instead of kissing ass to try and gain their favor. Not that he didn’t want to be known, he simply wanted to be known on his own terms.
Compare journalism and art today and you might find yourself being written off as insignificant, wrong and reckless. Compare comedy and journalism and you’ll surely hear similar or worse. But in the hilarious, creative, contreversial, bizarre, disgusting and beautiful mind of Patrice O’Neal, I have long found inspiration and reassurance. Though it is extremely sad that he has died, with the exception of his shitty diet, the way he lived should only inspire joy.