Patrice O'Neal (December 7, 1969 – November 29, 2011) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, and radio host. He grew up in Boston and first started performing stand-up comedy in 1992 when his act mainly focused on crowd-work and building a dialogue with his audience.
O'Neal turned down a sports scholarship to Northeastern University, to study the performing arts. He started doing stand up in Boston after being challenged to do so by a comic he had heckled. He worked on his act for the next 6 years in Boston, before relocating to New York City in 1998. That same year he participated in the U. S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. He then moved to LA, but still found difficulties, partly because he wouldn’t conform to a less confrontational act, which many club owners pushed him to do. In 2000, O'Neal got his first writing job, writing for the WWE. He didn’t stay long, inevitably turning down a 13 week contract, which was the first of many opportunities O'Neal would walk away from. By 2002, he received an opportunity to record a half hour special for Showtime. He befriended all sorts of comics who went on to greatness like Dane Cook, Greg Giraldo and Colin Quinn. O'Neal was even a frequent guest on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and, from 2002, Opie and Anthony. Additionally, he hosted The Black Phillip Show on radio from 2006 to 2008. In 2011, his first Comedy Central Special, “Elephant in the Room”, was released. That same year he has on the panel for the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen and there were also talks of a possible animated series with FX, amongst other potential projects. But unfortunately, O’Neal passed away on November 29th, 2011 from complications from a stroke.
This week, Kaizen Komedy looks at the work of Patrice O'Neal. Very comfortable with crowd work, O'Neal had a way of engaging the audience at every turn. He was never afraid to encounter heckles, nor was he afraid to be aggressive towards the members of the crowd. Though very confrontational, and at times abrasive, O'Neal had a like-ability to him and a way of bringing the audience along, as he spoke his truth.