Sunday, February 5, 2012

Patrice O'Neal's "Mr. P"

The late Patrice O'Neal was a comedic powerhouse, a laugh-inducing force to be reckoned with, and Mr. P is over an hour's worth of material that proves it. This album displays just how innately hilarious O'Neal was, as some of the funniest moments come from his off-the-cuff interactions with the crowd. While some comics toil for hours to construct the perfect way to word a joke for maximum impact, O'Neal just is funny. His humor doesn't spring from the process of writing as much as it simply emanates from him naturally.

This is a man who genuinely enjoys people and interacting with them. He has learned that fewer things in life provide genuine fodder for humor than people and it doesn't take him long to find the funny in each of the people he interacts with. His love for humanity is evident in the fact that he doesn't start with an Opening Joke but instead kicks everything off by conversing with those in the crowd.

Sometimes his conversations are just that: purely conversational. He asks their ages and if they've ever dated anyone outside of their race. And sometimes his queries are downright intrusive, delving into sexual encounters and histories. Regardless of how much he does (or doesn't) pry into the personal lives of those he interacts with, one thing remains constant: O'Neal is drawn straight to the funny.

His approach to people -- and comedy -- could be described as reactionary. When he encounters something that he wasn't expecting or didn't see coming, he immediately bypasses any filters society may have tried to instill in him and just says the first thing that comes to mind. And every time it's the funniest thing you never expected him to say.

O'Neal's humor is grounded in honesty and a lot of the laughs come because what he is saying is the truth...even if it shouldn't be said out loud. The old adage "it's funny because it's true" couldn't be more appropriate than it is here, as is the phrase "the truth hurts." Bring the two of them together and what you'll get are a lot of statements that probably should offend a lot of people. That's not what happens, though. There's no time to be offended if you're too busy laughing.

Some of his bits that garner the biggest reactions include the difference between dating white and black women, comparing the fairer sex to an ungrateful dog who can't jump, and his rationale for being involved with more than one girl at a time. All of them are topics that, on paper, should send the females in the audience into an angry frenzy but if you listen closely, you'll hear they're the ones laughing loudest.

One reason it's so easy to see the humor in what's being said from stage is that the audience knows O'Neal is just being silly. On more than a few occasions it's as if O'Neal surprises even himself with the inane statements he makes and he has to stop and give in to laughing at the very ridiculousness of his own declarations. Hearing O'Neal get caught up in the moment like that was an unexpected highlight of the album for me.

My favorite track is simply called "Tolu" and it's a moment founded in true spontaneity. O'Neal asks a man in the audience for his name and it's obvious that "Tolu" is not the response he expected to hear. This sets off one of the finest -- and most hilarious -- moments of crowd work ever recorded and it had me in tears each time I listened.

The CD ends with O'Neal getting down and dirty. Literally. I probably couldn't even begin to describe the subject of the final couple of tracks without having to douse my keyboard with Purell but I'm also not so much of a prude to say that despite its raunchy content, it was pretty friggin' funny.

Despite the fact that O'Neal has been a consistently hilarious pillar in the world of comedy for a number of years, his time spent making us laugh still seems incredibly short. This album is a perfect send-off and captures exactly why he was loved and respected by so many in his own field. Regardless of what it was he had us laughing at, the bottom line is, he always had us laughing. Thanks to the release of this album, O'Neal is able to take us out for another go-around. Although the sadness of O'Neal's passing can't help but loom over this project, in the end we find that laughter does indeed trump all.


No comments:

Post a Comment