The Comedian Who Changed My Life is Patrice O’Neal


The Comedian Who Changed My Life is a new series where comics talk about, you guessed it, the comedian who changed their life. This week, Von Decarlo talks about Patrice O’Neal.

This is Von De Carlo, and the comedian that changed my life of course, was my husband Patrice O’Neal. I spent ten years with him and he not only taught me about how to be a better artist, but he taught me to be a better person in general. I’m a better mother because of him, a better wife, a better everything. A better soul, a better friend.

And the one thing he taught me about comedy was, he’s like, “you’re not funny, except for when you’re not trying to be funny.” So, his advice to me in the whole comedy world was to just be my natural, goofy charming self, and I would be alright. The first thing I did with him was the Patrice Oneal Show Coming Soon, The Web Series. And I was the only one that was just an actress on the show. I didn’t have much improv experience or anything like that. And all I could think about was, I wish I had more experience, you know, cause they would all trash me all the time and it was really fun.

The biggest thing about him, if there’s one thing I could point out that every comedian should take from him– is honesty. Be honest . Be truthful. Your truth is where everything is, not just funny.

And when he passed away, I would say I spent about eighteen hours a day sleeping, in April 2012. Like several months after he passed away, I just crashed into this like crazy depression of only getting up to feed my daughter breakfast lunch and dinner. And other than that I was in the bed sleeping. Literally 18-20 hours a day, and I did that for an entire month. The entire month of April, and May rolled around, and I was like, I gotta do something. And the first thing that popped into my head was UCB theater. I went right to my computer, and I enrolled at UCB theater, and I started taking improve, cause I always wanted to have more experience when I was doing the Patrice O’Neal Show Coming Soon, and…

I went and I did it, I ended up getting the UCB diversity scholarship, I graduated and finished there. And I discovered musical improv at UCB theater. Which now I’m in a group, and we perform at the Pit and all around New York City. And now I’m doing musical improv, I do regular long form improv. I’ve been doing Cabaret theater now– I have a show coming up in the summer, it’s called “A Summer Night”, and it’s based on the music of Donna Summer. And that’s gonna be a funny show, it’s gonna take you on a roller coaster ride and the music is gonna drive it. I’m doing the relationship series, the comedy series, I’m one of the comedians on “According to Him and Her” on Centric TV now…

And all of this is because of my experiences with Patrice. I appreciate him so much. And the biggest thing about him, if there’s one thing I could point out that every comedian should take from him– is honesty. Be honest . Be truthful. Your truth is where everything is, not just funny. Truth is where life is. And sometimes truth will make you uncomfortable, and that’s what makes people laugh, but, Cliché as it may sound, the truth will set you free. And it did. And that’s what he taught me. And that’s how I live.

von declaroVon Decarlo is a singer, actress and comedic performer. She was engaged to Patrice O’Neal when he died, and they had been together for nearly twenty years. She wrote and produced the theme music “Cool Ride” for The Patrice O’Neal One Hour Comedy Central Special, “Elephant In The Room”, and you can also find her performing at various New York City comedy and improv clubs with her Musical Improv group Good Catch. She currently is one of the personalities on the Centric TV series “According to Him and Her” which airs Fridays at 9pm, and look for her new book “Speak Fluent Man: The Top Things Women Should Consider Before Blaming the Man.”  Follow Von on twitter @vondecarlo and visit her website


Read more from “The Comedian Who Changed My Life” and find out who changed the lives of  Ari Shaffir, Eddie Pepitone, Cedric the Entertainer, Otto Petersen, Todd Barry, Billy Connolly, and more.