Ms. Pat is an unforgettable, one in a million comedian who isn’t afraid to bare her soul in the name of comedy. I was in the audience when she destroyed her opponent on “Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle, Road to the Roast” in Chicago, then she completely blew me away with her stories, candidness and wit on “Guys We F****d” at Just For Laughs in Montreal and like Bert Kreischer, Big Jay Oakerson and Ari Shaffir, Ms. Pat is one of the greatest storytellers of our time. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to sit down with her when she came to town to play Zanies in Chicago. I learned Ms. Pat has the confidence to be herself and to wear her failures and flaws as badges of honor, she has the will power and self-love to pull herself out of both a life of crime and cycle of abuse and through it all has held on to the sweetness and courage to dream. I am so glad the industry has taken notice of her talent! Thank you, Lee Daniels and Ron Howard and if they are still looking for a show runner I think Whitney Cummings would be perfect for the job… But I digress and without further ado, my conversation with Ms. Pat.
The Interrobang: Your life has been so unique and filled with so much drama, each story you tell somehow manages to be funnier than the last. How did you make the transition from crack to comedy?
Ms. Pat: I’ll put it in a nutshell. I had two kids by the time I was 15, started trafficking crack and went to jail. I did one year off five, met a good black man with good teeth and turned my life around. I’m a convicted felon. Comedy is one of the only things I could do that would allow me to have a job so here I am.
The Interrobang: That’s a really good point. People don’t always realize that once you’ve been convicted of a felony your career options become limited and comedy doesn’t discriminate in that way. Funny is funny.
Ms. Pat: It was hard. I was limited, very limited but I could always jawn…. When you talk about somebody…
The Interrobang: Like roasting?
Ms. Pat: Yeah, I’m from the south. We call it jawning. I was always able to do that really well because we were very poor and I had an alcoholic mom. There was no food and we moved all of the time. I was the stanky, musty kid at school and if you’re that kid, you have to be able to get people off your ass.
The Interrobang: That paints a picture for me. You weren’t always taken care of, your clothes are dirty, you’re hungry and kids are picking on you. Did you ever have a teacher or counselor reach out and ask, “Are you ok?” or try and help?
Ms. Pat: I had a teacher named Ms. Troop who would brush my teeth, wash my clothes and comb my hair. She made a big difference in my life.
The Interrobang: What grade was that?
Ms. Pat: 4th grade. What I remember the most is she would say, “Just get here early.” She’d bring a gym bag and take me to the bathroom so I could go wash up, then she would comb my hair. She instilled some really good things in me. I wrote about her in my book, Rabbit and I hope I quote it right. She would say, “Patricia, you can be anything in this world you want to be. All you have to do is dream. A person who doesn’t dream is not alive.”
That really stuck with me but when I would tell people my dreams, they’d look at me and say, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Instead of looking at it like I had a dream, they’d say I was too spontaneous, or that I just didn’t want to work but I always knew what I wanted. When I first got my GED I wanted to be a nurse but then I realized that I was a convicted felon and no one was going to put me around that Adderall and all them drugs, so I had to hurry up and change my career. I fell into comedy and once I tapped into my talent I knew that I wanted to be a comedian.
The Interrobang: You’re someone I hear speak about telling it like it is. Do you think that stems from being raised surrounded hustles and lies?
Ms. Pat: I have no tolerance for bullshit and I think some of the greatest comedians are the ones who shared their lives like Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor…. Most definitely Richard Pryor. I feel like my stories are what makes me unique. Nobody has my stories. Each one is unique to me, so I share them.
The Interrobang: I agree! I could never forgot you! Do you know how many comedians I’ve heard tell stories on podcasts that all fade into a blur? But you are unforgettable. Just this past summer, I was checking into the hotel at Just For Laughs in Montreal. I didn’t even see your face, I only heard your voice but I instantly recognized it was you by your story. You were standing by the elevators telling Howie Mandel the story of when one of your nipples got shot off and I was instantly like, “That’s Ms. Pat!!! I love that story!!!”
Ms. Pat: And he followed me that whole, damn festival! He even came to my podcast tapping! He said he was coming to my podcast and I was like, “Oh, Howie Mandel, you’re rich. Go somewhere and play… Then I look up and it’s fucking Howie Mandel in the audience! I ended up getting booked at his club in Vegas. It was so good. I had such a great time.
The Interrobang: That’s awesome. As a comedian, getting that invitation to Just For Laughs is huge! It’s essentially a golden ticket. What did it mean to you when you first received yours?
Ms. Pat: It’s kind of like getting invited into the cool crowd. I moved to Indianapolis in 2006. I either got invited in 2007 or 2008 my first year and I’ve been going back every other year after that. I went last year and the year before that, so I probably won’t be there this summer because they usually don’t invite you back to back like that… but I did recently start a podcast.
The Interrobang: Congratulations! That’s awesome.
Ms. Pat: I just did Sketch Fest in San Francisco and I’m going to Australia this year to do the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I look at it like these are pieces to my puzzle and I’m just putting it all together to see what it reveals in the end. I know where I would like to end up but you don’t always get what you want.
The Interrobang: So what is your dream, right now?
Ms. Pat: I shot a pilot for Hulu so my dream right now is that Hulu will pick it up. I would love to be able to act more but I will always love stand up and being on the road. I’d love to get to the point where I could call a few more shots like, I won’t be there on a Wednesday or Thursday, but I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday, then go back home and get into bed with my husband.
The Interrobang: Speaking of your husband, he is such a pivotal character to your story. How old were you when you met?
Ms. Pat: I was 19 and he was 22. He had just gotten out of the military. I don’t think he had been back even 6 months when I met him. We were actually going to see Bruce Bruce do a lip sync/comedy show. His brother went to school with my brother’s girlfriend at the time and we all just went out that night. He was this guy who had a pretty good job, no cheating, no STDs so I said, “Hey fat boy, I’m hiring for baby daddies. You want to put in an application?” LOL!
The Interrobang: LOL! Was that really your line?
Ms. Pat: No…. but in my mind it was! I was like, he don’t know it, but he just got interviewed to be a baby daddy…. And we’ve been together since 92.
The Interrobang: How long had you been out of jail at that time?
Ms. Pat: Probably 8 months. It was less than a year.
The Interrobang: Would you say that going to jail was a rock bottom that changed you?
Ms. Pat: It slowed my life down. I was able to stop and look at where I was headed and I realized that I was stuck in a cycle like the rest of my family; from high school drop out to, teenage pregnancy, to drugs. I never used drugs but I was handing my kids everything that I was handed. A lot of people don’t recognize that they’re stuck in the cycle but I was like, “Hell no! Ain’t nobody sticking their thumb in my daughter’s ass! My daughter ain’t dropping out! She ain’t becoming no teenage parent!” I have a son too and I was like, “My son is not going to become what society thinks black men are.” It was a good turning point for me because it sat me down and made me realize that I didn’t have the friends I thought I had and I wasn’t loved like I thought I was loved and it made me get a plan together. When I got out of jail I went right back to selling drugs and I said, “Lord, remove all of the money and all of the friends. I’m tired of this shit. Please send me somebody”… and he did.
The Interrobang: Wow! I think that’s my new favorite, Ms. Pat story! It’s a love story and it’s beautiful! Were you every afraid to tell your husband anything about your past?
Ms. Pat: No. I’ve never been fake. He knew I was forging checks and selling dope and helped me out of it but he accepted me for who I was. What I love most about this man is I don’t have a problem asking him which there, their or there is it? I don’t have to worry about anything. I can always be myself. I’ve always been blunt and straight forward. I damn near raised myself and I was in a very abusive relationship with my first boyfriend. That shit made me wake up and not take shit from anybody. I will always say whatever the fuck is on my mind. Take it how you want to take it, but I would rather be honest with you then to sit there and be miserable by not saying what I mean to say…. But that’s me.
The Interrobang: You say, I accept me, I love me and if you don’t… well, that’s one you. That is true self-love. Good for you!
Ms. Pat: That’s something I had to teach myself. When I was in jail, I was like how can I love my kids if I got them out there selling drugs? I can’t even love myself if I’m out there tolerating all of this bullshit from a dude who can’t even read. So I decided to start loving myself and after I got out of that relationship people were telling me to go out there and date but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to be by myself for a while. Then bam! I went out and met my husband and we’ve been rocking it ever since.
The Interrobang: I love that so much! One of the notes I wrote to myself for this interview was that you repeated the cycle and then broke the cycle all by the age of 20.
Ms. Pat: Oh yeah, I’ve made the mistakes, repeated the mistakes and then came around and said, “I’m done with this shit.” When I was in jail I missed something that I can never get back. My daughter had her first day of school. She started kindergarten and I wasn’t the one to take her. I was in jail doing time and I can never get that time back so I’m going to work hard to never miss other things.
The Interrobang: With all of the things you talk about, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk about your experience in jail.
Ms. Pat: People don’t ask me about it. They go straight to the shootings. There is other shit in my life that I’ve done.
The Interrobang: I want to know about that! You were tried as an adult, literally right as you became an adult and got a year in jail?! What was that like? How did you get through it?
Ms. Pat: It was rough! I was young! I was like 18. You’re locked up, so there’s nowhere you can go. All you can do is do the time or jump off a balance and hope you die.
The Interrobang: Did you get in fights?
Ms. Pat: All the fucking time! I remember this one crazy girl was fucking with me but I didn’t know she was crazy. She went to my room and poured out all of my shampoo, so I went to her room and poured out all her shampoo. The next thing I knew, I was at the phone booth and someone was like, you need to watch your back. She put her hands on me and it was on! I was winning the fight but I was so tired of fighting and she would not give up. I tried to dog walk that bitch. She was crazy!
The Interrobang: Was that the only time you went to jail?
Ms. Pat: I did my time in county because I had other drug charges pending. When it was time to get out I had to go down to prison, get an ID number and come back. I did my time in jail but with a prison number.
The Interrobang: That’s probably better than what it could have been then.
Ms. Pat: I got five years and only did one but I also had a little money and a lawyer that kept me from going down.
The Interrobang: So you get out of jail, meet your husband and completely turn your life around. When did you realize that you were funny and that comedy was your dream?
Ms. Pat: A trip to the welfare office and a caseworker that said, “You need to really pursue this! You’re funny!” I said, “You know what? I’m gonna give it a try.” I went on stage because she wouldn’t leave me alone and I’ve been on stage now for 18 years.
The Interrobang: When you went on was it like finding home? Did you realize right away that she was right and that you were a comedian?
Ms. Pat: I was like, “This is it? They don’t check your criminal background? I like this shit!” I went home and told my husband, “I’m a fucking comedian” and he was like, “Can you please keep a damn job?!” I was like, No! I’m really a comedian!!! My husband knew I was funny though. He used to say, “People think you’re funny because you say the shit they wish they could say.”
The Interrobang: What was the first bit you ever wrote?
Ms. Pat: My brother breaking into someone’s house screaming, “Freeze bitch! I’m the FBI!” snatching their T.V. and running out the door.
The Interrobang: LOL!!! That’s hilarious! Is it a true story?
Ms. Pat: It sure was! And that was my very first bit!
The Interrobang: And there you go, right out the gates with a perfect example of just how your unique experience makes your comedy so special. No one else has the same wells to tap into and it’s awesome that you realized that when you were just starting out.
Ms. Pat: I had to realize that I was a storyteller because I wasn’t in the beginning. I didn’t realize that’s what I had but then I would sometimes just get up there and talk and the stories started to come to me and I started to tell them. I knew that whenever you’re writing a joke, or you’re writing comedy, you need a start, a middle and an end. That automatically takes you to story form so I just started to tell stories about how I grew up. Then I had to learn how to tell these stories on stage so they would come out funny and not sad.
The Interrobang: I’m so glad that you found comedy and I need to tell you that I truly believe it would be a crime and a sin if you don’t end up on T.V.! That is perfectly clear to me. What can you tell me about the pilot you shot for Hulu?
Ms. Pat: It’s called, “The Ms. Pat Show.” We shot the pilot for Lee Daniels and Ron Howard’s production company, Imagine. It’s really funny but also has a message. I’m not the type of fat girl who does physical comedy and falls all over. I don’t dance or hit flips. This is coming from the perspective of a black woman, but I think everybody can relate, like my comedy because I’m talking about something. I’ll give you a hint, the pilot is about school shootings. That’s how serious it is.
The Interrobang: I’m a school counselor! I can’t wait to see it! You better pick it up, Hulu! Do you hear me?! LOL!!!
Ms. Pat: Do you hear me, Hulu?! LOL!
The Interrobang: Thank you so much for talking with me and good luck with the show!