By the time Patricia Williams was 12-years-old, she was in a relationship with a married man. She would go on to have two kids by the age of 15, and drop out of school in the eighth grade. With such a hard background and a lifetime of struggling, Patricia could’ve been destined for disaster.
Instead, the Atlanta native turned her heartache into humor and now, with a new BET+ show about her life set to premiere, a thriving podcast, a comedy special in the works and a sold-out standup tour, the 46-year-old comedian is proving your past doesn’t determine your future.
Ms. Pat began doing comedy in 2002 and in 2015, she appeared on the ninth season of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” She has appeared on multiple shows since, including Comedy Central’s “This Is Not Happening” as well as multiple podcasts, including the “Joe Rogan Experience.”
The comedian will be at the Houston Improv on June 24. Here she shares with the Defender what makes her funny and what fans can expect from her show.
Defender: How did you get started in the comedy business?
Ms. Pat: I was a convicted felon and it was the only business that didn’t check my criminal background. Growing up, I never thought of myself as being funny. I was just honest. I grew up the poor kid. I was the musty kid. So, you either, you cry or you laugh when you grow up like that. I found a way to laugh at it. Then one day I had a visit to the welfare office and Bill Clinton, who was the president at the time, made me get a job. My mama taught me in order to stay on welfare you had to give sob stories, so I did. I messed around and got a Black caseworker. She told me I was missing my calling and she just kept pushing me until I went to do an Open Mic. And I was like, “Wait a minute, you can get paid to tell your business? Count me in.”
Defender: How do you manage to build hilarity out of heartache?
Ms. Pat: Well, I’ve always tried to laugh at what was painful. When you can laugh at what you’ve been through in life, then that’s when you know you got control of it. I can’t dwell on the past. At first I didn’t realize where I was going with this because I just used that to make me survive. Yes, I had a crappy mama. I got pregnant by a married man at 13, who used to pick me up from elementary school when I was 12. I just found a way to laugh at it. I used it for me. And then once comedy came along, I realized it was so many “mes” in the world.
Defender: What can people expect from your show at the Improv?
Ms. Pat: Honesty. I talk about family and life. No matter what race you are. I talk about my childhood, being married. I’m an open book on stage. I tell people, make sure you bring your panty liner.
Defender: The Ms. Pat Show, which has a 10-episode first season order, is set to debut on BET+ and dramatizes your real-life hard luck story going from convicted felon to Midwest mom, as detailed in your NAACP Award nominated memoir, Rabbit. Tell us more about the show.
Ms. Pat: It was partially based on my book. But it’s mostly about my daily life – me moving from Atlanta to Indiana, into a very conservative neighborhood – and me adapting to a community I didn’t grow up in, which is a white community. It’s based on the everyday challenges that I have in my community, those things that I went through….like there’s an episode where me and my husband go to counseling, and you’ll see my daughter come out in an episode – I have a gay daughter. So, I just took my life and jammed it into 10 episodes. It’s a very funny show. The really good thing about BET+ is they let me be me. They didn’t try to tell me this or that. They didn’t try to hush me up. And I’ll tell you this: I’m NOT Claire Huxtable!
Defender: You have a huge white following. Do you feel like Black folks are just now discovering you?
Ms. Pat: I have a huge white audience because I’ve done so many big podcasts and big white radio. But Black folks are just now getting hip to me. I appeared on the Breakfast Club radio show recently and Black folks were like, ‘Where have you been.’ I’ve been doing comedy for 20 years. I’ve been right here, waiting on you mother*uckers to stop watching those old Def Jam comedians.
Check out these clips from Ms. Pat….
- Ms. Pat Had to Curse Out Her Granddaughter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI1xOepa53I
- Ms. Pat’s Take on R. Kelly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vijQvTTpPG8&list=PLbTR9EhA1uC6JngTHO_-BRSLEMMNS9SSX&index=4
- Ms. Pat’s Daughter Came Out and It Changed Her World: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNc4Aa-ltgA&list=PLbTR9EhA1uC6JngTHO_-BRSLEMMNS9SSX&index=11
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 at Improv Comedy Club Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway, Suite 455. Call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com.