It is not easy to write about an arguably legendary comedian like Patrice O'Neal. He passed away on November 29th, 2011 and in his absence, left a monumental space in the world of stand-up comedy. His new album, titled Unreleased is comprised of a compilation of never before heard material, recorded live at the DC Improv.
The first track, "Intro" exquisitely sets the tone, giving us an uproarious glimpse of what's to come. O'Neal is in no rush to make nice with the audience as he immediately begins verbally dissecting those in close proximity. This flows beautifully into track 2, "Confrontational Chicken Lady", in which a woman eating chicken fingers unwisely attempts to put O'Neal in his place.
Oh, what a mistake she made.
The next eight minutes are dedicated to Patrice brilliantly lambasting her as she continues her doomed crusade. It will spoil nothing if I inform you that... yes, Patrice easily wins that fight.
O'Neal addressed his audience like a symphony conductor, as if waving a baton, willing people to laugh at his command. Halfway through the album, I began to wonder when he would get to his material. It was around then that I realized, "This is the material." He blends it with crowd work so effortlessly that it could be easily unnoticed by an untrained eye.
All of this is hilarious and quite surprisingly, translates very nicely to the 'audio only' album format. The enjoyment is not diminished by the lack of a visual element.
What kept occurring to me was the reaction of the DC Improv audience. To put it plainly, he destroyed. It must have felt like he was being hit with a wall of laughter each time he landed one, as those laughs at times mutated into gleeful screams. And I would never spoil a punchline but Patrice's discussion of the difference between stink and smell might be the hardest I've laughed in months. I'm actually still chuckling as I type this.
O'Neal has an almost Jay-Z like reputation for having never actually written anything down. Every joke was created and stored right inside his head. Bill Burr, a comedian and close friend of O'Neal's once said: "I never once saw (Patrice) write anything down or even go into a CVS to buy a notebook." Indeed, he was one of the finest comedians of his generation, a true master. But above all else, when he was on-stage, Patrice O'Neal was having fun. That sense of fun is wonderfully infectious.
Patrice O'Neal's Unreleased is wall to wall laughs. A dirty, spontaneous little gem that makes an excellent B-side to his masterpiece, Mr. P, an album for which all proceeds go directly to Patrice's family.
Patrice O'Neal's Unreleased is now available on CD and to download from New Wave Dynamics.
Tony Hinds is a Canadian writer who studied film at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to ShowbizMonkeys.com, Tony has reviewed films for Step On Magazine and The Uniter. You can find Tony on Twitter.