(Photo: Courtesy of BSEENMEDIA)
As a regular on SiriusXM's Opie & Anthony, late comedian Patrice O'Neal would frequently joke with the show's hosts and friends like Jim Norton about "fame calling," meaning Patrice would famously rather burn a bridge than compromise his integrity. He lost more parts than most actors have ever auditioned for, including the role of the father in Everybody Hates Chris (a part later given to Terry Crews), which Chris Rock himself said was Patrice's for the taking.
But what hurt Patrice on the corporate level also made him a favorite among fans and fellow comedians. Patrice was known for his conversational style and an often brash but honest point of view. On his new album Unreleased, which comes out August 20, fans will get to hear Patrice's crowd work at its finest. BET.com caught up with Von Decarlo, Patrice's fiancée when he passed. She talks about what made the late comic so special and yet so misunderstood.
After the Charlie Sheen Roast, which allowed Patrice to shine in front of a more mainstream audience, did he become more motivated by seeing such a positive response?
Around the time of the roast, he was working more than I had ever seen him work before. He was finishing up the last movie that he did, he had a bunch of gigs and a new podcast all set up and we were in the middle of a deal where FX told Patrice they wanted him to be the Black Louis CK of the network. Patrice pretty much had the green light to do whatever he wanted. There was a two-week break between the Charlie Sheen Roast and before he had to go back out to L.A. to meet with FX again, and during that two-week break is when he had the stroke.
I heard him say in an interview that he had been asked to do roasts before but didn't. What changed his mind?
He had a lot of integrity. He loved comedy and he had to have a reason to do things. He felt like, what roasts became on Comedy Central was not true to what comedy roasts really are. He felt like roasts should be about friends teasing each other publicly, but when they offered him the Flavor Flav roast he was like "I don't know Flav personally to trash him and I love Public Enemy. There's no way in hell that I would go play Flav out." When it came down to the Charlie Sheen roast he said, "You know what I think I'm going do it this time. I have to shake Charlie Sheen's hand for what he did." Not the drugs and all the craziness, but what he did meaning his anti-entertainment business tirade.
What was it about Hollywood that he didn't like?
Patrice was never the "happy to be there guy." When he did The Office, he was like, "I fly to California, I put my heart into one or two lines or whatever, I'm doing that day and that's it. I want to be my own project where I have some control over how it's going to be aired."
One thing that always stood out about Patrice was that he never seemed like he was being fake, even on stage. Was that how he was all the time?
There was absolutely no difference between Patrice on our couch talking to you, Patrice on stage talking to a few hundred people or Patrice on TV talking to a few million. I've never seen him write down a joke. He was just a charismatic man and a naturally funny storyteller and his jokes were his life, it was our life. From his perspective, there's no need to write it down if you live it. It's not hard to remember the truth.
As far as his health, do you think there's anything his friends or fans could have done that would have changed the way he thought about his health?
Let me be as clear as possible on that subject, Patrice and I spent a lot of time and a lot of years trying to keep him healthy and he was a big guy and he struggled with his weight since he was young, so I don't want people to have the perception that he was just knocking down cheeseburgers and sodas like he didn't care about his life. We were vegans for three years prior to his death — that was his idea. After talking on the radio with Noreaga, Patrice was like, "Yo, you lost a lot of weight." Noreaga brought his attention to a book called Skinny B---h. Patrice came home the same day with the book, read the book, gave it to me and we were vegans after that. We were diligent about his doctor's visits, I was always on him about taking his medicine but he took it. I didn't really have to be on him too much. We were vegans for three years prior to his death — that was his idea.
How do you think he would have felt about seeing how much people loved and cared about him after he died?
I think he would be really touched. I think he would be really touched at the financial support we got from his friends as far as his family's concerned and how much his fans really do care. Patrice was right a lot but he was probably wrong on this one: he used to say "Nobody cares." There are a lot of people that do care. The true fans and the true friends have not faded away. Fans tweet me to this day, saying "What would Patrice say about the Trayvon Martin case or Paula Deen? He needs to be here to give us a perspective."
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