The words raw and unadulterated cannot contain the brutality of comedian Ms. Pat’s humor.
Her Emmy-nominated series “The Ms. Pat Show” – a multi-generational family comedy similar to “Roseanne” but with a lot of sharper language — deals with issues such as abortion, addiction and abuse. The third season of the multi-camera sitcom premiered this week on BET.
In her 2022 Netflix comedy special, “Ya’ll Wanna Hear Something Crazy,” the comedian, born Patricia Williams, addresses several episodes of personal trauma — from being cared for by a married man at age 12 and giving birth to his child at the age of 14 to having to “prepare” her disabled uncle Cecil for appointments with a sex worker. Both are true stories.
She concluded the special by saying, “If you don’t take s— away from this show, I hope you take one thing with you: learn how to take the darkest s— in your life and turn those s— into laughter. Because if you can laugh about it, it means you have control over it.”
The Times quoted Mrs. Pat to discuss her favorite joke, cancel, and “macaroni” cultures and her long- and short-term career goals.
On “The Ms. Pat Show.”
You had a tumultuous upbringing. Would you say your ascent in Hollywood was easier by comparison?
I’ve heard (horror stories true) people have pitched maybe 10 pilots and none of them have been picked up. And I thank God every day that the first one I pitched was picked up and actually made, and now we’re going into our third season. Hollywood can be a devil. It breaks your heart. But I think for me, with my background, if you tell me no, I’m already prepared. I’m used to no. The show took five years to get a home. Nothing is easy, (but) anything good is worth working for.
How do your kids react to your jokes about them?
What are you talking about? They all work with me on set. What are they going to say? I hit them on the head. (laughs) They laugh about it. I often come up to them and ask them, ‘Hey, what do you think? Is this funny?” And a lot of the material that I write about my family is just things that we talk about in the house or that they did or that I’ve seen. And I just make a little of it.
How long would you like to keep doing “The Ms. Pat Show”?
Oh, “Mrs. Pat’s is going to need eight seasons. (laughs) I’m putting it in the universe. I want it to go on as long as people like it. As long as it feels fun and we don’t have to make things up. As long as we’re out of my life can pull, I’d like to keep going If things get stupid and we have to make things up, chilli, close the doors and move on to something else.
On stand up
What is your preshow ritual, if you have one?
If the show is at 7, roll out of bed at 5. Then I put on my make-up. (laughs) I don’t dance around, I don’t light candles, I don’t do any of that. I don’t pray. I just walk out and say, ‘Thanks for coming. I’m already asleep.”
Do you have a favorite joke you’ve told?
It would probably be my Uncle Cecil joke. You’ll have to see the special to know what I’m talking about. It was a true story.
You know what’s crazy? When you go through trauma… I blocked a lot of things. So as I get older things start to come back and I’m like, “This can’t be real.” So I always call a family member, like, “Do you remember this?” And I allow them to go into details to let me know I’m not crazy. When I started to remember Uncle Cecil’s story, I thought, ‘This can’t be true. That’s not how people treat their children.” (laughs) All it did was open the floodgates to growing up in a bootleg house.
I think my favorite joke of yours is the one about chicken— and backs.
(laughs) That’s what I wanted to say. This generation doesn’t even know chickens have an a— or a back. (laughs) When I was a kid, they sold backs by the pound.
On cancel culture
Your show is known as an “adult sitcom.” Do you feel your brand of comedy is being received differently in this era of cancellation culture?
Yes, but for some reason I skate by. (laughs) I think it’s because mine comes with honesty and experience. I don’t do any radical crap out of my head. When I talk about something, it’s because I’ve been through it. When I talk about gay culture, it’s because I have a gay daughter. I think people look at me as honest and so don’t get offended easily when they come to see me. And if so, you can always find someone else to turn to.
What do you actually think about canceling culture?
I just think we’re a bunch of whining assholes these days. We are not built the same. We used to be tough built Ford. Now they are built macaroni tough. They break with everything. “Oh, my God, you said I’m fat!” It used to be, (they would say) “you’re fat as hell” and it was OK. You can’t even say “thicker than a snicker.” “Oh, my God, you said I’m fat! I have to jump off a building.’ Girl, if you don’t get out of here…
How would you describe the look with which comedians look at the world to constantly find humor in things?
Well, everyone sees the world differently. I mean, some people are blinded by what’s going on in the world. For me, I talk about what I know. I don’t make really deep political jokes because nobody wants to get hit on the head. I really think we should all be respected regardless of our beliefs or how we vote. I have a neighbor who was a Trump fanatic. But if I tell you that man can build some cabinets! And no one understood why I was hanging out with him. I was like, “You might think he’s crazy, but he’s a badass with that saw.” I hung out with him all the time and I was able to collect material from it. I definitely created a character in my stand-up about living next door and talking to him. He almost sounded like he was (from) another planet.
Do you feel that the public’s reception to more risqué jokes has changed in recent years?
Yes, because society has told us that we need to change. Society says what you can and can’t say. And I think people like that about me because I don’t give a shit what I say. I am 50 years old. You used to remember thinking, “Ooh, that old lady over there down the street is mean as hell!” I know why they are mean now. (laughs) You live 50 years and you will know why all those people didn’t like children. I’m going to talk about what I’m going to talk about.
What do you think of the state of comedy right now?
I think comedy is making a comeback. At some point, it really got shut down and controlled all the way to the White House. But I really think it’s making a comeback and comedians are starting to feel free again. Look at Dave Chappelle. He doesn’t give a shit what nobody says. I think he opened a lot of our eyes by saying, ‘Hey, it’s comedy. I should be able to say what I want to say; it is freedom of speech.” Kudos to Dave for opening the doors to people who are afraid to say what they want to say. Rappers say what they want to say, but then they get mad at us!
That’s totally true. Who are some other comics whose work gets you excited today?
Dave. I would say Kevin (Hart). Probably Dave and Kevin. I also like Chris Rock. I’m glad to see he’s making a comeback. But Dave Chappelle, he’s the cream of the crop.
What do you think of the attempts to cancel it?
Never going to happen. Cancel him for what, because he’s telling the truth? Again, this new macaroni culture that we have, they just don’t want to hear the truth. I mean tell me where Dave lied? Nowhere. He told you what his opinion is and it was pretty much right.
About upcoming efforts
What do you think are your long- and short-term career goals?
I would like to host a game show; that’s kind of my short-term goal. I would like a DIY show; that’s one of my short-term goals. My long-term goal would be to go to the Oscars or the Met Gala. I’d love to get some trophies for “The Ms. Pat Show” because I really think they overlook us because of the network we’re on and because the show is so real. She’s not your typical mother. This mother has a criminal background. And you know how networking makes things easy? Well, we go deep into it and we don’t bow to it at the end of the episode either.
You have an overall deal with BET and Paramount. What kind of projects do you have in the works?
I have a movie I’m working on. I can’t say who it is with, but it’s with a really big director and I hope some network will pick it up. We’re working on some other projects for BET+ and Viacom, so I’m just hoping to develop some other stuff. Hopefully I’ll get another book deal. And then working on starting a comedy tour after I wrap up the next season of the show.
When do you think the tour will be?
Hopefully in the fall.
And what is this book about?
Don’t know. I have to get the deal first. I throw it into the universe.
You also host a comedy podcast, “The Patdown.” How do you manage to creatively sustain your comedy through so many different outlets?
Many times I go to “The Patdown” and have a conversation and it creates material for not only my stand-up, but my TV show. It’s really just a place where I can vent. Sometimes when you let me vent, gold jumps out.