Comedian Patrice O'Neal Dies At 41

Nov 30, 2011
Originally published on November 30, 2011 5:49 pm
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GUY RAZ, HOST:

The comedian Patrice O'Neal went right for the jugular, whether he was talking politics or sex or race.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE)

PATRICE O'NEAL: You know how you can tell how pretty a white woman is, the value? You look at her and then you wonder how long they would look for her if she was missing.

(Laughter)

RAZ: Patrice O'Neal died yesterday, a month after suffering a debilitating stroke brought on by diabetes.

He was born in Boston in 1969. He made his way through the comedy clubs in that city and in New York. But he began to attract more attention when he moved to London in the late 1990s, where he gained a loyal following.

O'Neal wasn't a comedian who made you comfortable. He made you cringe, with comedy that could hit painfully close to reality. Patrice O'Neal often heckled his audiences but his biggest target was himself, even making light of his own battle with diabetes.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE)

O'NEAL: I saw some white chocolate covered Oreos. Oreos dipped in chocolate, man, I couldn't - it was - I was in tears...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

O'NEAL: ...like knowing I shouldn't eat it but I was in pain - like going, oh my God. And I'm talking to myself, I can't eat these cookies, man. And they're calling me and I'm praying to God and I'm lactose intolerant. But, like, if I eat these cookies, I got to drink milk, too. I'm gonna go out like a soldier. It's like whatever.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

O'NEAL: (Beep) say all kind of weird stuff to you, to rationalize eating them. I'd be like, you know what? I don't need both my feet. I'm not a...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

O'NEAL: I'm not a ballerina. I don't...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: That's Patrice O'Neal performing in front of a live audience earlier this year, in a special called "Elephant in the Room."

Yesterday, as news broke of O'Neal's death, comedians from Ricky Gervais to Sarah Silverman called him one of the greatest standup comics of his generation.

Patrice Lumumba Malcolm O'Neal died yesterday at the age of 41. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.