All things considered, 2021 was a pretty great year for Ms. Pat.
After several years of development hell on multiple networks, the comedian finally got her sitcom idea onto TV through BET+ after and The Ms. Pat Show turned out to be a critical and commercial success for the streaming platform. Later that year, she also filmed her first solo stand-up special for Netflix. Ms. Pat: Y’All Wanna Hear Something Crazy premieres Feb. 8.
Patricia Williams has come a long way from her troubled youth in Atlanta, where she became a mother of two by age 15, sold drugs, survived getting shot twice, and found herself arrested multiple times while still a teen.
Decider caught up with Ms. Pat during filming of the second season of her BET+ series.
DECIDER: What can you tell me about it? How far in the process are you?
MS. PAT: We tape the second episode starting in about an hour. If you think the first season was off the chain, wait ’til you see this one.
Anything you can tease or no?
Oh, God! We go from funerals to therapists to robbery. The finale will knock you off of your feet. I’m not hinting on that one now. But you know, I’m a trauma time machine so you don’t know what we’re going to ride around here.
I reviewed the start of season one and I compared your show to Roseanne but now I think about it, it’s really more like if Roseanne had grown up like Richard Pryor, right?
Yeah. People are like Richard, I get a lot of that. All In The Family. There’s a little bit of Martin. I think you can compare it. It’s funny as hell, like Martin, but it also has so many serious elements. We don’t make an episode without talking about serious things.
Isn’t that kind of how Roc used to be?
Roc? Yeah, Roc talked about race. I think he talked a lot about politics, too, didn’t he?
I mean, that was 30 years ago. I just remember that show like, because that was like a decade before Bernie Mac’s and that was a show on FOX and sometimes they did it live and yeah, it was a comedy but it was also so serious.
Yeah, it was serious, but I mean, I’ll go back to Norman Lear. Can you imagine what he could have done had they not tied his hands?
(Lear once told Ms. Pat that her show is what he wanted All In The Family to be)
The last time we really sat down and talked was five-and-a-half years ago, and that’s when you were first pitching it out and got the deal with FOX. Tell me about, how did you deal with that process because it took four years from having that put-pilot commitment with FOX to eventually landing the series order on BET+? How did you cope with all the ups and downs of that, dealing with show business?
I learned they don’t give a crap about your feelings. You gonna cry. You’re gonna sweat. You gonna get a headache. I mean, you know, I was in a deal three times with FOX. And then I also went through three writers. It really got serious for me because people are like, you don’t realize you don’t get two or three deals on the same idea. From the ups and downs from, you know, from going from FOX to Hulu to BET, I just kept believing that it’s gonna land somewhere and wherever we land is gonna be where we supposed to be. But it was a little heartbreaking when Hulu didn’t pick us up. it really was.
So how does it feel now to be sitting here about to film episode two of Season 2?
Oh, you know, it feels good because when the first season came out and it was such a hit. I didn’t say anything. I was just oh so glad these things came through and trying to do what I was doing, and everybody was like, Hulu, how you feeling over there? I love Hulu. Hopefully one day I can work with them again. You know, sometimes people don’t understand, you know, what you’re trying to do, and then you find somebody who do and it ends up that BET+, a new platform came along and they understood what we were trying to do here.
What did doing that Bert Kreischer show (The Cabin with Bert Kreischer) do for you and how the industry perceived you? I don’t know how that worked, but it worked. And the episode that you were in with Joel McHale and Kaley Cuoco. You stole that episode.
Bert is great. Let me tell you something. It’s not easy to stay in this business, but Bert is like a really good friend. Me and his wife are both from Georgia. I can call anytime, they’re gonna pick up the phone. He’s like family to me. So he asked me to do this show, he said he was taking me to the woods. And I’m like, Are you f—ing crazy? But, you know, if Bert calls or (Joe) Rogan calls, OK, I’ll do it. Man. Let me tell you something. I was a Black person in the woods without the right equipment. And what you saw was real because it was not scripted. Bert knew I wasn’t going to know who Kaley Cuoco was. But he knew I was going to be honest. I’m like, I know who Joel McHale is, but who is she? The Big Bang Theory? Who the f— watch that? And then I realized this chick is worth $150 million, and probably never had anyone talk to her like that before. But I didn’t give a f—.
That episode was how you really knew it was unscripted because the looks on her face and on Joel McHale’s face, as you’re talking to them: They weren’t acting.
Joel McHale was like, ‘Ahhhh.’ I don’t think she’d ever been talked to like that. It was crazy, and then I Googled her. Oh my God! Why would she do a show like this?
How much did that help you get the Netflix special?
I think it helped out, because right after that, that’s when they approached me. At the next Montreal (Just For Laughs festival) we was all out there, and JoAnn (Grigioni, Netflix’s director of stand-up programming) came up to me and she was like, ‘Oh, Ms. Pat!’ she stopped me as I was on the way to do somebody’s podcast, and said ‘we want to let you know we’re going to give you a Netflix special.’ I was like, OK, and I guess she was expecting a bigger excitement. I’m a 47-year-old black woman from the hood. Don’t s— excite me anymore. But I was happy. But I knew I had to put in some work and I put in almost a year and a half on this special.
Was it tricky trying to film it during the pandemic because everything’s crazy with scheduling and finding venues that are open and all that?
You know, a lot of people wasn’t going out. Well not really tricky, but I tell you this, a lot of comedians cancelled shows. A lot of people pulled out and I was like, oh that’s good, I’m gonna get that money, get that stage time, because I have a special coming up which they ended up pushing the special back, because of COVID. But when everybody started cancelling shows, I said, I’ll go out! I’ll go out. I ain’t scared of COVID!
Now you don’t seem like you’re scared of much at this point.
You know, I’ve been shot a couple of times.
I don’t want to put you on the spot but you talk about your oldest daughter in the special.
Yeah, she’s gay as hell.
I bring it up because, in reviewing everyone’s stand-up specials, it’s striking how many Black men in stand-up cannot joke about LGBTQ+ issues without getting more than a little homophobic, or barring that, feeling unsure of what to make of homosexuality when they joke about it onstage. What’s your sense of that?
I think it helped me because I have a gay child and it makes me understand it. And I’m aware of the things that I’ve talked about being a gay parent. You know, I try not to gay bash and I’m not homophobic. You know, in the beginning, I was. I will say, you know, because that’s just the way I was raised, but I always used to think, what you don’t understand a lot of time God will make your kids come home with it. And when I went to prison, I didn’t like gay women. Then my daughter came home and came out as gay, then I got an insight. I’m not that closed-minded person that I used to be in the early ‘90s.
Have you watched the special yet?
Of course, that’s why I asked about your daughter. I also learned about “wry neck.”
I have to tell people that I’m not lying! My momma had it. My sister has it. And I didn’t even know it was called wry neck until my sister told me the name of her disease.
This is the first I heard about it. So thank you. Thank you for educating me and millions of other people soon enough about this.
Ms. Pat: Y’All Wanna Hear Something Crazy? premieres today (Feb. 8, 2021) on Netflix.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.