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Patrice O'Neal, just like Greg Giraldo who died in September 2010, is a comedian that never got his proper fame. And now, it is unlikely he ever will. O'Neal died on November 29, 2011 from complications from a stroke he suffered in mid-October due to his diabetes. For his entire life he struggled with weight-management and diabetes. Elephant in the Room was his first, and only, comedy special he ever made.
What made Patrice O'Neal so unique was his spontaneous delivery. He referred to his specials as "conversational," and not of a typical breed. You can tell from Elephant in the Room that, while some skits were written, many jokes stemmed from the audience and audience participation. Patrice encourages fans to shout out answers to his questions so he can form a punchline in an impromptu manner. I think this is what a lot of people either didn't pay attention to, or didn't realize this and that's why he never reached a respectable height in his career.
If it hadn't been for his final Television appearance on The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, I doubt many people would even know who he was. Same with Greg Giraldo. How many people would've known him if Comedy Central didn't make his name what is was? It's a question that will never be answered, just pondered.
Elephant in the Room is just what it sounds like. Patrice is referring to big issues like animal cruelty, racism, cheating, harassment, and many other issues, he feels, he needs to address. He tackles them in a way where humor comes natural, as it derives from the situation himself. Take for example when he discusses animal cruelty, a topic I really hate to bring up. It's a heartless and cruel form of abuse, like any type. Patrice doesn't poke fun at the idea, but the gratuitous, guilt-bringing commercials. Now that's funny.
Of course, there are times when the special doesn't go in the proper direction. In the very beginning, Patrice gets to hung up on the topic of "breasts" and the idea feels tired and dreary. I would've much rather seen Patrice use those minutes to provide more of his insanely spontaneous remarks and philosophy on unsung issues. He brings such valid points to the table, especially when talking about the over-exaggerated issue of harassment.
The special refrains from useless skit, which is one of the highest compliments I can give a comedy special. I hate skits. They're drab and unnecessary. Especially when it stars a comedian in costume when he/she should be on stage with a mic in their hands. Patrice devotes seventy-seven minutes to just him, the mic, and the audience. Patrice also refrains from excessive uses of the n word, a word used far too much with current black comedians. I can't recall Patrice using the word more than five or six times. Maybe he spoke so softly and fluently that it was muted, but I highly doubt it.
Sadly, Patrice's career ended far too early. His death was not only saddening because he was so young, but because we all know a seventy-seven minute special obviously can't contain the weight, no pun intended, of his philosophy and wit. I think he would've been one of the many comedians who got better with age and wisdom. He almost reminds me of the later George Carlin, circa 2004 - 2007. Carlin become more philosophical in his later years rather than his very blunt, vulgar character he created in the seventies. If Patrice could form a side of maturity pretty well at the beginning of his career, imagine how greatly it could've improved with many more years of experience.
Starring: Patrice O'Neal.
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