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My friend Patrice O’Neal died today. There are a handful of comedians who I’ve seen stay true to themselves (to the core) while also staying consistently funny. Patrice was one of them.

When I first met Patrice he wasn’t Patrice. He was a bouncer at a comedy club in Boston called “Bruiser”. Even then he knew who he was and how he felt about things. His intimidating size and tough looks dissolved when he smiled at me and he treated me like a little cousin even when I was an established comic and he was tossing out drunks.

When he first came to NY he came to stay in my 6th floor walk-up apartment in Little Italy. One morning he headed out the door with his packed bags in his hands. Shopping bags if I remember correctly. I told him he shouldn’t give up so quickly and should stay in New York longer. He said he WAS staying in New York. He just wasn’t staying where he had to climb six flights of stairs to sleep on some asshole’s foldout couch.

I watched Patrice develop as a comedian but he never had to develop a truthful voice. This conviction made him a phenomenal talent and it also caused him a lot of problems. He didn’t pull his punches, which is why he worked so perfectly on “Tough Crowd w/ Colin Quinn” and anywhere else he could speak his mind. I hated being on that show with him because he would never shut the fuck up.

When he headlined a benefit I put together at Town Hall in NY one year he faced an almost completely white crowd who had laughed very little at an amazing line-up of comics before him. He walked out, told the crowd straight up who they were; who he was, and then destroyed the place. People talked about him for weeks.

When he did the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen this year he again closed out the show. He told a friend he wanted to bring some love to the night. After watching the other roasters attack the tired honoree and each other, he stepped up and turned the lights on the event. He deconstructed each previous performer and punished the ones who had mocked him for having diabetes. Patrice was merciless, dead on, and again he was the one everyone remembered from that night.

I am heavy with sadness today. If you saw him do standup you know what it’s like to see a great comic speak the truth. If you knew Patrice and were lucky enough to have him smile at you and bust your balls, then you know also know what a rare human being we lost today.

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  • Tim

    Thanks for sharing that. Good stuff, man.

  • Nicki

    Nice tribute Fitz. RIP Patrice

  • Gabe_sanchez

    I wish I could have met Patrice (Mr. O’Neal). I loved every stand up he did. It was raw, he was truthful, he was a genius. He was one of the few comedians that I felt like talked about things that I would notice in everyday life. The way he would sit up jokes and deliver the punch lines was flawless. Down to the pauses and to the obscure references he would state. I would imagine him being a great person. I wish I was lucky enough to have met him. Rest I peace, Patrice O’Neal, you will be greatly missed.

  • Scott Havice

    I just heard the sad news watching Jimmy Fallons show, he said some kind words…..But your thoughtfulness mixed with personal stories is the reason i love your podcast, and apparently your writing. I’ve listened to every podcast and watch Pumped.
    FYI im a mailman and listen as i deliver in answer to a long ago question.
    sorry for your loss, Scott

  • Jim Lauletta

    Brilliantly said, Greg. He, much like yourself, always treated me with kindness and respect even after he blew up to that level of success many of us comics can only dream of. It blew my mind when I heard the news and so grateful I got to know him. My heart goes out to his lovely mother, of whom he very much adored. Such a loss.

  • Caleb

    Not just in the comedy world, but in the world of art as a whole, Patrice was exemplary of what we perceive as greatness. His vision was unique and his voice stood out as if he was the sole interpreter of a long-lost text explaining the meaning of life.
    I am selfishly heart-broken over the loss of one of my favorite comics and the enormous expectations I had for Patrice to entertain me for years to come. His laugh could turn any bit into the funniest thing I heard all day, and his wit made me never want to quip again for fear of sounding foolishly dense in comparison.
    I am compelled to run into the street and shout at everyone about our collective loss and make them all as depressed as myself. Patrice stood as a rock in the ocean and never let the waves of criticism change him. I am terribly jealous of those who knew him and hope they all know that there are many out there who loved him.


  • Stuart Tomlinson

    You did a wonderful thing here by remembering Mr O’Neal. You obviously cared about him very much and it’s nice to see pay tribute in this way. I have never seen any of his stand up, but I have always heard you and Joe Rogan rave about him. Youre a good man Grapefruit. I will forever be a fan.

  • Jamie Murray

    Thanks for those awesome words on an awesome Man.

    Both of you have huge hearts in a world that needs Good people telling the Truth.

  • Marissa

    So sad to hear that yet another fantastic comedian has died and left a void in the lives of people who followed them resolutely. Both Greg Giraldo and Patrice O’Neal are terrible losses to the comedy world. And as a big fan of both of them, I will feel their loss for years to come. I send my condolences to Patrice O’Neal’s friends and family.

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