Many will agree that late comedian Patrice O’neal left us before his time. The loved comedy great countlessly comes up in conversation as one of the best to touch the stage. With reports of an upcoming documentary and a recent release of his last comedy album The Lost Files, Patrice O’neals legacy looks to never be forgotten, especially with wife Von Decarlo behind the scenes. Comedy Hype had the chance to speak with Von about O’neals life, legacy, projects all while she begins transitioning to tell her own story.
CH: Is doing stand-up new for you, since being closely linked with Patrice?
V: Well I was doing stand up before I even met Patrice. The funny story about that is that I didn’t tell him I was doing stand-up at first. This one time he had called me to come over to The Comedy Cellar to hang out and when I got there I had a stamp on my hand from around the corner where you would do open mic night and he ask, “What ’s that.” He then let me know that he would teach me whatever I need to know about comedy, but said “If you ever bomb on stage, you got to take those bullets yourself.. If anyone ever start going at you on or off stage and you look at me like why aren’t you protecting me??… we’re breaking up.” So I backed out of stand-up a little bit, and it’s one of those things I actually wish I didn’t back out on.
CH: What kind of stand-up comedy do you find yourself doing?
V: When I do stand-up it’s more self-deprecating comedy, I talk about myself being a ‘sister mom’ aka a mother who looks, feels and acts more like a sister than a mom. Dating now is weird. I find a lot of material in dating or trying to date because young dudes like me (Laughs). And they like calling me Coach Von. Dating is so dumb to me. (Laughs) My comedy reflects whatever is going on in my life at that time.
CH: Coach Von, Where that come from?
V: When Twitter first started, that was like my outlet to talk trash because I love basketball and I love the Knicks. I would call the games, and was usually spot on, so people on Twitter started calling me Coach Von. Also at that time, I was a bartender and people would always ask me for relationship advice. After I wrote the book (Speak Fluent Man ) that increased. Before Patrice passed he said I should write a book based on his philosophies from a female point of view, and thats what Speak Fluent Man is about. I’m not really trying to come off as a Ms. ‘Know It All’ but people respect what I have to say about relationships because I come from a real place.
CH:What’s going with your one woman show, Lasagna. Plan on touring?
V: I want to.It debuted at the The PIT (Peoples’ Improv Theatre), and I got really great reviews, especially from the women because it’s a very honest show. I talk about plastic surgery, I talk about the cougar life, dating people after losing someone, my plastic surgery woes. I touch on my come up, it’s just a very honest show.
People relate to the truth. People love watching you tell your truth because it gives them more confidence to tell their truth. I think that’s why people like my show especially women.
CH: Why do women love funny men?
V: Women just in general like intelligent and confident men. It shows strength. The strongest women on earth still usually likes a more domineering man. It’s just an attractive thing. Men get us with their confidence, not with their appearance. Being funny is just something in a mans tool belt that shows a level of confidence, and it’s very attractive.
CH: How’s the upcoming Patrice O’Neal benefit coming along?
V: It’s a Bill Burr thing, produced by Maureen Taran. I stutter when I talk about him because you would never think that people are so loving and generous. It’s been four years and he still is doing the benefit. The money from the benefit goes to Patrice’s mom and myself, which of course helps me to take care of my daughter. Who does that? So yes I stutter when it comes to Saint Bill, he probably doesn’t like it when I call him that, but I think the benefit is a testament to Patrice’s generosity and respect he had for his friends, and now its being reciprocated back to his family with Bill Burr in the forefront.
CH: Why do you think Patrice has such a strong following even after his death?
V: Patrice died before his big big break. Just when he was on the line of crossing over into a massive breakthrough in his career. I think a lot of people would have liked to have seen what would have been and what would have come from a mind of a person that people considered a genius even before he died. For the most part I see people in the comedy community, fans, and friends all making the same comments they did when he was alive. And when the ‘Better Than You’ documentary comes out you’ll see why.
CH: How’s the documentary on Patrice coming along. Any release date?
V: I wish we did but we’re not shooting just a little IPhone 30 second video (Laughs), this is a monster. It’s a feature length film. We started filming at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal over the summer. We just had four dates that we shot in New York and we didn’t get everyone, so we have to come back. We are anticipating doing Boston next with Dane Cook and Patrice’s mom because that’s where Patrice is from. Then we’re looking to stop in LA and then back to New York. We’ll be shooting through out 2016 and then have to consider the editing process, so right now we don’t have a definitive release date. We are definitely working, this movie is going to be amazing.
CH: Why did you feel this was the best time to start working on the documentary?
V: One is that stories are still fresh in everybody’s mind, and honestly for myself I need to move on. I’m very proud to be the
HBIC (Head B*tch In Charge) of the Patrice O’Neal legacy, such as running the company in charge of his name and
likeness under which I produced all three of his albums, and also completing my book. I made a vow to finish what we were doing before he passed away and do a documentary that in my heart would solidify his legacy and move on. I want to feel proud that I did right by him in life and in death. I know that I’m not God but I think he was definitely taken away too soon. That was my husband, my daughter goes through it everyday, and I go through it in life and working on his projects. It takes an incredible amount of focus and effort to produce these projects that are such emotional triggers for me. I never will fully let go but at some point I have to look at the work that I have done to secure his legacy, know that its solid, and let it live on it’s own. I think it (the documentary) will tell the story that needs to be told about Patrice, his comedy, his mind, his story, and where he was going to in life and where he came from. I think it will inspire a new generation of people to know him and his work, and it will hopefully give added closure to his circle of friends and family. It is also an opportunity for me to put Patrice in that starring (film) role that he didn’t get to yet in life.
CH: Was Patrice hoping to break in more film?
V: Patrice loved film and comedy, but he was actually talking a lot about what he wanted to do behind the camera. He really enjoyed giving opportunities to his circle of people that he felt deserved it but didn’t have the same level of opportunities he did. For instance, I wrote the theme music for Elephant In The Room. He wanted his own original theme music for his special, and at the time, I was working on music for my one woman show which I later released as an album. He liked my music and presented the opportunity for me to write for him. Now, he could have gotten Comedy Central to license out one of his favorite RUN DMC songs, which he almost did because he was such a perfectionist and the first tracks I submitted to him he didn’t like. I ended up writing six different songs before he finally picked one. It all worked out and he was so proud of Elephant In The Room, not just for himself, but for the opportunities he was able to give to me and people like comedian Harris Stanton.
CH: How would you define comedy?
V: What’s my definition of comedy? That’s an interesting question because some people really just see it as “Oh it’s just comedy” and never look at it deeper. I guess comedy for me is definitely a truth. It’s a way to open people up to their own truth by exploring and exposing your own. For me, I primarily want to be a good storyteller but be funny with it, like Whoopie Goldberg.
CH: Amy Schumer recently was called out for stealing material from Patrice, what’s your thoughts on the matter?
V: You know my first reaction is to protect Patrice. People like to dig and I know Patrice was never intending on using those stock jokes as his material. I said a little about it in the open letter I put out in response. He really wasn’t using those jokes as part of his material, I know that’s hard to understand for people who don’t know his style, but it really wasn’t apart of his show if that makes any sense. He was a really curious person in general, and when he learned about those jokes on the college circuit he was just fascinated by them. He was surprised he never heard of them. So if you’ve ever seen Patrice on stage you know it’s like a conversation, it’s not knock knock jokes to make you laugh three times in one minute. That’s not his style. Whenever he did those jokes it was more like a social experiment to see how many people knew of those jokes. The reason why I spoke on it is because people like to dig, I just didn’t want people to start going at Patrice like he wasn’t authentic. That was my first thing. Patrice taught me to think 50 steps ahead, so I decided to clear things up right then. Amy is big time, she doesn’t need me to speak for her. My thing wasn’t about defending Amy, she doesn’t need my defense. My thing was letting it be known that Patrice wasn’t saying the jokes like it was his material.
When I do stand up the safest place is putting it (the jokes) on myself. Self deprecating comedy is where it’s at for me. I’m still paying my dues in the stand up world and don’t expect any special treatment, but I’m learning if you do that style of comedy right, and from an honest place, you’re more relatable and won’t come off like you’re being self centered.
CH: What’s next for once these next projects are completed?
V: I’m very proud to be spear heading this documentary, and I recently released Patrice’s final comedy album The Lost Files. I’m proud of putting energy into Patrice’s stuff but I am definitely in a transitional phase of moving towards concentrating fully on my own stuff and storytelling. Doing my one woman show ‘Lasagna’ was a long time coming for me, I want to have my run in New York, and eventually tour with it. Keith Robinson has been someone who has encouraged me about focusing on myself and my work. Very supportive. Affion Crockett is another one. I feel I have a lot of support and mentors in that area. Comedian Derek Gaines has even given me advice that he once got from Patrice as a young comic, which we both found hilariously ironic. I’m going to be taking all of their advice to heart about branding my own comedy and my stand up. Now that doesn’t mean I’m letting Patrice’s stuff fall by the waist side, because that’s my heart and he deserve the best for his legacy. But it’s time for me to move into finding my own voice in life and in comedy. Now it’s time for me to build my own respect and my own lane.
To follow up with more on Von’s story connect with her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, @VonDecarlo.