Fans of standup comedy suffered a real blow yesterday when Patrice O'Neal passed away at the young age of 41. For those unfamiliar with O'Neal's brand of comedy, it was confrontational, blunt, and unapologetic to the point of arrogance. It was also brilliant. Patrice's comedy would instantly convert half of the room into lifelong fans even as it chased the other half out the door. A staple at various roasts, most recently Charlie Sheen's, Patrice had the unique perspective and gift for pointing out bullshit that could have taken him all the way to the top if he had just softened his image a little, been willing to come across as more agreeable than acidic. That, however, was simply not his style. He wasn't willing to dull the edges of his comedy or his opinions, both of which at times made him persona non grata among casting directors. If he'd had more time to stick around, more time to make public appearances and let audiences get used to him, who knows? He might have been the next big thing. As it is, we can only watch and re-watch his one and only standup special, this year's amazing Elephant In the Room, and wonder what might have been.
Sadly, Patrice is not the only comedic genius to have been taken from us too soon.
8. Greg Giraldo
Hell, Patrice isn't even the only regular from Colin Quinn's Tough Crowd to pass away prematurely; 2010 took from us fellow New York City comedian Greg Giraldo. Giraldo walked out on a law practice in order to bring his meticulously analytical mind to the world of comedy, and his material only got better when it drew on his painful real-life experiences with addiction and divorce. He had maintained sobriety for quite a while when he accidentally overdosed on prescription sleeping medicine at the age of 44. Doubly tragic was the fact that his friend, fellow comedian Mike DeStefano, participated in a Comedy Central tribute to Giraldo, then passed away himself days before it aired.