Always a live-wire, former Last Comic Standing contestant Patricia Williams, better known to her fans as Ms. Pat, is bringing her no-holds-barred comic perspective to Houston Improv for one night only on Thursday, June 24.
After almost a year away from performing live, Pat says she’s “happy to be back” to hitting the stand-up stages once more – even if there was a “learning curve” attached. “It was a little risky at first, but I think I caught my groove back,” she says. “I came back [to stand-up] in April after I finished shooting this TV show. It was a learning curve ... one thing is: most comics forgot most their material! Because you know what you don’t use, you lose. You’re slipping through old papers and you’re listening to old sets so you can remember your own jokes.
"I was asking my friend, my opening act: ‘How’d I used to say that?’ It’s just getting back to the groove. It’s like, starting open mikes for the first time. It was weird. I found myself telling audiences: I’m better than this! You should have caught me eight months ago!”
Though her act took a pandemic sabbatical, Ms. Pat kept her comedy chops busy in a whole new way, co-creating and starring in her own self-titled show, set to debut on BET+ over the summer. “It was challenging. Me and the creator, we wrote the pilot and shot it over a year ago. So once Hulu dropped it, BET picked it up. We already had the idea, but it’s so based on my life, it really dug deep. Some stuff was like, we can’t put that on TV. But what we did put on TV came out really well. It’s a very funny show. You know, it’s me. The really good thing about BET+ is they let me be me. They didn’t try to tell me this or that, they didn’t try to hush me up and I’ll tell you this: I’m NOT Claire Huxtable!”
The Ms. Pat Show, which has a ten-episode first season order, dramatizes the comedian’s real-life hard luck story going from convicted felon to Midwest mom, as detailed in her NAACP Award nominated memoir Rabbit. “It was partially based on my book. There were some stories that I hadn’t put in the book that I pulled out, but the show is mostly about my daily life, you know? Me moving from Atlanta to Indiana, into a very conservative neighborhood – and me adapting to a community I didn’t grow up in which is a white community.
"It’s not based on black and white, but just the every day challenges that I have in my community, those things that I went through. And you know, I just based it on stuff... like there’s an episode where me and my husband go to counseling, and you’ll see my daughter come out in an episode – I have a gay daughter. So I just took my life and jammed it into ten episodes.”
With so much personal history finding its way into her first season, the obvious question seems to be: does Ms. Pat have any anxiety about her family seeing themselves onscreen? Ms. Pat replies with a thundering laugh, quipping: “Black people we don’t have no anxiety! Not yet, anyway.”
While shooting over the Spring, the show caught the attention of at least one-high profile fan: sitcom legend Norman Lear. Known for blending laughs with social issues in his historic run of primetime laffers including All in the Family, The Jefferson and Sanford and Son, Pat speaks highly of Lear’s influence on the series’ goals. “I was telling my manager how much the creator and I really liked Norman Lear – and [co-creator] Jordan Cooper, he really wanted to have it be like the sitcoms they had back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and stuff like that. And he talked about Norman Lear all the time. And I just told my manager how much we really liked Norman Lear, and we really hoped it would remind people of what he created back then.
"So we set up a Zoom that blew my mind - he watched the pilot, and called me and he just said: You guys created something so good. And he was like, you wouldn’t believe the stuff they wouldn’t let me get away with! And what they let you get away with – that’s how much TV has changed.”
While Pat doesn’t expect Lear to cameo on-camera anytime soon (She jokes: “Norman Lear is 99 years old! I’m just happy I got a Zoom with him!”), she emphasizes how flattering it was that the legend wanted to make contact with her after watching her work. And as for the future of the new series, Ms Pat remains wide open. “If they keep having me back, I’ll keep coming back. You know, at first I thought it was really hard. But once you get into a groove, and the good part about it being my TV show and the show being about me... it was really easy for me. It wasn’t something that was made up, so I think I just melted right into the role.”
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 24 at Improv Comedy Club Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway, Suite 455. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $80-180.
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