2006_06_patrice_oneal.jpgPatrice Oneal appears frequently on Comedy Central and VH1, has his own HBO half hour comedy special, a Comedy Central half hour comedy special, a Showtime half house comedy special, and is a nationally touring headlining comedian.

I wanted to ask you about the time you spent writing for the WWE.
I was a big fan of wrestling as a kid so writing for them was one of the pinnacles of my career. I got to meet Vince McMahon. He's one of the two or three people that I've met that I was in awe of. I couldn't stop watching how he operated, how he listened, and how he gave orders. It was a great experience, but I worked there a very short time, about three events. I got fired because the life style you had to lead was 100% WWE. I wasn't interested in making that my entire life. I'd have gigs, and they'd say I had to commit to their stuff. I got a little taste of the life. To write a little bit of the backstage vignettes and to meet everybody was one of the best times I've had.

You were there for a couple months, then?
Not even a month; two weeks. I was good at it. If I had decided that that was what I wanted to do, I could have done it. It came so naturally to me. Even if I had made millions doing that, there would have been a point where I looked back and wondered what would've happened if I had continued doing my comedy. I would never had done the HBO special if I had been with WWE, which was a huge deal. When HBO was at their prime, I was in my late teens and early twenties. For a young comedian, that was the dream. A taste of WWE was good enough for me.

How detailed did the scripts get?
Someone like The Rock or Triple H gets carte blanche. They follow a guide, but the main superstars get to say whatever they want because they're trusted. Writers create the storylines. If you're not a superstar like Triple H, you need a reason to exist. For some guys, writers write every word that they say. At my time there was a guy named Test who I thought should be a more popular than he was. As a writer, I could write a storyline for him, submit it to McMahon, and he could get some play.

What sort of role did comedy play in your life growing up?
It kept me alive when I got down and when people wanted to do things to me. It helped me work my way through growing up in a dangerous area. People were getting killed where I was growing up. I was known to be a happy-go-lucky dude. Sometimes, that can get you victimized where I grew up. That's why a lot of kids don't get to follow their dreams in these neighborhoods. If you're trying to work yourself out of the situation that you're in, some people don't like that. I got lucky that comedy was an outlet for me. It kept me going and keeps me going now.

Are you able to pinpoint the first time that you were aware of your ability to make people laugh?
I can remember being funny in the first grade. As soon as I could imagine being funny, I was funny. I like funny around me. I like to sit and laugh and make people laugh. That's why I don't get along with comedians that aren't funny. I don't like people around me who aren't funny. I know people who aren't comedians, but are still funny and I'm drawn to those people. I'm drawn to people who give laughter and not take it. I don't take laughter. That's why comedy's a terrible business. Sometimes, you have to take laughter to get ratings to get money. I do Web Junk, so I have to take laughter from people to make the show work. I like giving laughter more. It drives me. There are some people that are in this just to get paid, and they suck. I've never met anybody that's in it just for the money that anybody's respected. That's not saying that they're not the richest, but respect is higher than wealth for me. I came from welfare. Being a thousandaire is good enough for me. If I'm ever a millionaire or above, all that shit's just to share. I can get a bigger television, but then I still got ninety nine hundred thousand dollars left. I'd just give it away, hang out, and have a good time. I did funny as a business, I wouldn't be in comedy. I'd do something else.

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in comedy?
When I was seventeen. I had a legitimate desire and want to do comedy at seventeen, but I started at twenty-two. It's like exercise. You say, "I'll do it tomorrow," and then you don't do it and say, "I'll do it tomorrow," and then 365 tomorrows later you still haven't done it. Eventually, I did it today and I've been doing it today ever since.

Some comedians start as young as fourteen or sixteen. Do you think it's better to start that young?
I was twenty-two when I started; I did a bit of living. I would imagine that when you do something, like any young person, that at some point you have to grow up. At some point, you're going to have to deal with grown-up emotions. If you're fourteen or sixteen, there are life lessons you're missing out on. Look at the alphabet. Let's say that at A you're born and that at M you're a millionaire at the age of twenty-one. You skip over things that help you live at M when you jump from G to M. You're going to eventually come back to that. Some people put their lives in the microwaves and go all the way to Q, but they got to come back and see K and L. You can't skip life. If you skip letter C, you're missing out on lessons. If you start at fourteen, it's great, but there's letters that you've skipped. There's letter's I might have missed at twenty-two, but I don't know what I've missed.

For instance, right now, in my life, I'm learning about good credit, mortgages, and loans. I could meet a guy that says, "I bought my first house at eighteen." I'd go, "Wow, I'm impressed," but they're impressed by something I did. At thirty-six, I have to go back and learn about mortgages and financing. Maybe, if I had learned this stuff at an earlier part of my life I could have been a real-estate tycoon at thirty-six.

And how did that first open mic go?
I did well. If I didn't do well, I wouldn't be doing it.

How long were you doing stand up before you noticed a difference?
I think you go through five-year intervals. Some people never grow. They do their same acts till they're dead. I can't say the same jokes over and over again. They disconnect, wear out, and become not funny. There was a phase in my life where I would just go for the kill. Killing was mandatory. Then it was killing and saying something. It got to the point where I wanted to say something and do well. Then it got to the point where I just wanted to say something. Now I'm at the point where I want to say something for me, say something for them, have some people walk out, have some people stand up.

How long was it before you moved up to emceeing or middling?
I was never an emcee. I'd never host the shows. I was too selfish for that. It took me about four years to middle. I left Boston in 97 after my fifth year. After a while I understood that you have to leave Boston to make it. I wouldn't have been able to grow. Once I got to the point where I was too strong to middle but knew I wasn't going to headline, so I just left.

When do you think someone should move to New York to pursue comedy?
I left because it was time for me to leave, but some people stay forever.

What are some things that you know about stand up now that you would have like to have known earlier?
None of it you could avoid. I hate the business part of it. I don't like owners, bookers, and agents. I don't like comics that steal and the desperate nature of the business. I'd rather go back and learn things about life than learn things about comedy. Comedy is easy compared to life. There are some people I'd avoid. I'd probably write more. I'd write scripts, ideas, and different things.

What are some changes you've noticed in stand up since getting involved?
There are a lot more opportunities, but to do it seems less impressive. Everyone thinks they can do it because comics became so accessible with Myspace, the Internet, and everything. Back in the day, Seinfeld just had to go on Carson and the next day he was famous. I've done three half hour specials on three different networks, but no one knows who I am. There's no more one thing that makes you famous.

What do you think of the term alternative comedy?
What's the alternative to comedy? If I say I'm going to drink alternative water or pet an alternative dog, what is that? Funny is funny. It's just a name that a certain group put on not being funny. If I'm a baseball player and I go out there with a hockey stick, am I going to call that alternative baseball? Don't use the platform of comedy to not be funny. Call it something else, but don't call it comedy. If I say I'm a writer, but I only talk is that alternative writing? It's a stupid thing. Alternative to what? That was a smarmy way of unfunny comics to belittle funny comics and say, "It's an alternative to dick jokes." Shut up. I don't care what you say, just be funny. Don't call yourself alternative because you can't do well at Carolinas on a Saturday night. Embrace what you do. You do comedy. If you do comedy, you do comedy. If you're not able to do well at some shitty bar or you can only do well in a coffee house with a controlled environment, that's not anybody's fault. You're just not funny enough, but you're still a comedian if you want to call yourself that. But don't say you're alternative. You're a comic. Period.

Does it seem like there's another comedy boom slowly building?
A guy like Dane Cook changed the comedic landscape. He's famous without the industry. I root for Dane Cook to succeed because if Dane Cook succeeds we all succeed. It means we don't need some asshole to decide how good we are. He went out there to the masses. The Internet makes people who want to find you able to find you and be your fan. I don't know if I would want that sort of close relationship with the fans. The fans are no longer faceless individuals. They're Myspaces now. That vagueness is gone.

What are some projects that you're currently involved in?
Web Junk and stand up. As soon as I'm doing something, you'll know about it.

Are you going to be putting out a CD?
Probably in the next six months

What do you like to do after a performance?
If it was a good one, I reflect and let it go. I sit around and hear the praises. When I do well, someone can say, "You suck," and I'll say, "Thank you." But if I suck, I don't want to keep hearing that I suck because I know I sucked. No one can tell me that I sucked more than me. I can never tell myself that I'm as good as I can be, though. I need a lot of affirmation just to keep going and to know that I'm on the right path. I search out positive comments and avoid the negatives.

You can visit Patrice online at Patriceoneal.com