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Nobody Can Tell the Stories Ms. Pat Tells

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for Strength Of A Woman Festival & Summit

There’s no traditional route into comedy — especially none like Ms. Pat’s. In the late ’80s, at age 15, she began selling crack to support her two children (both fathered by a man 12 years her senior who sexually abused her). When she was 30, a social worker suggested comedy. At 45, her former street name, Rabbit, became the title of her first stand-up album as well as her autobiography. Now, in 2022, she has a popular podcast, The Patdown; a new Netflix special, Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?; and a second season of her very own sitcom, The Ms. Pat Show, premiering on BET+ in August.

On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Ms. Pat talks about her Netflix special, the incredible journey to get her TV show off the ground, and the aggressively familiar love of her fans with guest host Bert Kreischer. You can read excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode below. Tune in to Good One every Thursday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Alchemizing Anger

I wanted to start by saying congratulations on your special. You absolutely murdered it, and you murdered it in your own voice, your own way — the same way you did your sitcom. You are redefining the genre of comedy in so many ways.
Thank you. Thank you. I’m trying. I learned a long time ago that you can easily get stuck in whatever everybody else is doing, so I decided that I’m going to do the shit my way. I’ll tell these grimy, dark stories, and if they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t.

That’s the hardest part of comedy — finding your voice. What was it like in the early years when you were trying to figure out who you were onstage?
I think I was falling into what I saw other females doing — like Sommore and Sheryl Underwood. Young comics tend to do the people that they like. Then people kept telling me, “No, you’re a storyteller,” and it really made me start to realize who Richard Pryor was. Who Chris Rock was. Other people who were storytellers. I mean, you can only write so many dick-sucking jokes.

I think that I found my voice when I started to be honest with who I was. A lot of my shit comes from the way I grew up. How I lived. So once I didn’t give a fuck what people thought about me, it allowed me to open my mouth. Open doors in my life that I shut. Deal with a lot of the pain. I think that’s what made me stand out. Because nobody can tell the stories I tell.

They’re hard to steal. And even if you stole them, I think you’d bomb with them 20 times before you figured out how to get it over.
How many people have really had a thumb stuck up their ass and are willing to talk about it?

How many people got their nipples shot off? Your stories are so rich. How does one stand out in your life and find its way into a special or your act?
Not being angry. A lot of people say, “I can’t believe you’re not angry.” A lot of times with the shit that happens to people in their past, they just get angrier and angrier. I chose to deal with my life when I got older, and I realized that I’m in a fucking cycle of crazy people in my family. I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. I’m 50 years old — if I’m sitting here holding all of that energy to be mad at a person, I’m wasting my life away.

Same Strokes for Different Folks

Does your fan base surprise you?
It used to, because it’s so diverse. I can almost tell where they come from. Bert Kreischer podcast? Joe Rogan podcast? Marc Maron podcast? Bob & Tom? Ms. Pat Show? What has really gotten crazy with my fan base is that they’ve turned Black. I didn’t have many Black fans until the show came out. Then they were like, “Where the hell have you been?”

And Black folks, my people, are crazy as hell. They’ll just come up and snatch you: “Give me a hug, bitch!” They’re aggressive — they feel like they know you. Like they’re part of your family. My other fan base is like, “Oh, Ms. Pat! So happy to meet you.” Not my people. They think I’m their cousin — like I’m at the barbecue and they’ve known me 20 years.

I have all types of people. The diversity just makes me smile. Because when I hear somebody that is not from my walk of life or my race and they can relate to a part of my life, I’m like, “Oh, the only thing different between all of us is just the color of our skin.”

Fucking With Mutual Spirits

How many versions of the show did you guys go through before you made this one?
Oh, we went through three writers.

Three writers? See, no one does that. No one has the balls to stand up for themselves in this business. Everyone just goes, “Sure, if you like it, let’s do it.”
I wanted to be on TV, but I wanted to be on TV right and funny — the Ms. Pat way. I didn’t want to be drowned out and let the network dog-walk me. It was for Fox. They’d say, “You should be happy as fuck. You’re about to make a shit ton of money!” I told them in the meeting, “Look, white people, you could never give me as much money as I have stolen.” Money was never the issue with me. Whatever I do, I want it to be good.

So we ended up with this writer and, as you say, This is not it. So I go to my team, which is Jon Radler and the people at Imagine, and I say, “This writer ain’t gonna work.” And they say “What?!” I don’t care if I don’t get another opportunity. I don’t wanna be on TV like that. So we had to part ways with the writer. They were like, “It’s so good that you stand up for yourself,” but I said, “No, you motherfuckers were going to let me go through with this. It was me who said no.” Then we get another writer, and they didn’t like the script. They say you only get two or three chances in Hollywood.

You get one chance in Hollywood sometimes.
I got three fucking chances, and Lee Daniels convinced Fox: “Hey, if you would only just give her one more chance, I’ll go find her a writer.” We found a 22-year-old kid still in college in New York named Jordan E. Cooper. I’m a realist. I can’t get down with the fake shit, Bert. I pull this kid to the side, and I say, “Look. They’re never going to give you this fucking job. You’re 22, you ain’t never wrote nothing but a play, but if you listen to me, you can get this fucking job. Let’s write a script behind their back.”

We wrote a script behind their back. I told him, “Take your fucking name off of it. If they don’t like it, then they can’t say that you can’t write. We can put it back on me.” I give it to Lee Daniels, who was like, “Who wrote this?” I said, “Me.” And he was like, “Nuh uh, everything’s spelt right.” They loved the script. Lee helped us tweak it, we took it over to Fox, and that was the making of The Ms. Pat Show.

So we shoot the pilot at Hulu. I pick up on spirits with good people and bad people. I’m from the street, so my instincts have kept me from getting killed. I remember shooting the pilot and a big person coming down from Hulu, and I’m saying, “They’re not going to pick up the show.” And they’re like, “Why? We’re killing this!” My spirit said, That person doesn’t understand me. The first thing the Hulu person says is, “Why is she hollering at her kids like that?” Motherfucker, you never been in a Black neighborhood? You’ve never spanked your damn kids?” So Hulu drops it, and I say, “I told y’all Hulu was gonna drop it.”

I never felt like it wasn’t going to get picked up. I felt like we were going to land where we needed to land. And we did.

Not to get into some fucking existential woke conversation, but I’m in a business where everyone understands me. The shorthand is very quick. What’s it like to make a great product and watch an older white dude go, “The fuck is this?” and, without saying it, basically say, “I’ve never met a Black person”?
I have so many people behind the scenes at Hulu saying, “This is something different. This is what people want to see.” Because one person didn’t get it, they didn’t allow it to go further. Everybody ain’t gonna get you. Everybody ain’t gonna like your honesty. Everybody ain’t gonna like your style. Everybody ain’t gonna like what you do. So I’ve learned in life to fuck with people who fuck with you.

It was so funny, because the night it came out and started shutting down the BET+ app, everybody started tagging Hulu: “Hulu, you fucked up!” But we are where we’re supposed to be, because the things that we tackle in the second season — I looked at the co-creators and said, “You would have never gotten away with this shit nowhere else.”

These interview excerpts have been edited and condensed.

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