BET’s Ms. Pat Show is a poignant family-centric comedy series based on comic Patricia Williams’ real life. Executive produced by director Lee Daniels, The Ms. Pat Show features Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams as the main character who reigns in a fictionalized version of her life’s journey.
The stories come from reality, a succession of unfiltered snapshots from her life, and are reminiscent of classic Norman Lear sitcom scenarios, complete with a live audience. This former convicted felon-turned-standup comedian now finds herself happily married and living in Indiana with her solid-as-a-rock husband (played by J. Bernard Calloway), a problematic sister (played by Tami Roman) and two sets of children, who she has previously described as her two Blue Cross/Blue Shield kids and her two older Medicaid kids.
In reality, Ms. Pat is fierce and not afraid to say whatever she needs to say in her act. And in these sensitive times where language is a live minefield, Ms. Pat wants you to know it’s okay to laugh with her at stories that are downright harrowing at first glance.
Her life and the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse she survived fueled a rocket for this tenacious survivor right to planet stardom. Pain and suffering have morphed into fame and fortune for this mother who guards the children in her charge like a lioness. She has four kids of her own plus four more children from a niece unable to raise them. Yet, Pat will not let what happened to her ever go down anywhere near her large family.
To date, she has racked up a successful podcast run, plus a hit series, The Ms. Pat Show, a Netflix full-length standup special, Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?, a national tour, a memoir, and a recently announced overall deal under where she will produce, write and perform in new series and other scripted and unscripted projects across BET linear and streaming platforms.
As for that Draconian backstory, it’s no joke. Pat’s alcoholic mother allowed men to abuse her. She also chipped away at Pat’s self-esteem, be it the texture of her hair and other things that eventually set the scene for Pat’s statutory rape and subsequent pregnancies. She had borne two children by age 15, fathered by a married man eight years her senior who had sexually abused her since she was 12. And his gift to her was teaching her how to sell crack to support the family.
Ms. Pat may have lost big battles in her childhood, but she has won the war in her life and learned a lot over the years. Everything changed when she set foot on a comedy stage in Atlanta at the urging of a case worker who saw how naturally funny she was. That effort turned the tides and provided Pat with the motivation that comes with knowing you are on to something.
Often it is said that comedy is tragedy plus time. Ms. Pat may have never heard that expression back then, but she personifies the American dream and work ethic to a tee. The show’s 10-episode Season 2 will premiere on August 11.
Monsters and Critics spoke with her on the last day of production for the third season in Atlanta. We got the low-down dish, more about the show, and even some surprising thoughts about some fellow comics.
Exclusive interview with Ms. Pat
Monsters and Critics: Tell me about that first moment you got on stage and realized that you heard the reaction and figured out that you could make a living doing what you were doing?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: The first time I got on stage was at a place here in Atlanta called The Pub. And it was never about the money for me. It was just when I got on that stage that I liked it. And you know how it is when you like something. You keep doing it. I mean, it’s almost like food. And then, all of a sudden, you become a chef.
And then now, you [are] making money off what you once liked. That’s what comedy was for me. I had people who kept pushing me to tell me I was funny, to get on stage. I loved it. And then I realized I could have a job without anybody checking my criminal background history.
Nobody gave a crap where I came from, so I could just go on stage and be funny. And then it’s turned into a healing mechanism for me. I was able to tell stories that I had been holding in for years.
M&C: You use comedy as therapy, but you’re a natural survivor. At first glance, you should either be dead, behind bars or bitter.
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: [Laughs] All three, I should be all three! And when people meet me, and I’m laughing, they were like, ‘well, how do you laugh? How do you smile?’ And I’m like, well, you can’t dwell over the stuff you don’t have control over. I can’t change my past. I couldn’t pick my parents.
So it’s nothing that I can change in my past. I live for the future and choose to be happy, smile, laugh, and keep laughing. And ain’t no sense of me holding a grudge over anybody that I can’t do anything about, except for laughing.
M&C: The common threads for your character are forgiveness and redemption in every intention, regardless of whatever the story subject you are tackling. Was this by design?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Yes. It’s human. Come on now, we all want to make things right, right? But when TV puts it on, they make everything [seem] perfect.
So, I think with the co-creator, it was all designed for each episode for us all to learn something. We get into a situation, and then we learn from that situation. And then we get out of that situation in life.
M&C: You deal with your mother’s death in Season 2 and that her home “smelled like Tennessee and hatred.” It was a gutting and emotional episode. Your performance revealed these mixed feelings about her death. Can you talk about the real Mildred?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Yes. My mama was Mildred. I told the story to the co-creator, and that’s just how I responded [in real life] when my mama died.
I didn’t have a tear for her because I felt like she had let me down. I felt like she had betrayed me. I just felt like I was never loved.
So that episode shows you what I was feeling in real life at the time of her death. I eventually forgave my mama because I realized [that] hurt people will hurt other people, and I was stuck in a cycle.
But in that episode, you didn’t see that. So you saw what I was dealing with when I got that knock at that door at 16 years old from my brother who said my mama died. I truly did not give a f**k. And that’s how I dealt with it on TV.
There’s nothing wrong with the way I dealt with it. People deal with grief in all kinds of ways. Some people fall over for the person that hurt them or their parents or the loved ones that did them wrong. I was a brick, and I think that’s how I came off in that episode.
M&C: You were stoic. And yet that scene where she springs up to life, having the imaginary conversation with her, it was like an encapsulation of all the abuse she flung at you in the years prior, how she talked to you.
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Yes. I mean, it started from day one, if you, and when you keep looking at it, I think that’s not the Black hair episode. You see it also in the Black hair episode, but just the abuse she gave me, the things she said to me that beat me down as a kid.
And I felt like at the end of the episode, I won. That’s the greatest thing about the Ms. Pat Show. So all this I’ve been through in my life, I get to win, but I’m winning on TV in front of so many millions of people this time.
Because if you get or do me wrong, you will become a character [in my act].
M&C: In real life, your oldest daughter is gay, and your character also has a gay daughter. The Black community has a bit of a problem with gay. What are you hoping that your show will enlighten some people who maybe are bigoted regarding gay people?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: To open your eyes. Because in reality, that’s your child, and I love my child way more than I love what the f**k she put in her mouth.
And I’m just keeping it real. So when that episode with my daughter being gay first came out, when I had so many gay people emailed me and said, ‘I set my mama down to watch this. And it was the first time it started a conversation about my sexuality.’
And that’s what I wanted to happen because we only know what we are taught. I mean, I was taught the same s**t, if you gay [there’s] something wrong, but then, when it hit your household, you start to look at different.
And that’s when I started to look at gay people differently. Because somebody I loved was gay, I wasn’t giving up my love for my child. Because she was different,
M&C: You have many interesting white boys you follow on Twitter. What is it about these edgier comics like Doug Stanhope and Robert Kelly who resonate for you?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Well, I came up in the podcast era when the podcast first got booming, I went in and did Marc Maron, and somebody heard me. So I ended up getting a deal at FOX for a TV show.
So my fan base is white people. It was white people way before it was Black people. BET+ gave me the Black fan base I have today. But Caucasians have always been my fan base.
I hung out with Robert Kelly, Bert Kreischer, Joe Rogan, and Marc Maron. That’s where my comedy was lying until the show got picked up over here. So that’s why I follow them. They’re my friends. [laughs]
M&C: Wanda Sykes was involved in your Netflix special’s creative aspect and producing; seeing women supporting other women is terrific. And Robert Townsend is a master. Tell me about them and your special?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Well, when Netflix first gave me my special, I first said that I wanted Wanda Sykes to produce my special.
And then it was some work to get Robert Townsend. Because he did Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy, I was like, ‘oh my God, could I be the third person that Robert Townsend works on a special?’
And I don’t think he knew much about me, but I just kept begging, called a few Hollywood connections. And we got Robert in there, and I was in heaven. Robert worked the dog crap out of me, and so did Wanda and her partner.
I had to work to tweak and get that thing right. But the meeting was between Robert Townsend and me every week. And that was grueling for me.
But in the end, I have to say, I didn’t hear anything bad about that special.
M&C: Dave Chappelle is taking heat in the news. What’s your take?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: I watched the new [Chappelle] special. I like Dave Chappelle. To me, we are comedians. We get to say whatever the hell we want to say, speak your speak, speak your mind. People give Dave a lot of rage, a lot of bulls**t, but let’s be honest. He ain’t lying. I could see it if he was saying a whole bunch of lies.
I know people don’t want to hear when what he is actually telling is the truth. And the world is just too sensitive right now. Nobody wants to tell anybody the truth.
That’s why you got kids out here wasting your money at these Little League parks playing ball when you know your child sucks at it and he should be sewing [laughs].
Nobody wants to be honest in the world anymore.
M&C: You are having a dinner party, and you can invite any comedian, dead or alive, to sit at your table. Who are you cooking for, and who’s sitting at your table?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Richard Pryor, Redd Fox, Dave Chappelle [laughs], Wanda Sykes, Flip Wilson. So that’s who is sitting at my damn table to start!
M&C: You’re filming Season 3 right now, correct?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: Today is the last day. We are wrapping it up. Oh man, Season 3. If you think Season 2 will rock, Season 3 will bite your head off!
M&C: What’s Season 3’s overriding theme?
Patricia [Ms. Pat] Williams: It’s more about traveling, getting my career off the ground, the family, stuff like that.
Season 3 is more like showing me building up a comedy career, getting the family on board, and the changes that comedy took my real family through.
Because it’s not easy being married and then gone all the time, you see a shift where I become the breadwinner, and how [men] lose their f***ing mind when women become the breadwinner.
The Ms. Pat Show premieres on Thursday, August 11th, only on BET+. She’s also on a national tour and just premiered an hour standup special on Netflix.