Pop Goes The News – If there’s anything comedian Ms Pat is looking forward to about being at Just For Laughs this summer, it’s the chance to spend time away from the nuttiness of her native America.
“You got that right,” she says, on the phone from her home. “I would let you all keep me but my family’s here.”
Ms Pat (aka Patricia Williams) says she is also looking forward to being back in Montreal for another reason. “There’s a type of meat y’all have there that just melts in your mouth. Is it called smoked meat? I’m gonna eat myself to death,” says Williams. But, she adds: “I don’t like no poutine. I don’t want all that on my fries.”
Williams is part of the festival’s popular Nasty Show, which runs July 18 to 28 at MTelus and also features Robert Kelly, Brad Williams, Nikki Glaser, Mike Britt, and Derek Seguin.
Williams isn’t sure how nasty she’ll be. “I don’t do that young folks stuff,” says the 46-year-old. “I don’t talk about blow jobs. I got vertigo, I can’t do no blow job. My neck hurts.
“It’ll be husband jokes and things I’ve been through. It’s my form of nasty. It’s not going to be that slutty stuff. I can’t get too nasty.”
That nasty Donald Trump will make the cut, though. “I talk about Trump based on what affects me that he does. I don’t tell people that if they voted for Trump that they’re stupid or that they’re racist,” she explains. “I always try to make stuff relate back to me. I tell how I feel because nobody wants to sit in the audience if you say ‘If you voted for Trump then you’re racist.’ That’s not right. We don’t have to agree but we do need to respect each other.
“Do I think he’s crazy? Yes I think he’s crazy. Do I like him? No I do not.”
Williams says she will also check out other shows at JFL. “I love seeing comics who’ve made it on stage,” she says. “I love to see what they do and how they do it.”
What she does is tell hilarious stories about her not-so-hilarious life.
Williams was born to Mildred, a single mother with a drinking problem, in a rough part of Atlanta. She spent her childhood watching her grandfather sell bootleg booze from the house while her mother encouraged her to dance for the drunks who came by.
She says she dreamed of a better life. “I watched Leave it to Beaver and I compared my mother to that lady, June Cleaver. I said ‘June Cleaver ain’t over here turning tricks. She don’t live in a liquor house.’ So everything she did my momma didn’t do so I was like, ‘why am I not living like that?’
“I just knew that there was a better life. I grew up wanting a Leave it to Beaver life.”
But the idyllic family life in those TV reruns was elusive. Williams was a few months shy of her 14th birthday when she got pregnant with her first child, daughter Ashley, by a 21-year-old crack dealer named Darrell Laye. When she was 15, they had another girl, Nikia.
In her memoir Rabbit, Williams alleges that Laye (whom she doesn’t name) was abusive for most of their relationship, which ended in 1993. Her involvement with drug dealing also landed Williams behind bars.
Most of her early life experiences have become stories in Williams’ stand-up act – but she says there are a few things she doesn’t talk about on stage.
“You can’t make everything funny,” explains Williams. “Some of the things in my book, you can’t make that funny. My momma’s boyfriend violated me. I don’t find no funny in that right now and I never told that story until I wrote the book.”
In fact, Williams didn’t realize there were seeds of humour in anything about her life until she was interviewed by a case worker for a welfare-to-work program.
“She’s the one that thought these stories are very funny. I just thought they were what I went through,” says Williams. “She kept encouraging me to go and tell these stories on stage. I’m like, ‘nobody wants to hear this. Can’t nobody relate to this but black people.’ Well, that’s not true. My fan base is white as hell.”
Williams made her stand-up debut in 2003 and discovered that a lot of people could relate to what she went through.
“This stuff happens in all walks of life,” she says. “I thought teenaged pregnancy only happened to uneducated black women. That’s not true.”
Has Williams had any #metoo moments in the male-dominated comedy industry?
“No, don’t nobody want me. I’m old,” she says with an infectious laugh. “I’m old and I was already funny so I wasn’t going to turn no tricks for no road trip. And I had money so nobody approached me like that.
“And everybody know that I would slap you, so I didn’t have that problem. I got into more fights than anybody kind of hitting on me.”
Williams says she has learned the importance of the business side of show business.
“I talk to comedians all the time. A lot of comedians don’t handle the business part,” she says. “You can be funny as hell but if you’re not handling your business, nothing’s going to come out of your career.”
Williams is working on a half-hour comedy series with Lee Daniels. “Hopefully we can go pitch it soon. We just wrote the pilot,” she says. “This is our third writer, so I think we got it right this time.”
When she’s not doing comedy, Williams is being the kind of mother she didn’t have. She and husband Garrett have two teenaged children of their own, Garrianna and Garrett Jr., as well as custody of her drug-addicted niece’s children Ciisha, Porchia, Yolanda and Ramon, who range in age from four to nine.
Williams says she doesn’t worry about all the time she has to spend away from home.
“I have a support system,” she says. “My husband understands my job, I understand his job. And we’re too old to be getting jealous.
“And I’ll tell you, separation makes the relationship better. Every time I come home I feel like I’m walking into Idris Elba… for the first 15 minutes.”