It’s barely been 24 hours since The Ms. Pat Show debuted on BET+ when we chat with Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams, and she’s already dodging calls from distant relatives and estranged “friends” ringing her line with 11th-hour well-wishes looking for a piece of her newfound success. But ever the comedienne, she takes it all in stride.
“The show just came out yesterday, so you’ve got dead relatives calling,” she laughs, initially skeptical of the strange number calling her phone for a chat. “I’m hiding from people, girl. I’m like ‘who is this?’”
It’s no wonder that people in her distant orbit are reaching out now, as a viewing of the first handful of episodes of The Ms. Pat Show makes it clear that Ms. Pat is headed for the comedy stratosphere. The show, which was just recently granted a season 2 run after immense first season success, is still gaining steam through word of mouth and social media clip-sharing.
It’s a sitcom-ified version of her own real-life circumstances, following a stand-up comedienne with a checkered past, her two adult children from a previous relationship, two teenage children from her current marriage, an older sister still trying to figure her life out, and her loving voice-of-reason husband all living under the same roof in lily-white suburban middle America. The fish-out-of-water circumstances are used as a prism to examine sensitive topics ranging from gun violence to sexuality and gender identity with a healthy dose of real, raunchy comedy.
For classic Black comedy enthusiasts, The Ms. Pat Show is a refreshing return to 90’s form; a half-hour packed with social commentary wrapped in relatable laughs, complete with an opening stand-up intro statement, a catchy soulful theme song, and filmed in front of a live studio audience. The only difference? Ms. Pat’s potty mouth skates right past old-school FCC censorship for a modern streaming audience.
“It’s real, real, real, with real language,” Ms. Pat says of her show. “You know, a lot of times you see TV shows and you can just tell, that’s not how you have a real conversation in the house. With this show, we wanted it to feel like you could just drop yourself into our everyday situations.”
After championing the show through years of development hell (the pilot bounced around from Fox to Hulu before finding a home and a full-season run on BET’s premium streaming platform), Ms. Pat feels a certain level of relief finally getting her passion project out to the masses.
“It just feels like, when you’re trying to get that baby daddy to marry you, and he finally acts right,” she joked. “That’s what it felt like getting this show on TV after five years of hearing so many no’s and ups and downs. I woke up this morning and it’s a little more real to me, so I’m happy.”
Now, not only does her show have the backing of Black Hollywood heavy hitter Lee Daniels (who has dubbed her “the Black Roseanne”), but the pilot episode impressed legendary comedy writer and producer Norman Lear — most famous for his work on Sanford & Son, Good Times, and The Jeffersons — so much that he instantly requested a personal meeting with the comedienne.
But her current circumstances as a new TV comedy darling are a far cry from her those of her early years. As is the story often goes among comedy professionals, Pat’s humor was born from very dark beginnings. A survivor of sexual abuse throughout her childhood that resulted in teen motherhood, a survivor of domestic abuse throughout her late teens and early adulthood, working as an illicit drug dealer to make ends meet, and becoming an inmate as a result, Pat has seen more than her fair share of hardship. But she says all of her ordeals have given her a perspective of joy that fuels her comedy to this day.
“I’ve learned through comedy and grinding out here on the road in my career for over 20 years, you can’t dwell on stuff you can’t change,” she said. “I think that’s true for a lot of people — we cry about the past all the time, but I chose to laugh at it. I tell people every night on stage, ‘you have to learn to laugh at what caused you pain because when you do, that means you have control over it.’”
“All of that pain, I dumped into my comedy career and found a way to make it funny. There’s so many other people like me out there that I’m hoping will learn to laugh at theirs to let go.”
Even with her newfound fame on streaming, Pat’s still spreading that healing laughter across the country through comedy clubs just as she’s been doing for the last two decades. She’s just landed her very first hour-long comedy special on Netflix, she’s currently on the road touring, and hosting a weekly comedy podcast called The Patdown — all on top of promoting her breakout hit show.
“I’m hoping people take a lot of laughter, some healing, and some learning from it,” she says of the show. “This is not the type of show that will beat you over the head, like “Hey white people, we’re trying to give you a message!” We’re not trying to give you a message. I want to show you how real people live. So I didn’t bring the cameras into my household, but I did take my household to a set.”