Today is a bittersweet day for Patrice O’Neal fans. It’s the day the Roxbury native’s first album, “Mr. P,’’ comes out. On Oct. 19, the comic suffered a debilitating stroke. A month later, on Nov. 29, he died at 41.
Newton native Louis C.K. dedicated his new online special, “Live at the Beacon Theater,’’ to O’Neal’s memory. Colin Quinn calls O’Neal a “pure comedian’’ in the liner notes for “Mr. P,’’ writing, “If you want to understand what comedy is supposed to sound like, you have to listen to this.’’
O’Neal approved of the content of the album before his stroke, so it’s as he wanted it. It’s a good showcase for who he was as a comic - explosively funny, disconcerting, and charismatic. His friend Bill Burr, who used to drive him to gigs when they both started in Boston, compares him to Hannibal Lecter. “He could look at your shoes and see your childhood,’’ he says.
O’Neal had long been a comic “on the verge’’ - a killer in the clubs whose television appearances had not yet made him a household name. His philosophy was a strange mix of off-putting and engaging. He starts this album taking shots at the crowd, but he doesn’t lose them. What always saved him with audiences was his ability to be consistently funny, and the sense that he desperately needed to get his ideas across. You can feel that on “Mr. P.’’