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O’Neal: From Roxbury to Comedy Central

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“I’m a sexist, I’m a racist, but it’s fun.’’ A comment like that could sink many a career, but for Patrice O’Neal, the Roxbury-born comedian who died Monday at 41 of complications from a stroke, it was just another routine. It was that frankness that drew audiences to his acts — first in Boston, then around the country, and, finally, on TV.

By the time O’Neal taped his own hour-long Comedy Central special earlier this year, Boston didn’t feature much during his time on stage. But it was the city that got him there in the first place. O’Neal credited his time trash-talking during childhood pick-up football games with developing his comic sensibility. And he got his first break after heckling a performer at a local club. The angry comic suggested O’Neal try performing himself if he thought he was so funny. The following week, O’Neal did. Today, his hometown fans are glad he had the gumption to step on stage - and to speak his mind when he did.