22 Years Into the Comedy Game with Pat Brown
Pat Brown is no stranger to the game. “I’ve been doing comedy about 22 years, so I’ve seen a lot.” But despite a career that includes multiple appearances on BET’s Comic View, a spread in Vibe magazine, and titles like Best Female Comic (Las Vegas Comedy Festival) and Winner of the She-Devil Comedy Festival, Brown had yet to release an album. That is, until last month. Her debut full-length Sex Tape (available now on all major digital platforms) is a no-holds-barred look into everything Pat Brown. Reviews have called it “provocative and conceptual” and have praised Brown for her “jocular wit infused with centered commentary.” I talked to Brown about the new album, making comedy look easy, and how Walmart can be a great safety net for comedians.
I just listened to your new album. You’ve got a very loose, relaxed feel to your standup. You’re easy to listen to even when you’re tackling potentially difficult subjects.
Everybody wants to do comedy because comics are so good it makes people think it’s easy. It’s like golf. If you watch golf you’re like, “They’re just hitting the ball with a stick.” Then you go out there and actually try to hit a ball with a stick and you’re like, “Oh my God.” It’s very difficult. It just seems easy.
How much has your style changed since you first started? When you hopped up on your first stage in Atlanta, what were you doing?
I think I was a lot faster. I wanted to get the jokes out. I’m a relatively slow speaker, so I wanted to get them out fast. I didn’t want people to be bored. I was talking way faster than I was comfortable with. I saw Tony Woods perform one time and he was so engaging, hitting jokes all the way up until his punchlines. I realized, “I can slow down. Thank God.” I used to be a lifeguard. We would run around the park when we were off. I ran with this guy who used to do a lot of marathons. He would time himself, then slow down, then go faster, then slow down. He said, “This is how you run 20 miles.” I always thought you just ran at the same place the whole time. It’s the pacing that really matters.
Do you feel like you finally have your style locked down?
I feel like even though I think I’m very good, every time I go on stage there’s something I can improve on. George Burns performed until he was like 98. I’m sure the last time he got off stage he thought, “I can improve on that.” I don’t think it ever stops. But the cool thing is that it never gets boring.
You got a degree in theater. Was that beneficial to you when you started standup?
No, absolutely not. That was the worst degree…it wasn’t because of the degree. I was there on a basketball scholarship. I didn’t realize it at the time, but basketball season coincided with theater season, so I was never in a play and I only did stand-in and tech stuff just to fulfill my requirement. I wasn’t engaged in theater. It was just a major that I happened to have. But I was an English minor and that helped me a lot because I was writing all the time. I actually wish I was a business major. If you’re going to make comedy your life you have to understand the business side of it.
What was the last job you had before you went full time with comedy?
I worked for Sam’s Club. I was a supervisor. I had one year left before I was fully vested, where they would match retirement contributions dollar for dollar. But I couldn’t stand to go there another day. I said I was going to quit and they said, “No, you shouldn’t quit. You’ve only got a year left.” I said, “I will kill everyone here if I don’t quit.” I was drug out and tired. It felt very useless for me to be there. I quit with the understanding that I can always get a job at Walmart. And with that I said goodbye.
Your debut album Sex Tape just came out. What’s the story behind the title?
I think comedy is a lot like a sex tape in the sense that you expose yourself to a wide swath of people and hopefully you entertain them. Also, people have blown up from sex tapes. It’s also provocative, which can draw people to it.
Would you consider your standup provocative?
I guess it is, but I don’t intentionally mean it to be. Some people set out to be contrary and that’s not what I do. But I think some of these ideas you’ve never heard before. The way I see a thing might be provocative because it doesn’t go along with how people see these things traditionally.
You certainly have a unique perspective. You’re black, gay, and a woman. That’s a triple threat.
You’re going to be talking to a lot of people who definitely have not lived your experience.
Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever come into the idea that it helps me, but it’s definitely a different perspective that people possibly haven’t heard. What’s interesting to me is that when people are different they tend to have an empathy for how other people intersect with the world. Like if you were a kid who got bullied a lot, you have a different sensibility to how being picked on and criticized can really be harmful. You protect not only yourself, but other people in that way. When you’re different you have an empathy that you might not have if you are homogeneous.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing a web series. It will showcase what I can do. I can be funny and entertaining, but also balance it with serious topics.