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UPDATED: 4:45 p.m. ET. Dec. 7, 2020 —

Social media users on Monday were mourning the death and celebrating the life of Patrice O’Neal on what would have been the comedian’s 51st birthday.

At the time of his death a little more than nine years ago, he was best known for his stand-up act and numerous television appearances. And while back then few realized the multiplicity of his comedic contributions, it is more than apparent in 2020 as fans shared some of O’Neal’s most poignant quotes and ranked him alongside the greats in his craft.

Never shy when it came to confronting controversial issues, O’Neal had a knack for making the most contentious subjects something to laugh about.

On Nov. 28, 2011, O’Neal died from complications of a stroke he suffered weeks earlier. He was only 41 years old.

In the wake of his passing, keep reading as we explore some of the little known facts about his career and life.

1. Nothing Like Home

O’Neal was born and raised in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, where he was raised by his mother. []

2. Named After A Revolutionary

O’Neal’s was named after Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. []

3. Student-Athlete

O’Neal was recruited to play football for Northeastern University, but he quit the game to study theatre arts. Years later he would incorporate the sport into one os his more memorable comedy routines. []

4. First Television Appearance

O’Neal’s first television appearance came on The Apollo Comedy Hour, where he performed Malcolm XXL. From there, he moved on to Showtime at the Apollo and various other television appearances. []

5. World Wrestling Entertainment

O’Neal worked a brief stint as a writer and creative team member for the WWE, the professional wrestling company started by Vince McMahon. []

6. Chappelle’s Show

O’Neal appeared on Chappelle’s Show during its first season, starring as a character named Pit Bull. []

7. What You Talking ‘Bout Willis

O’Neal once played an adult-sized Gary Coleman in an Internet sitcom called Break a Leg. []

8. Statutory Rape Controversy

In 2010, O’Neal was denied entry into Canada because of a statutory rape case that dated back to 1986 when he was 16. []

9. Grand Theft Auto

O’Neal starred as the voice of Jeffron James, a character on an in-game radio show in Grand Theft Auto IV. []

10. Elephant In The Room

In 2011, Comedy Central aired O’Neal’s first hour-long special, Elephant in the Room. []


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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Patrice O’Neal  was originally published on