Patricia "Ms. Pat" Williams
If humor is a defense mechanism, comedian Patricia Williams has a nuclear arsenal.
"When you laugh at the darkest things in your life, that's when you have control over it," she says. Williams — known as Ms. Pat — was a mother of two by age fifteen, has been shot twice and sold crack to make ends meet. And that's not even the tip of the mental and physical iceberg of abuse she jokes about in her Netflix stand-up special, Ms. Pat: Y'all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?
She mines this same material in her "grown-folks sitcom," The Ms. Pat Show, which returns to BET+ for its second season on August 11. Based on Williams's real life, the show finds her alter ego navigating her new role as a Black suburban mom, a former offender now living with her husband, four kids and older sister. It's refreshingly unfiltered, chock-full of A- to Z-bombs and incredibly self-reflective and funny.
"There are so many people out there who were ignorant like me," she says, referring to the episode in which she meets a nongender-conforming friend of her daughter's. "We wanted to open people's minds."
The chemistry between Williams and her TV family is a driving factor in the show's success, and for that she credits cocreator Jordan E. Cooper (with whom she worked on Star). "He did so much research on my life.
He cast people exactly like my real kids," she says, adding that he was actually too good at his job. "Like the kid who plays Brandon," she says with a laugh. "I remember saying I don't want him — he's too stupid, like my real son!"
The show has been a source of comfort. "The most difficult part was getting my strength back in 'Baby Daddy Groundhog Day,'" she says, recalling the fifth episode of season one, in which family members imagine what they'd do if they came face to face with Ms. Pat's abuser, who fathered her first two children.
"It was a healing moment for me and a lot of other people," she says. Though she never got the apology she wanted, the show gave her needed closure. "At the end, I think I won."
She's not done winning. "I want a DIY show!" she declares. A DIY fanatic, she's building a home in Atlanta for her family, which includes four kids she adopted from her niece.
"I worked my whole life to have a family," she says. "I finally have a group of people that I can say is my family. That makes me happier than anything in the world."
The Ms. Pat Show recently received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series for Mary Lou Belli.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #8, 2022, under the title, "Healing with Humor."