I actually talked to Patrice a few months back for the first Sandpaper Suit Podcast. (Unrelated note: The hibernating podcast will be reemerging soon.) It was a great conversation about dating and relationships, a topic he always had fascinating opinions about. You can listen or download it at iTunes.
A Shot of Yager interviewed Patrice in October. He talked about how he weaved from material to riffing.
To be able to go off the cuff, you have to have a synergy with the crowd and they gotta love you, but then at the same time you have the structure of your act that helps you go off to the left. It's like having a GPS. It's a place where you generally know where you're going and you take a left or a right. You don't have to be that worried you won't get back on the road.
If you don't know where you're going, you gotta rely on the GPS. Meaning you rely on just going off the cuff or just being funny, you can wind up in a bad place. Ad you got no place else to go because you took a wrong turn and you gotta be able to have your professionalism and your preparedness and material to get you back on the road.
I love doing crowdwork because I think people are interesting. I've gotten a lot of material from audiences. I've gotten a response I didn't think I was gonna get and you really embrace that response.
The GPS analogy is great. It's also interesting to hear how often Patrice used the word synergy in the interview.
If you haven't checked out Patrice's terrific Elephant in the Room special, stream it on Netflix. Still nothing like seeing him push buttons live though. It was joyous watching him fuck with people. His presence will be missed. Don't know what else to say. Damn.
Related: Patrice O'Neal: "It's a mob dynamic"