Q&A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Patrick O'Hara of Comedy, Tragedy or Me?

Q&A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Patrick O'Hara of Comedy, Tragedy or Me?
Patrick O'hara (left) with the infamous Mancow.

If you clicked on this hoping to slake your thirst for Cubs information, you might want to go ahead and hit the back button. If, however, your reading comprehension is up to par and your interest was piqued by the title, then, by all means, proceed.

A little over a month ago, Jimmy Greenfield, one of our esteemed CN Community Managers, came up with the idea for "Q&A with a Blogger Day," a way for the various disparate souls who comprise this widespread network to connect and share.

Those who wanted to participate would email Jimmy, who would then pair up bloggers he felt would be a good fit with one another. No one interviews the same person who interviews them and all the resultant Q&A's would be posted to the respective writers' blogs on the same day. Pretty cool, huh?

So you know what that means, right? Really, you dont? Do I have to keep holding your collective hand? It means that, in addition to the interview below, yours truly was also grilled by Kevin Kaufmann of White Sox and Stuff. So go there and check it out, but not until after you've read more about Patrick O'Hara (@patrickocomedy).

I wasn't super familiar with my subject when I first got the assignment, but I thought I had gotten a decent intro when I read his blog bio:

Patrick is a Chicago born comedian. He blogs about diabetes and random things. He has performed all over the Tri-State area and studied at The Second City. He gives great hugs.

But ever the intrepid journalist (aw, who am I kidding: I'm neither intrepid nor a journalist), I set about combing through Patrick's blog to get to know him even better. I quickly found that his title is apt, that Patrick has fought several battles and still found something to smile about in the midst of all of them.

Well, here, I'll just let him tell you about it...

EA: First things first, your title: Comedy, Tragedy or Me? Are you indicating that you’re neither comic nor tragic, or that you’re some sort of bastard child of the two?

PO: I'm very fascinated in comedy vs. tragedy. They are complete opposites but go hand in hand; time is the only difference. When tragedy occurs, the clock begins ticking down until it is okay to laugh at it. I suppose the "me" in the title is a shape-shifter.
As a comedian, I get a kick out of making people laugh. There is a power that comes with standing on stage and holding a mic. You have the attention of most everyone in the room. Keep it, because when you lose it you'll never retrieve it and it is your fault. I also write a lot about myself as well. So I suppose the title just explains what to expect when you click the link or decide to bypass it all together.

EA: Your blog bio says you give great hugs. Is this scientific fact and do you have supporting evidence to prove it?

PO: Yep, ask any lucky soul who has ever hugged me. My girlfriend writes for ChicagoNow; maybe she will write about my superb hugging prowess...

EA: You’ve written about being diabetic, being diagnosed with MS, bouts with cancer, divorce, and an impacted molar, yet you manage to find the humor in each and every situation, like the first shoots of new life after a forest fire or something. You’re a pretty inspirational sumbitch; do you see yourself as such, and how are you able to find the humor?

PO: This is not an easy question to answer. I just backspaced several times then typed it out again, it was that hard. I'm very humble. I'm humbled by every awful thing I've gone through. I make jokes about it because I'm then winning the war. My adversities tuck their tails between their legs and they cower in a dark place. I prefer to be a happy dude so I just duck and dodge each punch. I don't think I write to be an inspiration but if people find inspiration then I'm happy to provide that.

EA: Do you find stand-up, and blogging, to be cathartic for you then?

PO: They are both cathartic in their own ways. With stand-up, I command the attention of the room for 10-20 minutes; it is the only time I have anything close to swagger. I get nervous but I use it to my advantage. I was never the popular person so to be onstage and venting or poking fun is a source of power.

It is a rewarding feeling making someone smile and laugh. It is amazing to become the better part of an evening. The world could stand to laugh and smile more. I am doing my part.

Blogging helps me be a little more thoughtful. I have a medium and I can write about whatever I want. I learned long ago not to obsess over the numbers. I keep tabs on them but I stopped wondering why certain blogs do better than others.

In both respects I'm an artist. I begin with a blank canvas, then I create from there. I get a kick out of anytime something I joke about or write about gets a great response. It is just a cool feeling knowing something I created works.

EA: If given only medium through which to express yourself moving forward (Twitter, blogging, stand-up, mime) what would it be and why?

PO: Why are you making me cut the baby in half? If I had to pick just one, well, I would take blogging. It seems like the obvious choice but it is not. Blogging can be everything. I can still write humorously and talk about whatever I want. Sure I don't get the instant gratification but I get a voice. You can't quiet a blog.

EA: In one of your posts, you say that you are not good at telling your jokes conversationally. What would you say your comedic style is then? Is there even such a thing as comedic style?

PO: My style of comedy I suppose would be observational. There are comedic styles that can be anything from observational to a prop comic. Every comedian has their own voice too. My voice does not differ much from who I am. It is laid-back and quiet. I do not yell on stage. I bring my own energy to the stage.

I do not necessarily have a boisterous personality but I think people are expecting at any second I will blow up and explode energy every where. I think that anticipation brings energy.

EA: How has the city of Chicago influenced your comedy?

PO: I do not know that it has, per se. My jokes are really just introspective; it is my world. In my comedy, you are all living in my world. Who you are and where you are from or who I am or where I am from has little or nothing to do with it. How many jokes about going to the Jewels can be made anyway?

EA: In your post “Opening Day: Don’t Give Patrick The Ball Or A Bat,” you discuss your less-than-sterling credentials as a baseball player. Did that help push you in a different direction?

PO: I never envisioned myself as a professional athlete. Even if I was good at sports I think this is the path I would have taken. I am an artist. The arts have been the most prominent thing in my life. I have stand-up and blogging but I love listening to music and playing it on my ukulele.

My dad would have preferred I play sports but my parents always allowed me the freedom to think and dream even if those dreams did not align with theirs.

EA: At the risk of alienating both of our mutual readers, I want to revisit your post about Chicago sports fans and ask whether that was written in a moment of frustration or if your feelings are still much the same?

PO: The post was a very general one. It was meant to paint with a broad brush satirically. In fact, I do believe there are some smart fans but I also believe the loud, obnoxious, and not so smart seem to outnumber them. My feelings about dumb sports fans have not changed. Sports are an not nearly as important as some make it seem.

Stop making them idols. Jay Cutler might always be a jerk and that is okay. Lebron James may one day overtake MJ as the best basketball player of all time...who cares. Fans are missing out on a talented player due to their misguided vitriol.

Just enjoy sports. They are supposed to be leisure time they were never meant to be a thing that ruins your day/night/week/month/life.

EA: Does it piss you off to that we rabid fans treat each loss like some kind of tragic event, or it that something you just shake your head at?

PO: Not each loss. I suppose it is the level of pissed-offedness, yeah I am making that a word, they are. I have heard fans scream and cry because of the team they supposedly root for. Why? It is not worth it. The team you cheer for is going to let you down. In Chicago it is going to happen a lot. So celebrate the victory and mourn the loss but let it be done by the time you finish your beer.

EA: I see that you’re going back to college. As a 35-year-old, what are the challenges with that and are there as many keg stands involved?

PO: One challenge I am facing is the worry that I waited too long. I forgot how hard school is and being a grown-up with grown-up bills and grown-up responsibilities, school is much tougher. I cherish sleep more than I ever have and I can't afford to fail. I do not have time to fail. I am ready for the next step. Plus, I can use my charisma as a comedian to reach the kids.

No keg stands though. I am uncoordinated enough sober it only gets worse as I get drunker. I have become a lightweight as well. Instead of closing the bar down I am on my way home as people are waking up to go out and party.

I never want to be the cheesy old dude. I want to be the fun old dude.

I will always be a comedian and writer as a hobby that sometimes pays but I am also ready to begin a career as a teacher.

EA: Your posts seem to cover lots of random topics and life events, but a common theme throughout is music. Can you speak a bit to what music means to you?

PO: Music is everywhere and everything to me. Songs trigger a time and place for me as well as emotions. Music has been my best friend and has been there through every happy and sad moment. I love the hunt for new music. I love finding that new artist who will be the next big thing but isn't yet.

I am a comedian because instruments are hard. I get to be a rock star without the rock...and, okay, maybe without the star in my case.

EA: You once shared words of advice to a younger you; any closing nuggets of wisdom you’d like to impart upon our readers?

PO: Just this: I have written before that my favorite quote is "Enjoy every sandwich". Before he died of cancer Warren Zevon was on with David Letterman and this was a quote from that interview. It basically means enjoy every single breath. Do not waste your time here letting life just spin around you. Our time here is a blip on the clock of the universe. Make your mark and remember to be happy. Enjoy every sandwich.

***

I'm actually feeling pretty inspired, or maybe I'm just hungry for a sandwich. Although I suppose those feelings are not mutually exclusive. If you haven't already, take some time to click some of the links to Patrick's blog posts, or just visit Comedy, Tragedy, or Me? for a while.

I know it's easy to get caught up in my little corner of the ChicagoNow world and to torture myself by focusing on reading and writing about the Cubs all the time, but the diversity and depth of this blog network really are amazing. It's pretty cool to be even a small part of that and to be able to share someone else's corner with you as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman

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Filed under: Interviews, Pop Culture

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