Comedy knows no limits—and neither does Patton Oswalt. His work is honest, and with honesty comes indecency and, in Oswalt’s case, vicious self-deprecation.
“My circle of friends has always been funnier than me,” Oswalt jeered with his recognizable croaky chuckle. “It’s just the playfulness and creativity of their comedy that always keeps me going and keeps me focused.”
Oswalt stands at a mere 5’3” and was named after the famous general from WWII, leading a life of living up to almost impossible standards. He carries with him a brooding, hyper-aware persona that you might not expect from a pudgy, middle-aged comic. Although Patton’s father was a marine, the family opted to settle down in the suburbs of Sterling, Virginia, shielding a young Patton from the military lifestyle.
“I didn’t have that military brat upbringing,” he said. “I grew up in a featureless, personality-less suburb. There was nothing to push against.”
Oswalt has always been a stand-up comic, first and foremost. Cutting his teeth on small stages led him to a gig as a writer for MADtv, and eventually to his first stand-up special for HBO’s Comedy Half Hour. Oswalt later became a household name for his popular role as the lovable stooge-y sidekick, Spence Olchin, on The King of Queens, and his first starring role as the anthropomorphic rat chef, Remy, in the smash Pixar hit, Ratatouille. Throughout his ascension to the top of the popular comedy scene, standup remained a big part of Oswalt’s arsenal. He returned to this mainstay for his most recent venture, Talking for Clapping, a new stand-up special which debuted on Netflix last April.
As expected, his act is wearily optimistic, like the man himself. It’s a fully realized set of self-effacing wit, broaching subjects like hard drugs, My Little Pony, and even God Himself.
“I think I realized I was [an atheist] when I was studying religion in college,” Oswalt said when asked about his staunch aversion to organized religion. “It wasn’t the contradictions in the religions, but the similarities in different world religions. That’s when I realized that I thought that religion was just a common myth that people made up to deal with the harshness of reality. And if anything, it just made comedy seem that much more beautiful. Like, well if there can be creation and destruction myths in order to deal with life, than maybe jokes are just mini versions of that. And there is something kind of cool about that, you know? You see, I have never been a militant atheist; I have always been a happy atheist. I am happy that other religions exist because it shows the power of storytelling.”
Oswalt is also known for the virality of his strong and often pugilant Twitter presence—picking fights with everybody’s least favorite pharma bro, Martin Shkreli, and putting Trump on blast throughout election night.
Trading funny for fascism isn’t much of a fun trade-off, Oswalt said.
“He’s not going to help anything. I’ll get 10 new minutes of material, and then the world is going to suck for the next four years for a lot of marginalized people.”
Oswalt is a single dad, after tragically losing his wife, true crime writer Michelle McNamara, last April. He admits that becoming a parent has changed his creative outlook on comedy, although it hasn’t softened his jokes. He said that his daughter would probably be ready for his comedy when she is in her teens.
“It isn’t even so much about the language; I am just talking about stuff that I don’t think she really cares about all that much. She would rather watch Teen Titans Go.”
That, or perhaps Ratatouille.
Patton Oswalt will perform at the Palace Theater on February 24.
For more, visit pattonoswalt.com.