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Shout Outs to Patton Oswalt

October 13, 2010

Patton Oswalt doesn’t really need a shout-out from little old me.  He’s doing just fine, thankyaverymuch.  But I’m doing it anyway, ‘cause he’s a sick stand-up comedian, and to be perfectly honest, I wanted an excuse to watch a bunch of his stuff again for this article.

Oswalt won me over awhile ago with his approachable, somewhat sarcastic style.  But I really felt a click moment when I watched the very awesome Comedians of Comedy TV series, which followed-up the documentary of the same name.  I find his persona onstage feels very honest, and it always seems like he’s super tickled by the jokes he’s telling, always in the moment.  In fact, my favourite moments of Oswalt humour often come when he isn’t running a bit at all, just riffing, or joking around during interviews.  It’s amazing to me how the jokes he thinks up on the spot are almost the same quality as his planned stage material.

On top of respecting Patton as a comic, I have enjoyed his acting roles.  One of his earlier and more recognizable roles was a supporting character in the pedestrian sitcom “King of Queens.” But he’s also lent his voice to such shows as “Spongebob Squarepants” and Pixar’s excellent animated film, “Ratatouille.”

He played the rat.

He is a good businessman, and I appreciate what his “Comedians of Comedy” tour did to boost the visibility of fellow comics like Zach Galifianakis and Maria Bamford.  Instead of booking clubs, they followed Neil Hamburger’s business model booking indie rock venues instead of comedy clubs to great success.  Add to that an interesting behind-the-scenes look at life on the road, and you’ve got a really sharp little product.  Smart smart smart.

This is one of Oswalt’s most famous bits.  It’s not my personal favourite, but I do feel it represents his style quite well:

I am also a sucker for a crusader, and I appreciate that he is very vocal about his thoughts on comic’s rights.  Recently, a dude named Nick Madsen stole a bunch of Patton’s material and recited it verbatim onstage.  Oswalt took the guy to task on his blog, (the saga is found here).I know he is defending his own material, but he offers some really eloquent ruminations on the importance of copyright and creator’s rights in stand-up comedy.  I think there is a fairly prevalent attitude these days that jokes don’t belong to anyone.  Since it is easy to regurgitate your favourite line from a comic’s set around the water cooler, it seems like jokes become everyone’s to use when they are uttered out loud.

It doesn’t help that it is very difficult to prove joke ownership.  As a result, the stand-up community relies on an unwritten code, so that people who steal are ostracized and called out publicly.  Joe Rogan famously called out Carlos Mencia, (who later jokes about being a THIEF in the excellent new documentary “I Am Comic“).  While Oswalt is going to bat for himself rather than another comic in this instance, I am quite certain that he would look out for his fellow jokesmiths as well.

I liked this quote from Oswalt about dealing with producing art without getting discouraged at all the trash that becomes famous in an interview with

“90% of every art form is garbage — dance and stand-up, painting and music. Focus on the 10% that’s good, suck it up, and drive on.”

I don’t get a lot of heckling in my act (maybe it’s less common in Canada?) But I liked what Oswalt had to say about his attitude toward Hecklers in this IGN article:

“Sometimes when I’m on stage and someone’s being loud or they’re heckling me or causing a problem – you know, there have been times where I think I’ll attack them, and instead I’ll just start asking them questions and just let them hang themselves. “

When I think back to all the times I’ve seen a comic just rip a heckler apart, this seems such an elegant approach.  After all, a comic verbally sparring with a drunk member of the audience is kind of like a Navy Seal deciding to box with a 12 year old.  It just ain’t an even match.

In the words of Wyclef Jean: “No fighting!”

I love when Oswalt deals with hecklers.  He is often just genuinely amused and will take some time to be in the moment and riff a bit.  It reminds you just how much he loves what he does.

And actually the rest of that article from IGN is really good.  Oswalt is a born story-teller and there’s a great anecdote, and without spoiling anything I’ll just tell you it ends with the quote “Anybody can get your back, but a real friend gets your boots.”

This is a genius bit where Oswalt touches on how he feels about censorship in a hilarious way.  For me this just hit the nail on the head about how I feel about political correctness.  NSFW language by the way.

5 Fun Facts:

1) Like Bill Burr, Patton Oswalt lent his voice to the epic Grand Theft Auto IV video game.

2) Patton is a self-professed comic book geek, and one of his favourite titles (and mine) is “Invincible,” by Robert Kirkman.  He has done a bit of writing himself including the comic “Fruit Pies” and a Justice League of America story called “Welcome to the Working Week.”

3) Patton Oswalt has had cameos in some of my all-time favourite TV shows, such as “Flight of the Conchords,” where he played an Elton John impersonator, “Seinfeld,” “Futurama,” and “Venture Bros.”

4) Patton’s best friend (in comedy) is Brian Posehn who is also quite hilarious, and will be performing at Nerdgasm’s Toronto Underground Cinema on Saturday, October 24, 2010.  Check out their event page for more details.  (There’s the socket, there’s the plug).

5) Patton Oswalt was an uncredited writer on the Borat movie.

I’ll end off with a nice bit on clothing from the Purple Onion:

“I’m powered by puffy kisses…” hahahaha

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave Mork permalink
    November 4, 2010 3:23 am

    Actually, he was an Elton John impersonator (in Flight of the Conchords), not Elvis. Nice article, though.


  1. STOP! THIEF! Intellectual Property in Stand-Up Comedy Part 2 « Premise PUNCH Tag – Joel Buxton's Stand-Up Comedy Blog

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