.Patton Oswalt at San Jose Civic

These days, Patton Oswalt’s primary job is being a dad. But even after starring in the Pixar hit Ratatouille, shining in indie darlings like Young Adult and regularly stealing scenes on network sitcoms, Oswalt maintains a love of the stage.
“I’ll always do stand-up,” Oswalt says. “If I’m not on the road, I’ll do a couple nights at an open mic and work on stuff. There are so many amazing aspects to it—crafting the perfect joke, being in the moment onstage. It’s this all-around creative rush.”
Many words have been spilled fretting about the state of comedy in the age of Trump and social media. But Oswalt doesn’t feel our frenzied state of affairs has led to any extraordinarily radical shifts in comedy.
“Comedy has always changed,” Oswalt says. “The state of change is what’s constant. It has nothing to do with the times we’re living in. It’s just your perspective and however honest you want to be about your life.”
Oswalt first gained popularity for his encyclopedic knowledge of nerd culture, best evidenced by a seven-minute improvised monologue on Parks and Recreation, where he filibusters the Pawnee City Council with an elaborate proposal for a Star Wars sequel.
But in regard to some of his more serious projects, Oswalt says he enjoys the challenge of getting “to play characters that don’t necessarily have their feet on the ground.” In Young Adult, he plays a grown-up high school loser who, years later, forms a twisted and complicated bond with the school’s former queen bee, Charlize Theron—all culminating in a jaw-dropping intimate scene.

He says his experience in comedy may have helped him strike the right tone in some of his more emotionally challenging on-screen moments. “You do have to deal with a lot of discomfort and awkwardness in the best comedy.”
To that point, Oswalt earned Emmy and Grammy nominations for his most recent special, Annihilation, in which he tackled the sudden passing of his first wife, the celebrated nonfiction crime author Michelle McNamara, at age 46 in April 2016.
In the special, Oswalt acknowledged that he was still struggling to cope with this tragic loss, especially while raising a young daughter and watching the country elect Donald Trump. As he closes the special, he exhibits an engrossing sincerity as he delivers a mantra for these inexplicable times: “It’s chaos. Be kind,” a quote from McNamara.
Amid a steady stream of musings on Twitter, Oswalt has given his 4 million-plus followers glimpses of how he’s been able to put his life back together again with the help of his second wife, actress Meredith Salenger.
Indeed, in the years following McNamara’s untimely passing, Oswalt has forged a path forward and into greater critical acclaim with plucky optimism. On the NBC sitcom A.P. Bio Oswalt plays the jovial, put-upon principal Ralph Durbin, the comedic foil to Glenn Howerton’s narcissistic and cynical Jack Griffin. Here, the comedian consistently and deftly threads the needle as an endearing Middle American everyman, pulling laughs out of unexpected places, like when he marvels at the rebellious nature of mohawked, sunglass-wearing orange on the label of a bottle of Shock Top.
In the future, Oswalt says he would like to direct a film. He has always been a cinema buff. In the mid-’90s he went almost nightly to the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles as he documents in his book, Silver Screen Fiend, and he is excited by all the possibilities now available to filmmakers.
“That’s what’s great about cinema; it’s constantly mutating and expanding and growing,” he says. “There’s space for truly everything. And the fact that there’s arguments going back and forth just shows how vital that field is.”
For a man who has performed so much onstage, it’s a bit odd that Oswalt may be best known for a role that only utilized his voice, that of Remy, the rat who infiltrates the kitchen of a fancy French restaurant. Although Ratatouille debuted over a decade ago, Oswalt still gets dispatches from fans about their pet rats and their children dressing up in Remy Halloween costumes. To him, it’s the type of response that never gets old.
“It’s still surreal,” he says. “It’s still great. I’m so lucky.”
Patton Oswalt
Nov 23, 8pm, $40+
San Jose Civic


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