From starring in an endless amount of comedy specials and being on one of the most successful sitcoms of the past decade to voicing a CG rat, Patton Oswalt has subtly permeated the pop culture landscape over the past 10 years with his sharp wit and bizarre views on life. While he stands on stage and ponders subjects like sex, politics, and the general stupidity that has taken over America like an unwelcome relative, Oswalt has amassed a huge following that has propelled him right into the mainstream.
But Oswalt won’t be seen pandering to audiences or screaming his jokes at the top of his lungs in search of a cheap laugh like most mainstream comics; instead, he uses his innate talents and genuinely funny observations to bring the surreal and the enlightening to the stage.
With Oswalt’s latest comedy album, titled Finest Hour, coming out on September 20, the comic takes on various subjects with the same blunt wit that he has used throughout his career. Complex recently caught up with the comic to discuss his latest album as well as his thoughts on his own career.
Interview by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)
Complex: In your latest comedy album, Finest Hour, you have some great bits about dealing with the various crackheads in New York and the downside of living in the city. What has been your worst experience in New York? Is it just the smell, or is it something seedier than that?
Patton Oswalt: I think the worst experience was the one I talked about in the album; that kind of encapsulates everything that annoys me about living in the city. The general tension for no reason, coupled with the smell and the noise. It really is like a controlled experiment done by a sociopath.
You’re around other comedians a lot, and you spend a lot of time either writing about or thinking about comedy. Have you noticed over the years that it has made it harder for you to enjoy comedy recreationally? Is it harder for you to find things funny now?
No, I enjoy comedy even more I think, because I have been doing it for so long. When something unique comes along I can spot it quicker and I can really spot the good stuff. I can also see the potential in people that might not be great right now, but I can see how they’re going to develop and evolve. So that makes it even more fun as well.
You’re in the new Jason Reitman movie, Young Adults. Can you tell us a little bit about that role?
As much as I can tell you now. It’s about a woman who goes back to her hometown to kind of rekindle a romance with the one who got away. I play a guy that went to high school with her that she basically treated as invisible. But now it’s 20 years down the road and you kind of see their relationship go in a much different way.
Is stand-up still something you’re doing relentlessly or is acting something that you’re going to focus on full-time?
I don’t know, I mean I’m definitely going to keep doing stand-up always. Anything else I do, TV, movies, writing, is so I can keep doing more stand-up. The way that I’m doing it now, the way that my extra-curricular activities support stand-up, that’ll always be the way that it goes.
You were on King of Queens, which ran for about nine years. Is that where you learned most about acting, or did something more recent really help you out from an education standpoint?
No, no, I definitely learned the most I know about acting from being on King of Queens. That was a godsend that I got to stay on that show for so long and really got to observe the other actors and learn from them. It was definitely helpful.
You also released a book this year and you have written various comic books in recent years. Do you have any plans for doing more of that kind of work?
Oh yeah, definitely. If I come up with ideas that I like, I’m definitely going to keep pitching them around and hopefully do more stuff.
What is your opinion on all of the news about the changes on the Star Wars Blu-ray set?
At this point, it doesn’t even make me angry, it just makes me tired. It’s like, “Well, this is how it’s gonna go.” It makes you not even care about them. It’s like, “Well, I’m never going to watch it, so who cares?” If they’re just going to keep doing this, then who cares?
Are you paying close attention to the Republican political debates in order to get new material?
My schedule is so crazy right now, but I happened to be free that night so I watched it and Tweeted about it. I can’t believe I find myself agreeing with Carl Rove. I just think it’s one of those years, the Republicans are having a shit year, and they’re probably going to lose. It happens to everyone, the Democrats have them too, they just don’t have anyone good. So go regroup and find someone good; it’s OK. You just don’t have anyone good right now.
Was there a big, gaping hole in the comedy community when George Bush left office?
No. Political stuff is such a small section of actual stand-up comedy. I’m sure it was hard for some people, but comedians that are observant and present can find transcendence in the mundane.
Your material ranges from pretty inclusive comedy, to more raunchy jokes. Is there a subject that is even too taboo for you?
There is no such thing as taboo if you can be funny about it. If you can find a funny angle, then nothing is off limits. But the trick is to find a funny approach in a way to make it relatable. There is nothing that I preemptively won’t touch. I'll always at least make a try and see if I can make it work.
You’ve been in everything from TV shows, to movies, to Pixar voiceovers. Is there any last medium that you want to tackle, or do you want to expand upon what you have already done?
Again, even with acting, I wasn’t looking to tackle them, they just kind of came my way because of the stand-up that I was doing. So I just want to keep getting better as a stand-up and see where that takes me and be very open to what opportunities come my way because of the stand-up that I’m doing.
Interview by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)