Oswalt at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con
|Birth name||Patton Peter Oswalt|
January 27, 1969 |
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
|Medium||Stand-up, television, film|
|Alma mater||College of William & Mary|
|Genres||Black comedy, observational comedy, surreal humor|
|Subject(s)||Popular culture, current events, politics, religion|
|Influences||Jonathan Winters, Richard Pryor, Emo Philips, Blaine Capatch, Bill Hicks, Bobcat Goldthwait, Sam Kinison, Steve Martin, Louis C.K.|
|Spouse||Michelle McNamara (m. 2005; d. 2016)|
As you get older as a comedian and keep doing it, what you actually start to cherish on stage is not the build-up to the jokes, but how comfortable you can be in the silence and the non-laughing parts, and how long you can take the audience without a laugh to then get a huge reaction.
I fantasize and idealize myself as Bugs Bunny, but I know deep down I'm Daffy Duck.
You know, in Los Angeles, you're constantly in your car, you're sealed up, you're not walking around. Whereas in New York, after a while, all your stuff is kind of public, in one way or the other. I'm not saying either one of those is bad; they're both great for a very specific kind of comedian. And I'm glad that they both exist.
It wasn't until I went to college and met different people from different areas of life – and then went to San Francisco and met people who really knew who the hell they were – that I kind of caught up in a hurry.
Every audience is different, even within the same venue. You have to just make every audience your audience; you can't pre-judge an audience based on the size of the room or the type of room.
I'm still very much an atheist, except that I don't necessarily see religion as being a bad thing. So, that's a weird thing that I'm struggling with that seems to be offending both atheists and people that are religious.
I mean, the death in the late eighties and early nineties really shook out a lot of hacks. The pond just sort of dried up for a lot of really bad comedians.
Here's what I'm afraid of. I know a lot of comedians, friends of mine, who just got into the 'Doesn't matter what I say. It doesn't matter. They're just gonna laugh anyway.'
Every audience is different, even within the same venue. You have to just make every audience your audience; you can't pre-judge an audience based on the size of the room or the type of room. You've just got to be in the moment and go with it.
I haven't sworn off Facebook. I'm on Facebook. There's a fan page on Facebook that I will update, but I'm on there myself under a pseudonym, because there were a lot of people able to private-message me on Facebook, and it was getting really weird.
I have some shorter stories coming out in other books early next year. I might be pitching a re-vamp of Ghost Rider in the spring. We'll see.
When you act, you're being asked to pretend in a very rigid, controlled environment. It's very un-childlike. So a lot of times, when you put kids in that situation, you hope they have a better support system outside of what they're doing to bring them back to reality at the end of the day and to keep them well-rounded.
I can't say that I ever abided nerd stereotypes: I was never alone or felt outcast.
All the truly great stand-ups say, 'I go onstage, and I work on jokes. The inspiration will happen while I'm doing my work.' To me, in the end, the surest thing is work.
Doing 'Young Adult' was really reassuring to me in a lot of ways. It confirmed a lot of suspicions I had about great actors.
I've hung out in the writer's room a few times, but the fact is we've got such a good writing staff, I don't want to get my peanut butter fingerprints on anything.
I know how my body operates differently from what it did when it was 30 and when it was 20. As unhealthy as I am, I'm weirdly aware of exactly how my body functions.
A lot of nerds aren't aware they're nerds. A geek has thrown his hands up to the universe and gone, 'I speak Klingon – who am I fooling? You win! I'm just gonna openly like what I like.' Geeks tend to be a little happier with themselves.
I grew up in such a featureless, personality-less suburb. There was nothing to push against.
If you hit a midget on the head with a stick, he turns into 40 gold coins.
If you actually do cold readings, it's very close to how people actually talk, because you're experiencing these thoughts anew every moment, and trying to make them come out coherently.
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.
We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
I'm always trying out new stuff onstage. That's where I do all my writing.
I'm going to continue to try to strike a balance, because I really, really do love doing stand-up, and I don't see why it should affect the acting.
Knock on wood, my groupies tend to be very artistic, creative people – sometimes way more creative than I am.
I really had to imagine the kind of person that I would have been if I had never left my hometown. I don't think I would have been a very pleasant person.
Growing up, there are always those kids who are only happy when they are making someone else upset. That is unfortunately just how some people are. And their parents were fine. Some people are just born with bad wiring.
I never said that movies were struggling behind TV. I'm just saying that movies have a better creative cache.
Like, my feelings on religion are starting to morph. I'm still very much an atheist, except that I don't necessarily see religion as being a bad thing. So, that's a weird thing that I'm struggling with that seems to be offending both atheists and people that are religious.
One of my groupies gave me a film that they made, and it ended up being amazing, so I got it shown at South by Southwest. If I can help get their stuff out there, then great.
To get asked to do stuff like 'United States Of Tara' and 'Caprica' is terrific. I can't complain.
Everything we have today that's cool comes from someone wanting more of something they loved in the past. Action figures, videogames, superhero movies, iPods: All are continuations of a love that wanted more.
We're rewarding either the reality or the appearance of youth, which is why you have all these people in their fifties trying to act like they're seventeen. You know, it's great to be young. Be young. By all means, be young. But always remember that youth is also kinda dumb, and doesn't know a lot yet.
I've gotten very cynical and kind of anhedonic about all the things I have to do to get to do comedy: all the travel, hotels, and airports.
I wish I had a really cool, esoteric answer, but what the process is to me is going onstage night after night after night after night until I get a new hour. And then once that hour is solidified and recorded, I move on.
I don't want to get into extended conversations with people on MySpace, because there are friends I have extended conversations with every day.
Any acting job that I ever got, I always treated it like I was a neophyte; I didn't know what I was doing, and I was going to work just as hard as I do on my stand-up.
What you want to worship above youth, I think, is beauty, and beauty is so beyond just appearances after a while. Because you can be with someone who's good-looking; if they open their mouths and they're an idiot, then they cease to be beautiful very quickly.
Yeah, there were a few years in the early nineties where I really began to hate what was valued as funny and just sort of what was valued in stand-up, period.
Now we live in this DVD, iTunes, Hulu age, and show creators and networks are realizing that and letting shows develop on those terms rather than 'We gotta just punch it week to week, man.' Now they're like, 'What will happen if someone watches the entire show?'
There's nothing wrong with doing comedies, and I'm not against comedies, either, but I always want to do stuff that keeps me off my guard and gets me out of my comfort zone.
I mean, all alternative comedy is are comedians that have being doing it for so long, for so long, that they were relaxed enough to start becoming personal on stage.
Wars are usually really popular with people that aren't gonna be affected by them. 'Cause it's just entertainment, and it's just weird, like, 'Well, we've got to show the world that we're strong.' No we don't. And by the way, that has nothing to do with you. Why are you equating yourself with that… you know what I mean?
George Bush is not stupid. He's evil. OK? There's a huge difference between stupid and evil.
When you put an album out, you can't do any material from the album if people are paying to see you.
It's like our country is being run by a bunch of bad alcoholic dads right now.
There's all kinds of those moments in your life where either through a weird set of circumstances, or a song you hear, or a smell you smell, or one person says something totally out of the context without the meaning that you assigned to it, but you snap back to the way you were when you were 14 or 15. We all deal with that.
If you play comedic scenes like they're really serious, then it's so much more funny than if you're going for a laugh.
The problem is, and I'm just as guilty of this, a lot of people see their follower count increase and mistake that for friendships. It's great to have followers, especially if you want to sell albums, promote shows, or promote your friends, but you still need to get outside and talk to other human beings.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation made a bobble head of me and sent it to my management. No card, nothing.
Before doing my first open mic, I was sitting in the back watching all these comedians banter back and forth and fire jokes and up each other, and I thought, 'This is where I wanna be.'
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, 'Well, I've had it with humanity.' But I was wrong.
Based on my own experience, when you're going through adolescence you don't know how the world works. You can't set a story in the world you live in because you don't know what a utility bill is, or how to budget your paycheck.
Beyond any role that I ever had, really early on as a stand-up, I would see actors decide to try it and they would bomb miserably. What I realized was that stand-up, acting and writing are all their own disciplines.
I have a very tiny house in Burbank. I drive an 8-year-old car. I'm gonna drive it into the ground. I enjoy what I enjoy.
I've had some pretty good arguments with people, but I've never regretted it. I've had people come up where it's all emotion and no fact. That's always sad.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.'
As unhealthy as I am, I'm weirdly aware of exactly how my body functions.
There are times when I have to take, I call it a 'silence bath,' where I shut off all of the external gadgets. I go walk around, talk to people, and just live life for a while.
I think I realized it was an art form at the beginning, but it took me a really long time before I was able to view what I was performing myself as an art form.
With acting, you see some of the kids are literally just off the street, untrained, and they are great. And others are off the street, untrained, and kind of horrible.
I think the kind of person that gravitates toward New York is a person that's not so much focused on controlling exactly how they appear and how they exit. They're more fascinated with the process.
If I were to just focus on stand-up, I could actually, paradoxically enough, be home way more, because I would leave on a Friday, go do a couple theaters Friday, Saturday, maybe Sunday, come home.
There is a part of my generation that is not on social media because they have happy lives and they're not trying to connect with anybody. And there are other people who are on social media because they need to connect.
This sounds like a brag, but I know how to make good fried rice. I learned in college. There are two secrets – take the rice after you cook it and let it get cold in the fridge. Then cook the egg like you're making a fried egg and just before it's done, dump the rice and veg on it and swirl it around.
I look pretty nondescript. I don't go out of my way to… I don't express my personality with my clothes, with my car or my, you know, house. I express with my personality; so as far as what I wear – I don't really care about that.
Lot of ugly funny dudes end up with some pretty gorgeous women. Women are much deeper than us in choosing a mate – they see in the long term.
If Kevin James or Paul Giamatti drop weight, I'm done. I don't want to be the last pudge out there.
I had a romance novel inside me, but I paid three sailors to beat it out if me with steel pipes.
Having enough money has to go hand in hand with living in a way that you're not being a slave to your possessions.
As much as I know people love the method and what you can draw out of yourself, a lot of acting is very imaginative.