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|Banner image by Zach Klein, used under a Creative Commons license.|
Now that George Bush's verbal incoherencies and glassy-eyed faux cowboy smirk are gone from the media limelight, Patton Oswalt is undisputedly the funniest, most entertaining person in America. Not that Oswalt hasn't always been a laugh riot, because he has. Over the course of the last few years his dead-on skewering of the cultural zeitgeist and increasingly higher profile have brought the comedian's almost supernatural comicality to the masses. Or at least to the devoted cadre of jaded twenty-somethings who hang on his every word and quote him just as often as a Simpson's episode. The only specter of hilarity looming larger had been that of the erstwhile Clown in Chief.
The Alfoldy family's group workdays together in the backyard excluded, until recently I had never seen live comedy. Last year a friend of mine came out to New York to visit and inexplicably brought along a coterie of younger girls, each armed with a veritable treasure map and to-do list of touristic sites and experiences. One bullet point was to see a comedy show. Begrudgingly isn't a strong enough adverb to describe the attitude with which I agreed to go along. In the end, I think it took a solid afternoon of drinking, a severe guilt trip, and the promise of a potential coital nightcap for me to fully commit. As it turned out, the comedians were absolutely hysterical, we all had a good time, and afterwards I somehow still had friends. I didn't even mind eating crow breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the remainder of their trip.
However, that one experience did not turn me into a comedy club convert. I was still skeptical; knowing how many Larry The Cable Guys are out there, I figured that I'd had some sort of beginner's luck. Seeing first-hand the intimacy involved, and the risks that live stand-up comedy entails, I knew that under different circumstances such an outing would likely be a very painful experience. Recently another set of friends came to my rescue and preemptively curbed any chance I might have to waffle at the invitation. I was informed that they had purchased a ticket for me in advance, and that none of my excuses or back peddling would get me out it.
Not that there would have been any reluctance, as the ticket was for a Patton Oswalt performance. Seeing some no-name comedian is most certainly a hit or miss proposition, but at this point in his career, if he had a solid two-minute bit about it, I'm fairly certain that Patton Oswalt could convince me to drink Jonestown kool-aid at a reception for the National Rifle Association. I frequently check his blog for updates, and can recite both of his comedy albums nearly verbatim. I even fall asleep every night in my comfy Ratatouille pajamas. Suffice it to say, I'm a Patton Oswalt fan.
My crew for the evening, oddly enough, consisted of two married friends and both sets of their parents. Not that I had any trepidation about the group, but I've got parents of my own and, if they were visiting, I would probably prime them with a thorough tour of my roommate's trash-strewn closet before taking them to see a comedian who frequently makes pop culture references post-No Jacket Required, and who is prone to potty mouth. Turns out I couldn't have asked for better company, though it was bittersweet to see that there are fathers out there who will go somewhere even if it involves waiting in a line, and that there are mothers who can comprehend, not to mention laugh at, a term like "Fucksquatch."
Conveniently, we were seated right next to the stage. I was excited that Oswalt would be performing not more than ten feet from our table, but also mortified that he might glance over, notice my unkempt appearance, and make some crack about the venue letting a hobo slip through security. Luckily I was soothed by the first of my two mandatory drinks and an opening act who used his looks to his comedy advantage by making a joke about going to school and majoring in "calculator." And then the food arrived. Nothing goes better with laughter than a heaping pile of nachos and a plate of hotwings. Slightly drunk, with a guacamole covered chip in one hand and a spicy lump of what was billed as chicken meat in the other, it felt as if I were living inside the punch line of an Oswalt joke involving ignorant, lazy Americans and their love of third-rate Mexican food. Thank God I had the last-minute foresight to change out of my sweatpants before leaving the house.
The two warm-up acts were enjoyable, the devoured food was marginal, and when it was time for the night's headliner, from out of the wings strode all four feet of Patton Oswalt, ambling forth like a hobgoblin of mirth. The laughter that immediately began would not cease for the next forty-five minutes.
I cannot comprehend the act of standing alone on stage and, using nothing beyond words and a few facial expressions, entertaining a crowd of strangers for close to an hour. Cumulatively, I've probably been funny for forty-five minutes throughout the course of my entire life. Ask my friends and they're likely to say I'm overestimating. Which only serves to highlight the mind-boggling deftness of an entertainer like Oswalt who, under intense pressure, can man up to the spotlights and high expectations of a few hundred paying customers and absolutely kill it. And kill it not by simply reading some kooky headlines or making fart jokes, but with truly razor-sharp wit, impeccable timing, and a David Foster Wallaceian command of the English language.
Whether relating an anecdote involving arriving at an open house shortly after an orgy had taken place, pontificating on his thoughts on the origins of religion, or expounding on the hazards of indiscriminate text messaging, Oswalt's set was nothing short of entertaining from start to finish. His routine was completely devoid of cheap gimmicks and he never once resorted to adopting a clownish persona as a crutch for his jokes. Much the same as when seeing a great band live, it was agonizing to know that eventually he would have to stop. I could have listened to him talk, about how Scotch and porn will always win out over a treadmill, all night long.
In short, once you've listened to his albums and read everything he's written, go see him perform live. Today, perhaps more than ever in my lifetime, the world seems to be solidly in the crapper; I only wish there was more Fucksquatch sweetness to make the bitter pill of daily life a little easier to swallow. If there is any justice in the world, Oswalt will go on to enjoy a Bill Cosbyian level of fame and success, and Dane Cook will finally be gang raped by sodomy demons.
This Saturday, February 28th, Patton Oswalt will be performing and recording two sets of material, for an upcoming audio CD and a Comedy Central Special, at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
VIDEO: Patton Oswalt on KFC Famous Bowls. SEE ALSO: www.pattonoswalt.com
SEE ALSO: www.myspace.com/pattonoswalt
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.
See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.
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