Doing the Missouri Oswaltz with Patton Oswalt

Categories: Arts, Jesters

He played Spence Olchin on King of Queens and voiced the lead varmint in Pixar's Ratatouille, but Patton Oswalt is above all as organic a performer as they come. The founder of the Comedians of Comedy collective -- which, comprising Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis, eight-handedly put the alternative scene on the map -- feeds his pop-culture addiction through material running the gamut from highbrow to low.

And though Oswalt's got a recently-announced book and a follow-up special to 2007 instant classic Werewolves and Lollipops on the horizon, it's a fellow nerd (albeit a political one) that's currently got him all worked up.

So there's going to be a book, huh? Any details you can give at all?
Right now, no, because I don't know. I've been vaguely kind of writing stuff, but I don't know what it's going to turn into yet. So all I know is I have to turn in a book in a year.

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There were a lot of people that took it hard when the Comedians of Comedy were dismantled. What led to that decision and have you regretted it at all?
It wasn't that it was going badly. Everyone's career was going so well that it became impossible for me to kind of gather everyone together. I was spending more time on the phone and scheduling stuff than I was, like, writing my new material. And I said, "Well, this kind of isn't my job, you know what I mean? Unfortunately I'm going to have to let this go."

Looking out over the alternative comedy scene, is there any sort of feeling there of paternal pride?
Awww. Well, I do feel like there are a lot of really good alternative comics out there and if the Comedians of Comedy had anything to do with them getting more attention, especially the kind of attention that the entire scene deserves, then I'm happy. But I think a lot of 'em just got the attention from being just so flat-out talented. I think in the long run they would have been discovered one way or the other. If I helped speed it along, that is great.

It's definitely a very viable scene now, but has it gotten out of control? Is it something that needs an alternative to its own alternative-ness?
Ha! No, I think that if anything, it policed itself pretty well. It's not like a scene of people that are kind of climbing over each other to get some crappy sitcom or something. They all like doing comedy, so because they like doing comedy just in general, they're very supportive of each other.

Your election blogging was fun to follow. What was the best part of the night, other than the obvious win?
The best part of blogging the election was keeping myself very, very open. Usually I'll just watch one channel, but because I was blogging the coverage, I had to really kind of keep an open mind and go to all the different channels, all the HD channels and PBS and even channels I don't normally like, like FOX and CNBC. A lot of the election coverage was people just having to awkwardly fill the time because there was just nothing else to do, and I just find that so hilarious.

Did you celebrate the win in any over-the-top matter?
I went downtown. I was doing a party for The Onion and had quite a bit of Scotch. It wasn't that there was any overall specific thing I did; I just felt like I was kind of OD'ing on the happiness of the whole thing. Does that make sense?
It is weird that I did have this kind of let-down. It wasn't that I was sad that (Obama) won. I was so tense and worried that thing would go wrong, and when they went so right, I mean so right, that I guess it might have been too much. And I just shut down for a couple days. But it was a good feeling: "Oh, I'm burned out on happiness!"

That seems comparable to how people will talk about performing as a stand-up comic, where you get onstage and there's all this build-up and all this tension, especially if it's a big special, and then you do well, there's a crash and you have post-partum depression.
Oh yeah! I'm taping a new special in February. I'm getting ready for that and I'm doing sets, and I'm sure that once I have that in the can, there will be that feeling of deflation.

Wearing all your different hats of the acting and the voiceover work and writing, not to mention the comics books, do you find yourself constantly switching from one mindset to another, or is it just kind of part of the same creative muscle
I try to keep it within the same creative muscle because if I think that I'm switching I'll just get tired and over-think things.

So there's no set disciplined routine; it's kind of just more as the spirit moves you.
Yeah, I try to just make it a daily thing.

Any artistic outlet you've always wanted to tackle but have yet to?
Eventually I'd like to direct a film, but that'll just happen when it happens. I hope it'll happen organically.

What's exciting you in pop culture right now? What are you looking forward to at the moment?
Right now everything just kind of pales next to Obama, you know?

- Julie Seabaugh

7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, November 22. Lumiere Place, 999 North 2nd Street. $25. 314-881-7777.

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