You’ve heard the albums, and you still want more? Here’s a quasi-complete guide to Patton Oswalt’s podcast appearances, guest-host spots, and tour-only mini-albums (with links)
Anointing the “hero” status upon a pop-culture figure is a risky proposition. The idols of our youth will far too often become irascible caricatures of themselves. The creativity and coolness of their early endeavors eventually fade into a maudlin career of cheesy infomercials, opportunistic “evolutions” of political views, terrible cash-grab films, or “reunion” tours with $250-per-seat price tags (I’m looking at you here, Roger Waters). While he would never accept the title of hero, (and since the latest G8 summit requires “possession of discernible superpowers” to even merit consideration), Patton Oswalt is one of the few safe bets to place such accolades.
I’ve previously referenced my love of stand-up comedy, and how appearances of Bill Hicks, even in bowdlerized network form, transcended mere amusement to legitimate event. Other comics took aim at the charlatans of cheesy pop, the “creative” teams behind rubbish films, and the shysters within elected office, but few (outside of Carlin) expertly synthesized all three ideas. If only Bill could have survived to see our current Golden Age of comedy. The “Comics at Rock Clubs” trend allows personal faves like Maria Bamford, Doug Benson, Marc Maron and Doug Stanhope to perform before an audience that actually paid to see them, rather than a random group of tourists, bachelor(ette) partiers, and convention attendees seeking a few inoffensive one-liners between items on their itinerary (Now if we can only get that particular breed of fans to quit shouting out the punchlines before the comics finish their jokes. Hey assholes, we didn’t plunk down recession-era cash to discover your ability to parrot other people’s creative work – how proud your parents must be).
Fans of Patton are likely to own his three commercially-released albums (Feeling Kinda Patton, Werewolves and Lollipops, My Weakness is Strong), and the DVD (No Reason to Complain). You’ve also watched Big Fan, The Informant!, and all sixty-two seasons of The King of Queens (maybe). Like the Jack Black character creepily interrogating Tim Robbins in Bob Roberts, I hear you asking “Is there anymore stuff?”
Yes, there is.
So allow me to provide a guide to a mini-album that was sold at stand-up performances, appearances on radio shows and podcasts, and a live “lecture” with Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin. If possible, I’ll provide links to downloadable content. So without further ado, here comes the gravy pipe!
Loveline (6/14/2001, 5/16/2002, 7/07/2004, all with Brian Posehn). I appreciate the existence of a radio show that provides our next generation with medically-sound answers to questions about sex and health. However, the ignorance of the callers on such issues, in addition to their questionable decision-making, reveal the consequences of our society’s “We just hit the neighbor’s dog, if we keep driving, no one will know it was us” approach to sex education. Then there’s the vocabulary and grammar of the callers – there’s only so many times one can hear “like” or “you know” in a twenty-second phone call before Loveline gets damn-near unlistenable (and as someone that spent half their youth in southern California, that’s saying something). Enter Oswalt and Brian Posehn, who transform banal questions about genital warts into comedy bauxite. These three episodes display the Acropolis of the show:
6/14/2001: “I’m the funniest lawyer!”
5/16/2002: “Bring a platter and stack ’em high!”
7/01/2004: “Making the LA scene”
Here’s nearly five hours of cathartic responses to inane questions, and fairly-in-depth discussions of bizarre social phenomena. It is fascinating to observe the growth of their fame over the course of the three appearances, as this…:
Caller: Hey, Adam, I love you! And Drew, you give the best advice!
Patton: …still waiting…
…gives way to this…
Caller: Hey guys, love the show. I have a question for the comedians…
Outside of the study in effective slow-burn fame, we get to hear Adam get pulled into the antics of our two laugh-creators.
A girl calls with a question about reaching climax during intercourse, which results in Oswalt (in his ‘Garrison Keillor’ voice) offering this sage advice:
Oswalt: You ever… try listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’?
Adam: Yeah, a lot of good men died on that ship…a LOT of good men…you hear me?
Girl: Umm, yeah.
The second episode features an epic intro, where Oswalt satirizes the absurd affectations of those Morning Zoo-style radio shows in the style of Crank Yankers‘ “Boomer and the Nudge”. When the revelry pauses for a millisecond (which Drew quickly exploits to allow a call), the madness merely escalates. As “Rose” explains her trepidation to perform a less-utilized avenue of intercourse and its potential for unwanted “surprises” remaining on certain appendages afterwards, Oswalt advises her to “Place actual surprises up there, like Star Wars action figures…tell him ‘if you come out with Senator Palpatine on it, you win a shrimp boat!'” This leads to Dr. Drew explaining the world of enemas, including some concoction called a “Harris flush”. Of course, Adam wittily retorts “That’s what…a pair of Queens, Ace high?”
Another call discusses the warnings on prescription medications, leading Brian and Patton to opine how convenient it would be if there was a differentiation between “good” no-alcohol warnings (as in “fun”) and “bad” warnings (as in “potential liver damage”).
Patton is quick to identify the jagoffs with motives of braggadocio behind their calls for “advice”. When one such jagoff explains that “This most recent time was, like, way different than every other time we’ve done it”, Oswalt quickly replies “Because she was awake”.
Adam’s occasional forays into olde-tyme radio chatter elicits a few laughs. When he introduces Patton and Brian as “Dear, dear friends of the show”, Oswalt asks “What, is this 1943? Are we gonna sell war bonds later?”
The 2004 episode was in the specter of a presidential election, leading Oswalt and Posehn to talk about their upcoming appearance at a John Kerry fundraiser (for all we know, Kerry is still on that stage, answering a question from an attendee that departed years ago). Carolla was invited, but would be unavailable due to surgery for a massive hernia.
Adam: I have to get this hernia removed.
Patton: But you’re getting it removed for Kerry!
Brian: Yeah, he’ll have his “Hernia Removals For Kerry” smock.
there are other moments that cross the lines between comedic and – dare I say it – educational (a cathartic examination of whether women are honest when claiming “sense of humor” as their top priority in a guy, how funding cuts in student support services have created a generation of kids that lack faith in teachers and counselors, or a theory of Adam’s describing how celebrity and age result in different impacts on the relationship appeal of men vs women). For a commercial radio program, they get bawdy, and Adam admits his own cultural intolerance on more than one occasion. But they are definitely worth hearing.
“Jonesy’s Jukebox” on Indie 103 (Patton as guest host). For a few years, Los Angelenos were the daily recipients of an awesome gift – a two-hour radio show hosted by Steve Jones. When the former Sex Pistols guitarist wasn’t spinning obscure gems or providing a real-time commentary to football matches between Chelsea and Manchester United, Jonesy was shooting the shite with musicians, actors, chavs, and other questionably-grand characters (until the station went dark last year, thankfully he continues the show online) On several days, he passed the mic to a trusted guest host, who was then faced with the formidable task of replacing a legend for 120 minutes. Patton Oswalt got that chance on four occasions, including the last weekend of July in 2008, and he did not disappoint. His three-day stint included a full episode devoted to a discussion of some gruesome incidents of our inhumanity, courtesy of Michelle McNamara’s popular website, True Crime Diary. Patton largely sits back and lets his missus take the reigns in what had to be a creepy but entertaining lunch-break listen. I find myself making regular return trips to the August 1st edition, where Patton honors the “month of spoiled mayonnaise” by compelling the listeners to embrace a chilled, lugubrious pace for the next 31 days. If ever there was an instruction manual for a long, (somewhat) healthy life, here it is:
“I don’t want anyone running around this weekend, and hassling yourselves, I want everyone to just take it slow – two meals a day, scotch in the evening, black coffee at breakfast…read a paper, do a crossword, that’s it…and I have the soundtrack for it. We are going to start off, very appropriately, with The Pixies…doing the ‘UK surf-rock’ version of ‘Wave of Mutilation’ – pay close attention to the pace and beat of this song, and I want you to live the entire month…at this pace.”
Following Frank Black’s measured tempo, the show begins to resemble an episode of The Ricky Gervais Podcast, with Jonesy’s regular co-host Bagley serving as Steven Merchant, and the Los Angeles callers as Karl Pilkington. While Patton valiantly tries to offer “a symposium” of great mellow songs (“Ghost” by Ladytron, “Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star, etc), he is forced to contend with the rowdy nihilism of random people screaming “DID I WIN?” into the phone, or forgetting to turn down their radio, or mistaking the show for community message board (“I’m calling to inform the listeners that this is ‘National Ice Cream Sandwich’ month”). While around half of the phone-ins are legitimately participating in the mellow ideal, every other caller sounds as if they’ve never heard the show before. One youngster asks if she can request a song, leading Patton to state “Only of your mom and dad say its okay”. Her request of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” leads Patton to adopt a kid voice, riffing about how “cute” Coldplay are, and add that “you know, that one guy goes with Gwyneth Paltrow!” Another caller is obviously drunk, and Patton interrogates, “You are not driving, are you?” Other random moments, especially Patton’s self-admittance for being out of touch with the indie world (“remember, I’m 93 years old”), or a strange request to hear Jimmy Buffett, make this kick-ass way to occupy a 94-minute drive.
This laid-back sensibility serves as quite the contrast to his rowdy appearances on “Jonesy’s Jukebox Jury”, where four “jurors” examine the value of particular piece or pop culture in a “Pardon the Interruption”-style environment. (Unfortunately, the Jonesy’s episodes are unavailable, but the Juries are still out there).
I Love Movies with Doug Benson. Patton has made four appearances on this often-brilliant program (his first drop-by is available here, and his most-recent appearance with Adam Scott of Party Down and Parks & Recreation will arise on the official feed, or on iTunes). The star of such high-jinks as The Marijuanalogues and Super High Me (featuring Minnesota State Senator John Marty), I Love Movies features Benson discussing cinema with actors and comics, many of whom are affiliated with the Upright Citizens Brigade scene. (I recommend subscribing via iTunes, or checking this link for mp3s.) The podcast ends with ‘The Leonard Maltin Game’, where Benson and his guests engage in a game created by Benson and Posehn – the challenge: correctly guess a film’s title by only hearing Maltin’s brief review, the year of release, and the names of cast members in reverse order of significance. Oswalt is a formidable competitor, occasionally identifying the film before hearing any members of the cast. The show is fairly freewheeling, and many of the discussions involve heavy doses of self-effacing humor regarding Patton’s sci-fi and comic-book geekery. A few highlights:
Benson: What will we do now without Heath Ledger? We can’t use The Joker anymore – any sequel to The Dark Knight should use a new villain.
Oswalt: they can bring back Ra’s al Ghul.
Scott Aukerman: What about Lex Luthor? He’s still out there…
Oswalt: (Trying to hide his disappointment) Oh dear, dear Scott…there is so much you need to learn…
The Hammer lecture (featuring Jeff Garlin). KCET, a public radio station in Los Angeles, has a series entitled “The Hammer”, where the radio honchos assemble “An ongoing set of provocative dialogues on the arts, culture, and sciences presented by the Hammer Museum (a Los Angeles cultural center).” Hey, when I think “science”, I think Jeff Green from Curb trying to hide his self-immolation into the comforter at a friend’s house, or Larry’s fall being cushioned by several cakes. Enough with the sarcasm – Jeff and Patton talk about their recent success, the state of modern comedy, and Stephen Colbert’s jaw-dropping speech from the 2006 White House Correspondence Dinner. When audience members ask about Last Comic Standing, or hell, anything – the two principals offer thoughtful, reasoned answers that also are pretty damn funny.
Patton vs Alcohol vs Zack vs Patton. This EP was available at his tour stop in Minneapolis last fall. Like REM’s Dead Letter Office, this also features a few drunken half-jokes (Patton and Zach were performing in Athens, Georgia to boot). An encore set, well after the armies from the lands of Wine and Scotch had captured requisite territory within their internal Congresses, Patton begins by recounting his ‘Christmas memory’ of playing the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” Xmas record at half-speed. Then Zach walks on stage and parks behind the piano, leading to 20 minutes of banter occasionally interrupting Patton’s attempt to tell the ‘Tom Carvel’ story. Zach and Patton throw some caustic barbs at one another:
Patton: Can you play all of Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes, the whole album?
Zach: Patton, just do your material, OK!?
Patton: Can you stop doing comedy so I can hire you to play piano? How funny are your jokes, really? At least I tell stories in my act. Here’s you: “I named my shoes ‘Fred’ – now…I have shoe – ‘Fred shoes’…”
Zach: I just wished I could have been on such an edgy show as The King of Queens!
Patton: I wished I could have been on the last three seconds of the opening credits of Tru Calling!
Patton: We’re having a ‘bad career-off’!
Patton: Ladies and gentlemen, Grizzly Adams on piano!
Zach: I like to think of myself as a ‘young Bruce Vilanch’
Patton vs Alcohol vs Zack vs Patton is now available at Chunklet online, so check it out here.