Paton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Recorded at Spreckels Theater in San Diego, CA.
When I had the opportunity to listen to Patton Oswalt’s newest comedy special, I took to it. I’m not overly familiar with his work, especially when it comes to his stand-up.
I know he was on King of Queens (although I’ve never actually watched the show) , and that he voiced Remy in Ratatouille. He has a reputation for being a pop culture comic and geek culture enthusiast. I’ve also seen him in the documentary The Comedians of Comedy, that features a few other comedians that I like, plus Maria Bamford, who I find very funny. It’s also a rare but welcome occasion that I get to sit down and listen to an entire comedy special, so I went into this with high hopes.
I’ll start with the strongest routines on from the special. “Sellout” is a riot. Patton starts discussing how he wishes he could talk to his younger self about how ridiculous his opinions on bands “selling out” are, and then discusses his own sellout dilemma. Coming from another comic, this might be perceived as boastful, but Patton’s nature and attitude has you cheer for him, and the following story of a very lucrative and unbelievably effortless show was very entertaining.
If your ever tried to make a joke about something, and had someone stomp all over your funny with facts, you’ll appreciate “Germany.” Reenforcing the stereotype that Germans are without a sense of humor, Patton recalls a trip to Berlin and the staid German hosts that would correct his attempts at making jokes.
“Creative Depression” reminds me of how funny the tedium of day to day life can be. I was also glad to realize that I’m not the only person who has put back a microwave dinner because the directions were to complex for the dinner within the box.
The last two bits stand out for me because I can relate to similar experiences. For example, if you take the Germany story and replace “Berlin” with “DragonCon” and “German hosts” with “some nerd that liked to butt into my conversation,” the encounters are pretty much identical. Or close enough. But the commonality doesn’t always work for me. Patton tells a few stories about his daughter on the album, and they are not on par with the better bits. Yet, I feel like this should hit closer to home as a dad whose been through the same kinds of things with my own son. These parts come off as a dad telling cute anecdotes about his kid. The chapter entitled “I Am A Great Dad” had a visual gag that got a big reaction from the audience. I thought it was a strange choice to put something with that kind of response on an album. Fortunately, the DVD is included if you want to watch the performance. (Don’t watch the whole thing just for that joke. It’s funny, but not that funny).
The low point of the album was “Florida” There are several reasons why this part is skippable for me. It’s probably the crudest part of the album, and I like crude humor, but this was lost on me. I also don’t get the Florida bashing. While I’ll admit I’m not acquainted with the southern part of that state, I associate Florida with good times and weeks away from work. The thought occurred to me that maybe this is Patton playing to his California audience. For the most part, this was piece was lost on me. Even so, it is not without its laughs.
This performance did include some of the pop and geek culture references that Patton is known for. He discusses watching Schoolhouse Rock with his daughter, and makes passing remarks about Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and even Doctor Who, without mentioning the show by name. I liked how he interjects these small nods to his interests into his show carefully without alienating more mainstream fans. It takes restraint to be conservative with things you’re passionate about, and Patton does that well here.
I found Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time to be fun to listen to, but not something that I’d quickly recommend to friends, or be eager to listen to again anytime soon. It’s a decent album by a comic who I’d feel has better albums out there. If that line of thought leads be to buy another Patton Oswald album, that’s a marketing win.