Interview: Patton Oswalt, Comedians of Comedy

Filed Under Interview, Stand-Up Comedy

Patton Oswalt of Comedians of ComedyPatton Oswalt begins another branch of his fantastic Comeidans of Comedy tour on April 20th, this time focusing on cities in the middle of the country. He, along with Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Eugene Mirman will be visiting not just in places like Chicago and Detroit, but also Milvale, PA and Louisville, Kentrucky. (Full set of dates) I talked with Patton about this swing of the tour and, in a update later today, about what makes the ideal conditions for comedy.

One of the things I noticed with this part of the Comedians of Comedy tour is that, in part, it’s going through the middle of the country. And it’s incredibly lazy to characterize this part of America as unsophisticated, but unfortunately it’s also fairly common. Is doing shows there a sort of point of pride for you, proving to naysayers that these people are ready for your brand of stand-up?

It’s actually the opposite, because I’ve found out to experience that, a lot of people in the Midwest, not all of them, but more of them, are way more politically aware and tuned-in than people on either of the left coasts. Because a lot of these policies that I bitch about in the abstract, when I read about they’re fucking with people’s healthcare, they’re fucking with people’s childcare, it affects those people directly. They feel it immediately.

You see not only people that are more politically aware but are actually more hands-on politically active. Whereas on the left coast I think a lot of people are most politically active in the abstract. In the midwest they’re like, “fuck, I’ll show you exactly what’s going wrong.” Yeah, in the Midwest you get a lot of ignorance too. But there’s a kind of ignorance you can get in LA where you have people who have access to all kinds of alternative media and ignore it, because there’s this level of narcissism that is not present in the Midwest.

In fact, if people are pro-Bush, they’re Pro-Bush in a very active, vocal way, whereas there’s people like Britney Spears out here who are like, (appropriate mocking voice) “I guess we should just listen to the President.” That’s as far as they go. Fucking pathetic.

I’m played the Midwest my whole career. I’ve never had any problems. Except for Pittsburgh (where Patton had to be escorted from the stage after comedy club patrons exploded in pro-Bush chanting), people who have a problem with my stuff will come to the bar after the show and we’ll just sit there and talk.

It seems like on the coasts we’ll get obsessed with oh, what’s Lindsey Lohan up to now.

And believe me there’s just as much of that bullshit in the Midwest. But you know people who are actually going out to see a live show, you get people who are a little more aware. And maybe there will be some tension, but that’ll be part of the fun.

And you’ve said before that you don’t mind getting into arguments to some degree.

I don’t believe that if I feel something and you feel the opposite that we can’t still be friends. I don’t understand that. It’s like a guy who’s a Steelers fan can’t hang out with a Cowboy’s fan. That doesn’t make sense. Look, I like my team, you like yours. Let’s go get a beer.

A lot of people when they’re trying to do comedy, try and reach that universal norm of even if they don’t agree with you, they can still laugh at what you’re saying. Is that something you still aspire to?

I aspire to it. But that’s more about a sense of place than it is a comedian. You have to hope the place you’re playing has that attitude. And a lot of places have that attitude. And a lot of places have that attitude. I’ve been in Washington, D.C., and those are very conservative crowds that don’t take it personally. “well, I don’t agree with that. But that’s pretty funny.” That’s about as far as they take it. Whereas you’re out in a place like Pittsburgh or Tempe, they take it like life and death. They take it very personally. You’re insulting them. No, I’m just saying something you don’t agree with.

I know recently when you were at Caroline’s there was a woman who was very pro-Bush and walked out during a set if I’m not mistaken.

That was just two people though. I wouldn’t say that was emblematic of New York. They had… something was wrong with her. I don’t know. She was really weirded out.

And you can’t control that. You can’t make everybody love you.

Exactly. That’s not my job. I was hired to tell jokes and be funny. I wasn’t hired to be a politician, to take polls and make everyone like me.

By the same token, there was a recent show in Texas where you had to deal with two girls on their cell phones during the show?

I was at the Cap City Comedy Club. They was weird, because, in my defense, all I said to them, when I looked down and they were on their cellphones, I just went, “Wow, have you been on your cellphone the whole time?” The girl on the cellphone she said into the phone, “hang on a second. I can’t believe this.” Puts down the cellphone and gives me both fingers. Fingerblasts me. Her whole attitude was, “I can’t believe this rude asshole, can’t he see that I’m on the phone.”

And once she did that, it was great. Because I could just relax. I can do whatever I want to this girl. It doesn’t matter.

Right, because at first, if someone’s being a little bit of an asshole, you just want to see if you can win them…

Let’s see what their deal is, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being egotistical here. And oh my God, how could these people not listen to my brilliance. (laughs) Nope. Nope.

It’s rare that someone gives you carte blanche like that. And rare that they give you carte blanche in a way that the entire audience sees it. And the whole audience is like, “oh, fucking rip her to shreds.” It was a rare thing. But man, when they drop in your lap like that, I’m not going to let it go.

Eugene Mirman is joining the tour for this set of dates and Zach Galifinakis won’t be a part of them. What is it that you think Eugene brings to this tour and what are you losing with Zach?

What I’m losing with Zach is he’s got fans. And what I’m losing on a personal level is we’re really good friends and I love hanging out with him and I love watching him do comedy. But he’s becoming very successful and when you and you’re friends become successful, it becomes harder and harder to hang out.

Eugene, what he brings, is he one of those comedians like a Zach Galifinakis or a Graham Elewood or a Chris Fairbanks or a Brent Weinbach where they’re pushing the form of comedy and fucking with it. It’s a great thing to have. Because audience I think still need someone going up and doing straight comedy the way that me and Brian do, and then someone like Maria, Eugene or Zach who so fuck with the form. I think it’s a nice segueway and we feed off each other very well.

Does that effect how you sequence it? Sometimes some comics can’t follow other comics…

Yeah, that is true sometimes. But on a tour like this because of the kind of audiences we get, the audience will shift gears and go anywhere. Which is great.

I just saw Brent Weinbach for the first time in Aspen. And he was just amazing.

He is amazing. He a guy that I’ll eventually want on the tour.

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Posted by bob on 05/10  at  11:14 PM

Where’s the rest?

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