Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Patton Oswalt Talks Movies With The Big Screen
From Groucho and Woody to Albert and Howard, I have been fortunate in my lifetime to have witnessed just about all of my comic deities perform in person. This week finds Patton Oswalt's name added to the list of luminaries.
Few contemporary standup comedians make me laugh as hard as Patton Oswalt. Always the most anticipated bludgeoner on a Comedy Central Roast, Oswalt has made a smooth transition from standup to starring roles.
There were bit roles in disposable fluff like Starsky and Hutch, Blade: Trinity, and Reno: 911 before the voice of Remy in Ratatouille made him a sought after vocal artist. This led to a starring role in Robert Siegel's Big Fan, a damning portrait of a sportsophile who will go to any lengths in order to protect "his" team. One of the reasons this low budget indie takes a top spot in my Pantheon of movies I personally identify with is Oswalt's frighteningly persuasive portrayal.
Patton Oswalt brings his brilliant standup to Spreckels Theatre this Thursday night at 8 p.m. Click for more information.
Scott Marks: Given what I see today, it’s hard to believe that you grew up a military brat named after Gen. George S. Patton.
Patton Oswalt: My dad had been through three years of Vietnam, so he wasn’t a very strict marine corps-like dad. He was actually kinda’ anti-war based on stuff he’d seen over there, so I had a pretty good upbringing.
It shows in your comedy.
Going through life with what sounds like two first names is a pain in the ass. I know. How rich would you be if you received a dollar every time someone called you Oswald?
As if Oswald was my first name?
I’d be pretty well off. I wouldn’t have to be doing standup.
One of my most enjoyable interviews was with Robert Siegel, writer and director of Big Fan.
Robert did an amazing job on that film.
He was the first one to hip me to the fact that you’re big into movies.
Yeah. I’m a film buff from way back.
You were born around the time the studio system turned to rubble. What are some of your earliest moviegoing memories?
I was a little kid, so my earliest memories aren’t of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls type. I watched a lot of the crappy live-action Disney movies that were being made at the time. A movie that had a really early effect on me...it was some kind of Kid’s Day at the library. I think I was around 5. They didn’t really know what they were doing. They showed us all Nosferatu, the F.W. Murnau version. It really, really freaked me out. It not only freaked me out because it scared me, I was also watching how it freaked everyone else out. That moment solidified a little movie love in me. I realized how much these things can have an effect on me. You never know how things are going to effect a kid until you see it happen.
Do you remember the first film your parents took you to?
It had to have been some kind of Disney movie. I can’t remember a specific movie. I remember incidents, like Nosferatu or catching King Kong on TV, but I don’t remember my first movie experience. I don’t know why. It must not have made an impression on me.
For people from our generation and many generations to come, out first films will always be Disney productions.
That’s usually the gateway for people. In the future it’s going to be Pixar. We were probably the last generation where it was all Disney.
Aren’t Disney and Pixar one and the same?
Yeah, I guess, but Pixar has become the main thing.
Robert Siegel told me that you and I have something in common other than our passion for film. You’re not a big fan of professional sports.
I just don’t follow them like other people do. It’s never been something that spoke to me, I guess. I appreciate how people get wrapped up in it, but it was never a big deal for me.
I grew up listening to a lot of comedy albums and you’re one of the last guys around still trying to pump life into comedy LPs. Your stuff translates very well to vinyl.
I do the vinyl versions just for the hardcore fans. I don’t press a lot of them, but it’s obviously something from my childhood. Why not do it if you can?
What comedians did you grow up listening to on vinyl?
Carlin, Cosby, Pryor, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield...I’m just running the LPs I owned through my head. It was your typical Pantheon. Jonathan Winters...
Did you ever listen to any Redd Foxx or LaWanda Page? She played Aunt Esther on Sanford and Son and was one of the bluest comics of her day.
I didn’t have access to that stuff. I was living in the suburbs so we’d never get the extreme stuff at our record stores. I do remember getting a Blowfly album when I was really young. The Redd Foxx albums were local pressings that you couldn’t access at a suburban chain store.
I come from Chicago and I found all of the albums Redd pressed for Laff Records in remainder bins and second hand stores.
That’s a much better record collecting city.
You’re rapidly becoming the new Harry Shearer. How did you happen upon a career in voice acting?
I’m not sure. It was something that just sort of happened. Someone must have seen me doing some stand-up and thought I’d be a good voice, and the next thing I know there it is. That’s what got me Ratatouille. Somebody heard my first album and said that’s the voice I want.
I was told that Brian Posehn and Doug Benson have just been added as special guests to your show.
Yeah. They’ll be at Comic-Con anyway, so they decided to stop by.
You have a 3-year-old daughter named Alice. Congratulations!
In another 10 years do you envision yourself pulling an Eddie Murphy or Robert DeNiro and starring in a string of shitty PG-13 comedies just so you can say, “I did them so my daughter can watch her dad work?”
I already did Ratatouille, so I’m okay.
The operative word was shitty. Ratatouille is a terrific film.
Exactly. I got to work in a really good family film, so I got that out of the way.
More like this:
- Casting The Yoda Movie — Feb. 6, 2013
- Like a bolt out of the blue, Disney buys LucasFilm — Oct. 30, 2012
- Thank You, Steve Jobs — Oct. 6, 2011
- Resistance Is Futile — June 16, 2011
- Defined by What We Hated — Nov. 8, 2007