Patton Oswalt has carved out a place for himself as one of the most vital cultural critics of our time, both on stage and behind a keyboard. You may not always agree with him, but it’s hard to deny he’s intelligent, unrelenting, and unafraid to absorb a backlash (and throw elbows back at his accusers) when he speaks his mind. Oswalt offers enviable authenticity to those who are paying attention, and in his latest comedy special, Talking for Clapping (which is available to stream now on Netflix), he demands that attention while talking about the sometimes confusing rules of the road for political correctness, the magic of pants when engaged in a political debate, and being a father.
In our interview with Oswalt, we touch on some of those same things, focusing on the differences between his PC attitudes and those of Donald Trump, how fatherhood has impacted his comedy, whether he has the time or want to look back on his career and assess, and whether he and KFC will ever align.
Is the plan still to do a comedy special one year, then a book, then a special?
Those are the plans. However, as far as the third book, I really want to wait until inspiration hits me on this. I don’t want to just churn out something because I’ve announced a schedule. When I said that schedule, I think that was more of the dream, but the reality is… It’s just like my stand-up: I want to wait until I’ve got something really, really good that I can sink my teeth into. I have some vague ideas of what I want the next book to be, but it’s nothing that I’m going to say that I’ll definitely do or won’t do. It’s that the thing of you know when you know, and right now, I just don’t know what the next book is yet.
Is there a possibility that it will be fiction?
I think this third one will also be nonfiction. I think I have one more nonfiction book in me before I do fiction.
Is there any significance to doing the special at the Fillmore Theater, going back to San Francisco, a place you lived earlier in your career?
It was a combination of what… I feel like a bit of a cheat, only because San Francisco audiences are so awesome. There’s no real ice-skating uphill when it comes to doing comedy in front of a crowd like that. They’re just so open and ready. Yeah, there was also that… I guess it was a personal nostalgia factor and also personal curiosity of, “How far have I come as a comedian?” Because that’s where I remember making my biggest leaps forward in terms of skill and content-wise. I’m like, “Let’s see how far I’ve come.” I wanted a combination of those things.
Now, you’ve been doing this for more than 25 years. Are you at a point where you’re kinda taking stock of your career, assessing what you’ve accomplished, and asking what’s next?
We got the offer from the Fillmore, and there was that personal… There is a little bit of ego there, like, “Oh, the people that have performed at the Fillmore.” That was always the place when I was an open-micer there. That was, “Will I ever do the Fillmore?” So, to get to do a stand-up special there, it was a nice little… I guess it was a bit of an ego rub. But I really, really try to avoid doing any kind of taking stock or assessing where I am in my career because that just tends to freeze you a little bit. I think that is the job for other people, and if you start doing it, I think it impedes your momentum forward as a writer and performer. So I try not to take stock. That’s something that I think I should be doing way, way, way later down the road, or someone else should be doing it and not me. It’s your job to create, not to catalog.
You still feel good about doing it, though? You still feel energetic about it. You don’t see an end in sight, right?
No. It’s too much fun. It’s so fucking fun. That’s the thing. When people say, “Oh yeah, I’m still energized. I’m still driven.” It’s not that I’m energized or driven, it’s just fucking fun. It’s not like it’s something that I have to sit and go, [adopts exhausted voice] “Okay, gotta get ready to go on.” It’s nothing that I have to gird my loins for. It is a genuinely relaxing, fun thing that I only get to do for an hour at a time in the middle of all the other stuff I have to do. That’s literally how I think of it.