JFL40: Patton Oswalt does it all… but stand-up comes first

Pop Goes The News – Multi-talented. Versatile. Prolific. Ubiquitous. Oh, and, funny. These are some of the adjectives that come to mind when trying to describe Patton Oswalt.

After all, there’s not much the 53-year-old doesn’t do: TV shows, movies, video games, music videos and books, to name a few. Heck, he’s halfway to EGOT status (he earned a Grammy and an Emmy for Talking for Clapping).

But, after 34 years of holding a mic in front of a crowd, Oswalt says stand-up is still what he loves the most.

“I do everything else that I do so I can keep doing stand-up, basically,” he told Pop Goes The News, noting that everything else he does lets him do just the right amount of stand-up. “I just go out on the weekends. I don’t do long tours. I don’t want to be away from the wife and daughter for that long.”

Oswalt is coming back to Canada this month to host the aptly named Patton Oswalt Gala at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal (“I’m there to keep the flow going”) followed by his Who’s Ready to Laugh show at Massey Hall in Toronto.

Oswalt figures he popped his JFL cherry in the mid-‘90s. “It was just like comedian summer camp,” he recalled. “I saw everyone I knew wandering around and going to shows and going to clubs. It was really fun.”

There’s a simple reason Oswalt keeps coming back to the festival. “I just like doing comedy,” he said. “I like doing comedy anywhere and Montreal is a beautiful city and especially because that’s a comedy festival so the crowds are amped to see stand-up.”

Oswalt’s shows are a mix of relatable personal stories and his thoughts on what’s happening in the world at a given time.

“I don’t try to consciously balance it. It’s whatever I’m feeling at the time,” he explained, “so that kind of works itself out naturally. But if the zeitgeist is bigger than my personal life, then that’s going to be commented on more. I let whatever is going on kind of dictate how the sets go.”


On Twitter, where he has an impressive 4.7 million followers, Oswalt is outspoken on social issues and transparent in his politics. He knows his demo and isn’t worried about alienating anyone.

“If they don’t like it they weren’t ever going to come see [a show],” he said. “Whenever I get those messages like ‘You just lost a fan,’ I’m like, ‘Come on, stop it dude, you were never going to show up.’ I’m fine.”

Oswalt is equally unconcerned about changes in stand-up comedy and the behaviour and expectations of audiences.

“Each audience is its own event, is its own entity so I try not to look at my audience as part of a graph or a trend,” he explained. “If there’s anything overall going on, that’s not for me to think about. I just want to do the best show I can each night.”

In a keynote address he delivered at JFL exactly 10 years ago, Oswalt spoke about how comedians were taking the reins when it came to creating and distributing their content. He told the gatekeepers: “Get out of our way.”

Oswalt downplayed how prescient he was.

“I didn’t really call it. I saw it already starting to happen,” he said, referring to comedians like Louis C.K. (who posted most of his specials on his website) and Aziz Ansari (who released Dangerously Delicious on his website). “I would listen to my friends and see what they were starting to think about doing, so I saw that coming.

“It wasn’t that I predicted it out of the air. I kept my ears open to what was going around me.”

Patton Oswalt hosts a Just For Laughs gala on July 29 at Théâtre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts. Click here for tickets. (He also performs Who’s Ready To Laugh at Massey Hall in Toronto on July 30.) Just For Laughs runs July 13-31. Follow @JRK_Media on Twitter for more coverage of the festival.