The late great comics Don Rickles and Sam Kinison commanded the stand-up stage like rock stars. They blasted their genius with the sound turned up to 11.
Kevin Hart and Chris Rock aren’t quite as speaker-rattling, but they’re operating at high volume, whereas Dave Chappelle is more like a jazz artist, and Jerry Seinfeld is akin to the classical pianist who has charted every note in advance and will execute the performance with brilliant precision.
Patton Oswalt? He’s more like a singer-songwriter doing a low-key but consistently original and entertaining set for friends and family.
Weaved together from two performances at the Knight Theater in Charlotte last September, “Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything” is a typically smart and insightful and chuckle-inducing show from the amiable actor/writer/influencer. Wearing a classic “dad outfit” of button-down shirt over white T-shirt, jeans and red sneakers, Oswalt riffs on relatable topics such as the folly of getting into a heated argument with your significant other over some insanely trivial matter; what passes for exercise when you’re middle-aged (he refers to hiking as “doing our little doom ovals … we got our ear buds in, listening to podcasts”) and why Denny’s is the most self-aware restaurant franchise in history.
“The one big change [in turning] 50 was all of a sudden, my breakfast cereal became deadly serious,” notes Oswalt. “Recently, my breakfast cereal was fun, and the boxes were bright, and there were words like ‘Sugar!’ and ‘Pow!’ and ‘Crisp!’ in the name, and an animal mascot screaming next to a bowl full of colors insulting to nature … and you turn the box over and the fun didn’t stop! There was a word find, or a maze: ‘Help sugar-bat get to his insulin.’ And now, the box is white, hospital white, and there’s a beige bowl … and inside the beige bowl, brown cereal … and the name is very serious: ‘Sorghum Farms Amaranth Flakes,’ and you turn the box over, is there a word find, is there a maze? No, but there is a short novel about the hippie organic cult farm where they’re growing my Aramanth Flakes.”
That’s some fantastic wordsmith work right there, my friends.
Oswalt, who’s not above getting into Twitter scraps with trolls who disagree with his liberal politics, explains he’s not going to do any Trump jokes in his routine — but still manages to get in his digs in explaining WHY he’s not going to do any Trump jokes in his routine. It’s such a subtle and precise takedown, his targets might not notice the wounds until they see the blood.
My favorite moment is when Oswalt, the father of an 11-year-old daughter, also shares some gentle humor and speaks in sweet and sincere and passionate tones when talking about being resigned to “living in the gray,” putting all of his joy and adventure into raising his girl after his wife Michelle died in 2016, only to find himself falling in love for a second time and marrying the actress Meredith Salenger, whom he describes as a “poem of a woman who re-lit the sky.” When you see love, says Oswalt, run to it. There’s room for essential truth in his comedy.
Side note: Kudos to Oswalt and his team for the visually arresting backdrop, which looks like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Oswalt never refers to the set, but it’s a pleasing alternative to the usual deadly dull curtains or brick walls we see in most stand-up specials: I get it; you don’t want anything to distract the live audience from the theater-of-the mind wordplay. But for the at-home viewers, a little color and pop is a nice touch.