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Oswalt's Equation

Comedian's latest special features sharp material building on past interests and obsessions


By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief


Comedian Patton Oswalt is building quite a body of work. His latest special, aired recently on Comedy Central, and released April 1 as a CD/DVD and digital download, “Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time,” adds to three previous releases, building on their tone and material as Oswalt matures.


In “Sellout,” Oswalt, now over 45, wishes he could set straight the 25-year-old version of himself who might be prone to rant about what music acts are sellouts. “People do terrible things for money and pussy – conquer countries, kill and rape everyone. The guys in Nickelback realized they can just go, ‘Bwa Ba Bwa Eeyoooo… [mimicking husky rock vocal].’ So in a way, they’re kind of heroes – no one died!”


This piece also relates a much more recent story about playing a casino gig where Oswalt felt he got a lesson in what selling out could be all about, reflecting how far his point of view has come.


On “Tragedy Plus Comedy,” Oswalt also echoes and builds on his previous pieces about fast food and consumer culture, imagining himself in the frozen foods aisle and sharing his preference for the Lean Cuisine that requires the least amount of effort to prepare, in “Creative Depression.” This bit takes a darker turn as well, in keeping with Oswalt’s ability to paint surreal scenes.


At the time of Oswalt’s last special, “Finest Hour,” three years ago, he was a relatively new father. Now that his daughter is a bit past toddler stage, he’s also sharing material about trying to be a good dad, through a few pieces in the special, including “Adorable Racism,” where, again, Oswalt paints a picture of a Starbucks populated by ultra-left-wing patrons (perhaps spoiled trust funders as well), “You could barely hear the Norah Jones over the sound of eyes rolling.” He goes on to describe what happens when his daughter makes an innocent but unfortunate comment mistaking an older black man for a character from “The Lion King.” The result is explosively funny.


Without giving away too much more of “Tragedy Plus Comedy,” it can be said that Oswalt has definitely created another must-have album for anyone who values intelligent comedy.















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