Chances are, Patton Oswalt has been in your favorite TV comedy.
Over his career, the comedian has played parts both large and small in shows including "Veep," "Seinfeld," "Archer," "Rick and Morty," "Drunk History," "Modern Family," "The Simpsons," "Bob's Burgers," "Futurama," "Community," "Bored to Death, "Portlandia," "Parks and Recreation" "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" and "Brooklyn Nine Nine," just to name a few.
But on Friday, the stand-up comedian will return to the place where he's most comfortable: the stage. Well, not literally -- his stand-up special, "Talking for Clapping," was filmed months ago at The Fillmore in San Francisco -- but Friday is when Oswalt's set will premiere on Netflix.
Over the course of the special, which runs just over an hour, Oswalt blazes through jokes about Ambien, his daughter's love of "My Little Pony," RuPaul's use of the word "Tranny" and what it's like to navigate the Internet in 2016. "I cannot keep up with the fucking glossary," he jokes at one point. The special features Oswalt at his best, as he weaves seamlessly from topic to topic without you realizing that he's actually imparting lasting wisdom on you along the way.
In anticipation of the special, The Huffington Post caught up with the comedian to discuss his stand-up tips, the state of the Internet, and, of course, the 2016 Election. Oswalt has been a supporter of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, but made it clear in the interview that he's not "Bernie or bust."
"I will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate against either of those two psychopaths," he said. "I think they’re both equally dangerous and backward-facing for this country."
Asked what he would say to a Bernie supporter who would rather not vote than cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton in the November general election, Oswalt replied, "Well, then you’re a fucking child."
Thanks for talking to me. I saw the stand-up special yesterday. It was really funny.
Oh, thanks man.
But what does “Talking for Clapping” mean? What is the title supposed to signify?
Well, it means a lot of different things. It’s a reference to a very, very specific piece of audio from the ‘60s, but you could also take it a lot of different ways. I’m going to sort of let people interpret it themselves, and if they can figure out what the audio clip is that’ll also be fun for them to do.
So, I feel like no one really likes promotional interviews like this. Just to make sure I don’t ask it, what’s the one terrible question that journalists tend to ask you that you’d like me not to ask?
Either “What’s it like being funny?” Or, if I’m promoting an upcoming show, they’ll go, “What will be some of the jokes that you’ll do at the show?” -- not understanding that the whole point of a comedy show is that it should be a surprise.
Sure. My favorite joke from the stand-up special -- and I don’t know if I’m allowed to say what the jokes were or not -- was your short definition of the Internet.
Oh, thanks man.
I’d like to give you three options: Do you think the Internet is going to become more and more of a hellscape until it self-combusts, do you think we’re headed toward it becoming even worse and more and more annoying, or do you think people eventually get better?
See, initially, I was in the whole “Oh, this will become and remain an even worse and worse and worse hellscape” camp. But then I was reading about the early years of TV -- it was awful, it was so bad what television started out as -- and then, luckily, more and more artisans began to be drawn toward it and it got better. So I think that right now, the Internet is sort of in its DuMont [Television] Network stage of development, and it will get better.
Unfortunately, we’re seeing the early crappy years. I mean, obviously there are glimmers of intelligence out there -- the LiarTownUSA Tumblr and people’s web series and stuff like that -- but, you know, the infant form of anything is going to be a lot of, uh, I guess, chaff if you will, and it’ll get better and better. So we’re here for the chaff years.
That makes sense. TV is now, like, the high art of American society.
It’s fucking amazing right now.
What’s the show that you’re watching right now that you’re really into?
"Broad City," "Better Call Saul" -- I discovered a British show called "Foyle’s War" on Netflix that’s pretty amazing, a lot of the Marvel stuff on Netflix, I think, is pretty brilliant. So yeah, again, there’s really, really good stuff happening on television in terms of art and writing.
The "Broad City" girls are so good.
Oh, Jesus Christ, how funny is that show?
So funny. Consistently every week the funniest show on TV.
Yeah, but like the political commentary -- John Oliver and Samantha Bee are just crushing it.
Yeah, thats true. They’ve both been really, really good. I thought when Jon Stewart left, it was like ‘“What’s going to happen now?” But they’ve both kind of filled it, especially Samantha.
Oh boy, yeah, she’s incredible.
I’m interested in your thoughts on [the state of] the Internet. I work on the Internet, obviously. Do you think the Internet has, uh -- I guess there is one issue [with regards to] the creators of art on the Internet. The other is how [the Internet is] wiring people to kind of react differently, to fight with people on Twitter. Do you think it’s changing the way people act or do you think these annoying people have been here all along?
I don’t think it’s changed the way people act at all. I think it’s changed what we’re able to see and hear about how people react. I think that's what it's changing.
Yeah that makes sense. You just hear people more.
Exactly. You hear people more and I think that’s what’s even more crucial [is] you hear people faster. [It used to be that] a story happens, we digest it, we think about it. [Now] it’s all immediate, immediate, immediate.
One of the negative aspects of it is, a lot of time, stories that are actually of paramount importance that should really hit with impact [are published and] a day later, nine other outrages have popped up [and people have forgotten the important story]. I just remember very distinctly watching John Oliver one Sunday night. He did a story on Dr. Oz that if it had been done in the the ‘70s or ‘80s would justifiably ended Dr. Oz’s career. It was an amazing segment, but by the next afternoon, nine other outrages had happened.
There’s just so much [out there], it’s amazing when anything really does get affected. In other words, it’s almost like the outrage itself so exhausts us and the outrage very, very rarely leads to action. It’s all signal but no noise.
I know that you’ve been a big supporter of Bernie, and I have no interest in getting you embroiled in any Facebook-trending whatever, but I wonder what you think about the Republican side, Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump -- if you had to choose, what world would you less like to live in?
Oh, fuck that. I mean again, I’m not one of these “Bernie or bust” people. I will vote for whoever the Democrats nominate against either of those two psychopaths. I think they’re both equally dangerous and backward-facing for this country.
Yeah that’s been one of the -- just among even my friends, people have been talking like, “You know, if it’s Hillary then I would rather have Trump become president, and I’m just like “What are you…”
Well, then you’re a fucking child.
I wanted to ask you a little about just your philosophy on stand-up. There’s so many different ways to do stand-up. But what in your mind separates a pretty good stand-up joke from the kind of stand-up joke that becomes iconic? Is there anything that you can point to from sort of a skill-set level that interests you or any theories in that regard?
My theory of stand-up has come down to a very, very simple "Go up every night. Go up every night that you can, and just keep doing it and get better at it.” I mean, I used to have all kinds of intricate philosophies and ideas on stand-up, but I’ve been in it too long to say anything beyond: Just go up as often as you can. That’s the only way to get better and to keep improving. And it’s not me being dismissive of anyone or not wanting to give advice. It just boils down to go up every night that you can.
You joke a lot about sensitive topics in a smart way and in an interesting way. Is there any sort of topic you won’t joke about? Or is it more about the philosophy of how you go about making jokes [about sensitive topics], talking about your own struggles with depression or any topic whatsoever?
It just depends on the target and the context. That’s always the most crucial thing: target and context, and that’s really all that matters. So if you can choose the right target and the right context, you can make fun of anything, and you can make light of anything, and it’s crucial to do so, I think, [because] if you can mock it, you can manage it.
What’s it like working on "Veep"?
It’s as great as you’d think it’d be. It’s just amazing writers and amazing actors riffing and building on stuff. It’s one of the most fun acting experiences for a comedic actor that you can have. It’s amazing.
Did you get to work with Julia Louis-Dreyfus [this season] at all?
Not this season, no. But I got to do brief stuff with her last season, and she’s fucking amazing.
You have cameoed in so many places. Is there anywhere you want to cameo that you haven’t been able to yet?
I’m not going to say. I’m just going to kind of leave that to the fates and hopefully let that happen.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
"Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping" premieres April 22 on Netflix.
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