I’ve been a big fan of Patton Oswalt for a number of years- from his standup career to his many marvelous TV shows cameos (Agents of SHIELD, Parks and Recreation, Reno 911 etc) and his voice acting (Ratatouille, Archer, etc). He has always struck me as a rare celebrity-one who is painfully planted on earth in a sea of stardom. Not that he isn’t a big star in his own right, with Pixar and Marvel credits under his belt, as well as several standup specials and a lengthy career on television- but there was always something about him. Hes the dude that I wanted to hang out with. Hes the guy who I would love to talk to with no bullshit.
So when I found out that Patton had suffered a devastating loss in his wife-Michelle McNamara-a renowned crime writer-turned-cold case connoisseur and subject of many of his stand up stories- I was gutted. I don’t know either of these people, but when I see good people doing good things in the world who are hurting, it hurts.
Oswalt bravely took to the stage under the direction and support of friend and comedy vet Bobcat Goldthwait to spill out the contents of his heart in front of millions of people in his new Netflix special ‘Annihilation’. I expected to laugh, I expected to cry, but I did not expect the lasting devastation that I would feel in its aftermath.
He did not just touch on the subject of his wifes passing- he let us all in. The survivors guilt, the burden, the aftermath-all of it. About halfway through the set of witty observations and maturity testing metaphors, you can see a noticeable weight begin to take hold as he prepares to tell the story of the worst day of his life. I was so incredibly touched by the openness and honesty that this entailed, but so grateful to bear witness to it. It was a heavy gift that he offered to his fans, and one that surely was not easy to give. As I fought back the waterfall that was trying to form behind my eyeballs, I found myself suddenly painfully laughing- a combination of emotions that comes so seldom in life. The special as a whole is such a unique experience to give yourself- from its top notch comedy to its open heart confessions, and back again.
He may refer to himself as the guy who talks about dicks in front of thousands of people, but he is so much more. Patton Oswalt is still a big nerdy dad with a heart of gold, through and through.
If you watch one comedy special on Netflix today, this month or this year- make it this one.