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Patton Oswalt: Feelin' kinda Patton

United Musicians Comedy CD, 2004

Review by Mary Elizabeth Ladd

Patton Oswalt reminds me of a select gang of comedians running around today: they loathe political correctness, it pisses them off; they’re rediscovering a hip brand of vulgarity of the 60s like a fine wine (which makes them skew both misogynist and hedonist); they’re anti-intellectual but, on average, pretty smart fellows. They like to come across as street smart – in fact their personas are always tough, street-smart cynics regardless of where they come from. Rarely are they self-deprecating and never do they get very sincere or introspective. And it’s because of this that they feel like cotton candy to me…a kind of gritty carnival treat but nothing substantial.

Oswalt’s CD is very funny in spots. “Why We Won the War” and “America the Retarded Trust Fund Kid” are stand out tracks…funny, thought-provoking, and original. His description of the apocalypse was hilarious. The “80’s Metal” video bit was maliciously on-target, and the bit about PAZ Easter egg making was good retro-funniness.

And I always enjoyed his non-sequitur transitions and his nice lengthy-constructed sentences. He shows off an acute appreciation of language, specifically wordplay, in his bits about English in porn e-mails, “The Poetry of Pornography,” and “Liquor Everywhere” where he discusses liquor billboards being the saddest of short stories.

But there are also many weaker moments. “A Man Shaves His Balls” is funny at first but goes on way too long and becomes repetitive, as does the Chipmunks bit – which also serves as stereotypically tiresome Gen X hipper-than-hip pop-culture commentary. And then you have the bulk of the CD: political incorrectness, which can be hilariously profound if done with some masterful tongue in cheek; but “Facts About Midgets” just seems like bargain-basement P-un-C. At the end of the day, these politically incorrect pieces were just not funny enough to compensate for all the mean-spiritedness oozing from underneath.

Oswalt's fierce attitude grabs your attention initially but gets repetitive as well, with no variation or progression. Does he have something to say beyond his curious but over-wrought rage over the children of hippies? Or are these just frustrated rants against the said hippies, vegetarians and, in an eerily subliminal way, women. Women, when they appear in bits at all, are described as whores, sluts, and untouchable hags. In fact, the album ends on the whore note. It’s telling when someone like Oswalt uses the term whore instead of hooker. Usually he’s not talking about the oldest profession in the world, he’s speaking bitterly about some gal who most likely isn’t a lady of the night. And I have no doubt Oswalt, the surfer of language that he seems to be, knows the difference. He just comes across, underneath the harsh veneer, as bitter and pissed off. And what’s so funny about that?

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