If you’re new to the transcendent wonderfulness of Patton Oswalt, congratulations on finally making it out of your basement prison bunker, and please remember to wear dark glasses until your eyes adjust to the sun. Oswalt first sprung into mainstream consciousness in 2007 as the voice of Remy, the gourmet rat in the Pixar film Ratatouille. But stand-up comedy fans have known about his particular brand of hilariously candid philosophizing, on subjects ranging from comic books to feminism, for more than 25 years.
Now, at 44, Oswalt seems poised to become the first King of All Media for the Internet age: he’s a New York Times best-selling author, a Twitter prophet with over 1.4 million followers, and a shockingly versatile actor who jump go from the sitcom silliness of The King of Queens to a wistful, heartbreaking film like Young Adult without missing a beat. So how does it feel to be the living embodiment of the word “multitalented?"
“If I’m good at anything,” he tells me over meatballs and wine in Silver Lake, CA, after a frenzied day with his four-year-old daughter, “it’s from studying and following people who are really good at it. I don’t just want to do my stuff and be cut off. I’m good at what I do because I’m a huge fan of the kind of stuff I do.”
His latest project is a role in the long-awaited remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, alongside Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig. Oswalt plays Todd, the eHarmony counselor for Stiller’s title character. “I’m helping him build his online dating profile,” he says “and I keep pointing out to him ,‘You’re supposed to have 29 dimensions.’ But he doesn’t have any.” He tells me he’s a huge fan of the original short story on which the film is based, about a man with a vivid fantasy life. “James Thurber wrote it in 1939, and he totally predicted the Internet,” says Oswalt “how inner life would become outer life in a way that would seemingly connect people, but also isolate them.”
Isolation is a common theme in many of Oswalt’s roles, especially the ones written by BUST fave Diablo Cody (he starred in both The United States of Tara and Young Adult). His performance in Young Adult earned him significant critical acclaim for his portrayal of Matt, a guy in his 30's still suffering from the physical and emotional repercussions of a vicious gay bashing he endured in high school. “I was so lucky to get to do that.” he says, rolling his eyes in awe. “So, so lucky.”
The way he connected to that part made me wonder what Oswalt was really like in high school. “I was part of a group of class clowns,” he explains “because there’s never just one. There’s a gaggle of them, who are into Monty Python. That’s when I first knew I was funny. Making people who I knew were funny, laugh—that always meant something to me.” –Rachel Shukert
Photo by Ramona Rosales
This interview first appeared in our Dec/Jan print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe Now!
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.