Patton Oswalt on Why an Awards Show Is Like a Stand-Up Gig
The comedian, who’ll emcee the WGA Awards Feb. 19, tells THR that staying busy helps him cope with the loss of his wife, who died unexpectedly in April: "Work contributes to happiness outside of the work."
Patton Oswalt may be the most experienced awards-show host in Hollywood. But you may have never seen him hosting an awards show. That's because the acerbically self-deprecating comic, 48, is the go-to for some of the town's liveliest non-televised ceremonies. Next up: the Writers Guild Awards, held Feb. 19 at the Beverly Hilton, which Oswalt is hosting for the second year in a row (a WGA East ceremony, hosted by Lewis Black, simultaneously takes place in New York). Oswalt has hosted the VES Awards (for visual effects), the ACE Eddie Awards (editing), the Annies (animation) and the 2014 Spirit Awards (which was televised and where a running bit about Bruce Dern being long-in-the-tooth earned a middle-finger salute from the Nebraska star). "They're fun to do," Oswalt says of the trophy circuit. "It's like a stand-up gig."
The WGA Awards cap a seismic year for Oswalt, whose true-crime author wife Michelle McNamara died unexpectedly in her sleep in April. (He recently revealed the cause of death to be an undiagnosed heart condition combined with Adderall, Xanax and fentanyl.) Then in September came a bittersweet triumph: His Netflix stand-up special, Talking for Clapping, won an Emmy (his first) for outstanding writing for a variety special. Talking also earned a best comedy album Grammy on Feb. 12.
He has written openly and movingly about becoming a single dad to his 7-year-old daughter, Alice, and characterizes his current state of mind as "good, I guess. You know, I'm trying to live day to day. I like doing what I do." Staying busy helps, he adds: "Work contributes to happiness outside of the work." And so another stand-up special is coming this year, and TV guest appearances are being furiously negotiated (Oswalt has popped up on everything from Veep to The Goldbergs to Agents of SHIELD in recent years). He also plays a ruthless tech mogul in The Circle, the film version of the dystopian Dave Eggers novel out April 28. What comes after all that, however, is a little hazy. "I'm just in a vague zone of my life right now," says Oswalt. "So it's kind of hard to talk about."
A prolific tweeter with 3.4 million followers, Oswalt, like a lot of people these days, has been venting on social media about the Donald Trump administration, frequently to hilarious effect. ("We're f—ed," he wrote after the president's startling first news conference on Jan. 11. "Go be with your families. Hoard food." A more recent tweet imagined Trump addressing the nation: " 'Good night, America. … Most likely kill you in the morning.' — our President.")
But while he's genuinely "concerned" for the country, Oswalt insists his social media nihilism should be taken with a grain of salt. "I don't know why people look at jokes on Twitter as, like, the start of serious conversations," he says. "It's Twitter. I'm a comedian. I'm making jokes."
This story first appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.