The Funniest Man on the Planet

So maybe I’m a little biased, but who cares? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Went last night (with Pam and friends Kori and Mike) to the DC Improv to see Patton Oswalt, whom I’ve not seen live on stage in twelve years. Back then — playing emcee for the now-defunct Williamsburg Comedy Club (at which yours truly made his one and only stand-up appearance) — he was funny, but it’s astonishing to see how somebody’s skills can mature over time. Before, he was a promising up-and-comer; today he’s a master of his craft. The openers — emcee Erik Myers and Mark Voyce — were amusing, ably serving as comedic appetizers, but Patton’s performance was in a completely different category; picture the difference between The Outback and Ruth�s Chris (a comparison that would have additional meaning if you’d seen the show).

Like I said, I’ve got a bit of a personal bias. It’d be pushing things to say we were “friends,” but we did hang out a bit at William and Mary, particularly senior year. We both did work for the Flat Hat student newspaper, and I did a few T-shirt and poster designs for his shows (and dagnabbit, the one shirt I was really proud of — an Absolut ad parody with a pretty damn good caricature — sold out and I never got a copy). I still remember our trouping across campus together at graduation; he effortlessly (and repeatedly) charmed observers en route into donating beers to our little entourage. He was already a bit of a local celebrity back then, so there was a bit of a thrill knowing him, but he sure as hell never acted like a big shot. Hell, even last night, now that he’s Mr. Big TV Star (Spence on The King of Queens, for the uninitiated), he was as friendly and approachable as ever.

The show itself is impossible to describe with anything approaching the level of sheer creativity and raw humor that he conveys. He deftly combined everything from comic book and other pop-culture references (without venturing too far into the obscure or inside) to political commentary (without proselytizing) in a performance of nonstop belly laughs. And while he never draws attention to the fact that he was a William and Mary English major, his pedigree evidences itself in everything from his use of vocabulary to his comprehensive understanding of the cadences of the language. Though even back then, he was a little more irreverent than some of his classmates (as memory serves, he insisted on doing an extensive presentation on comics as literature for one of his classes). If you get the chance to see his show live, do it; a recording can never capture the immediacy of an in-person performance (though I do wish he had at least a CD available — the one shortcoming in his otherwise impressive website is the lack of any swag).

One thing’s for damn sure: After seeing the show, I have definitely got to get me a TiVo.


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