Friday, July 12, 2024

Patton Oswalt, Florida Satirist

Comedian Patton Oswalt visited Florida last night as part of the South Beach Comedy Festival, and he didn’t let Florida off easy.

He said that the state isn’t America’s penis, as it’s often pejoratively referred; it really should be called America’s ballsack, droopy and sweaty and humid. Florida is “the sphincter of Satan,” and “a Japanese horror film with fake boobs.” In this “nightmarish life you mutants have built for yourself,” “I just assume everyone down here is a criminal,” and “the only reason to visit this state is to identify your dead daughter’s body.”

We didn’t take it personally. Each barb was met with laughter and an “ooooh” of recognition at the truths buried in these vivid generalizations.

A former writer for “MADtv” and the author of two memoirs, Oswalt is a persuasive wordsmith whose act is a Venn diagram flourishing on the nexus of the highbrow humor column, the nerd podcast and the standup gutter. He opened his hour-plus-long set at the Fillmore last night with a story about his worst gig ever, colorfully describing an epically bad show, two years into his career, in which he suffered from a destabilizing flu: Liquids emitted from multiple orifices, and he looked like a garden cherub as designed by an angry sculptor.

He described his mother’s giant container of prescribed uppers and downers as a “trail mix of narcotics,” musing, “is this oxy locally sourced?” When his daughter stands up to a birthday party clown who’s just going through the motions, he labels this mutinous act as her “Tiananmen Square moment,” while his own moment of adolescent rebellion consisted of blasting “a deep cut from Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ album.”

References to cult movies (“Escape From New York,” “Blade Runner,” “Stripes”) punctuated the material of this self-described movie obsessive, with the assumption that we all knew exactly what he was talking about; when you see Patton Oswalt live, a working knowledge of critically undervalued ‘80s films is a must. His strongest material wrapped us snugly into his culturally literate, geek-fried worldview, where 30-year-old television jingles for local Dodge dealerships take up the precious brain space that should go to mastering CPR, learning a karate move or planting a vegetable. This resulted in the hilariously therapeutic observation that “I honestly cannot be more useless on a practical level. There is no reason for me to be alive.”

Finally, his political humor proved that he’s as strong at this specialized branch of comedy as Bill Maher or any of its heavy hitters, establishing his liberal bona fides before leveling pointed criticism at the last presidential administrations. It was a fantastic and rare set from this multi-pronged talent, one that felt extemporaneously tailored specifically to us.

But I can’t conclude this column without mentioning the gaggle of oblivious, selfish drunk girls seated next to us, who not only disrupted the show to engage in a dead-end “conversation” with Oswalt, but spilled a beer on my wife’s brand-new dress and could muster only a half-apology for it. Their constant cell phone usage and running commentary ruined the evening for all the poor souls who happened to be seated anywhere in their immediate circumference. The Fillmore’s countless ushers did nothing about it, and I was too upset to appreciate the last 20 minutes of Oswalt’s act,

It’s not usually in my nature to use this blog for personal attacks, but believe me—I’m being nice. If you’re reading this, ladies, most of the words I have for your cannot be printed, and I hope for the sake of future audiences and comedians that this was your last comedy show.

The South Beach Comedy continues with multiple events through Saturday, April 11. For the full schedule and ticket prices, visit southbeachcomedyfestival.com.

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