Patton Oswalt on Marvel Saturation: “Fatigue Brings Innovation”


The comedian won’t share details about his new show Who’s Ready To Laugh? so instead he discussed being an ally and comic book movies


Sam Jones

WHO IS READY TO LAUGH by Patton Oswalt (Just for Laughs). July 30 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). $59.65 and up. tickets.hahaha.com


I’m trying to guess what Patton Oswalt will be focusing on on his next show, Who’s Ready To Laugh? – And it’s not easy. I mean sure, we’re reentering society after two years of pandemic shutdowns and all the economic and social disaster it has caused. So the title of the show, which is coming to Montreal and Toronto at the end of the month, is clearly a response to that. But what the actor engages in is more difficult to define. He is right in so many things. He acts on TV and film, does voice acting, records podcasts, and is a huge fan of film history and comic books. And his previous shows usually focus on aspects of what’s going on in his own life between work, family and personal fixations.

Oswalt spoke to NOW on a Zoom call from his home’s screening room, which has comfy black leather sofa seats and a projector. And since he was silent on his show, we talked about everything and nothing: the alliance, the actors who refuse to follow the times, the 15e anniversary of Ratatouille (in which he voiced Remy the Rat), new movies, and the saturation of comic book narratives. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

I understand we have a mutual friend in (Punisher: War Zone director) Lexi Alexander.

Lexi rules.

She was telling me how much you had boosted her in this industry. She showed me the Punisher: War Zone review you wrote where you were like, “this movie hits hard.” She said it was you who encouraged her to stay in this business when she felt depressed.

Jeepers lianas. I don’t think she needed that much help. She is so talented. People know how amazing she is. I’m flattered that she thinks I helped her, but it was her talent that got her through. And that was how memorable his images were. His cinema is incredible. He would have always pierced, in my opinion.

I think it makes a difference in terms of just having someone help you believe that it’s not impostor syndrome; someone gives you that vote of confidence. And you see how there dominoes. Lexi is that person for a lot of people. You are someone who boosts her, she then goes on and boosts others.

Let’s talk about the alliance. I want to get into some specials you have on Netflix. In Talking For Clapping, you were talking about learning new terminology. You asked for some leeway, like, “We’re trying. Don’t jump too hard on [honest mistakes].” I think there is something to be said about this. Allyship isn’t just about doing it from the start. It’s about learning and making mistakes.

Yeah. Give people credit: “oh, this guy tried, but he screwed it up.” But he was trying. Learn to recognize the difference between people who try and people who just double down and dig and enjoy being assholes. We also get a lot. Don’t confuse people who try and fail with people who openly don’t.

Internet is very fast to bring everyone together. And as you said, there are people who are deliberately assholes. Or there are people who even pretend to learn for the sake of being an asshole.

Exactly. Right now it’s going to be messy and ugly for a while, then hopefully we all move on. We will see.

What do you think of the cultural divide that is brewing right now in comedy. You have a lot of comedians saying, “I can’t do comedy right now because everyone’s out to cancel you.”

It’s not a cultural divide. It’s just people who are able to evolve and change and people who just want to live in a single moment forever. It’s always been there in comedy. Every time the comedy changes, the people who don’t want to grow up are the loudest people. The dinosaurs that descend into the tar pits howl the loudest. It’s not new. Nothing new is happening. Things change. And sometimes people don’t want to change and they make noise about it.

You were talking in an interview about some of the comedies from your own past that you wouldn’t want to go back to or go back to.

There are many things that I have done [where] I was not so enlightened. I didn’t know any better. But you learn from it and move on.

The end of this month is Ratatouille’s 15th anniversary. What place does Ratatouille occupy in your life? And is it the right way or the wrong way?

It’s a great way. I worked with (director) Brad Bird. And I worked at Pixar. I gotta go visit Pixar and be in a movie that keeps getting rediscovered and people keep loving it. So it’s been nothing but great. It’s not looming. It only enriches.

Have you watched Everything Everywhere All At Once?

Oh yeah.

You saw the raccacoonie gag there.

It made me feel really happy. I texted Brad Bird. I’m like, “Hey, you gotta go see that movie. Don’t read about it. Don’t talk to anyone. Go see him and text me. It was pretty cool.

Do you have a favorite movie this year?

I think so far this year it’s been Everything Everywhere. I just don’t see how I’m going to have a more amazing cinematic experience than this right now. We’re halfway through the year, we’ll see what happens. But so far in July – six, seven months – that’s what the movie is for me.

We started talking about you rewatching the Lexi Alexander Punisher movie. I remember back then it was something different. Now, comic book movies are everywhere. I know you are a fan of comics. You know these stories inside and out. There was a recent article about how we got past Marvel fatigue at this point. What do you think of the constant barrage of these narratives?

Fatigue brings innovation, especially when the filmmakers are aware of comic fatigue. Then you get stuff like the Deadpool movies, you get stuff like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. You get that incredibly underrated Teen Titans movie that came out: Teen Titans Go! At the movie theater. It was like Deadpool, but for college kids. Someone will always do something creative and cool. You just don’t know where it’s coming from.

I think we sometimes forget that the western was like that. We [celebrate] John Ford’s westerns or the innovation of the Wild Bunch. But we forget that there was a new western about once a month.

Exactly. We also forget that Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher were able to come and bring something new.

We’re talking just as the new Miss Marvel series is coming to an end and a lot of people are celebrating how, yes, it follows certain tropes, but it’s also very fresh.

It’s very different, a very good new angle. I liked it. I thought that was fantastic.

How did you feel about The Batman?

I thought it was good. I didn’t think it had to be that long. I wish someone would make a non-epic Batman; a down and dirty, almost like The Raid version of The Batman, where it takes place in one night, the stakes are low and he’s just trying to survive. It would be amazing.

@justsayrad

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