Patton Oswalt on Twitter, Diablo Cody, and hipsters

Screwface Patton
Screwface Patton

If you don't recognize Patton Oswalt by name, you'll recognize him by his voice or face. The popular comedian nailed roles like Remy the rat in Pixar's Ratatouille and his unique mug is splashed all over Comedy Central like he's the sole breadwinner. Patton is returning to Minneapolis this Saturday at Pantages, so it's a good time to get the comedian on record about a few things, including social media, ironic t-shirts, Diablo Cody and living in California.

First, let's talk about the reason for this interview. You're on tour and will be coming to Minneapolis. Have you been here before? What do you know about us?

I've been to Minneapolis before when I did a few shows at the State Theatre. I opened for Dave Attell and did a tribute to Mitch Hedberg. I know that Prince comes from there. And I know that Mayslack's makes a pretty grand 'tini.

Did you notice anything unique or different about Twin Cities fans?

They seem to be really enthusiastic about comedy, and I would expect that's because of Jack Lee. He's cultivated a really good comedy audience there. I was worried I wouldn't live up to their expectations so it felt good to do well.

Mitch was from St. Paul. Did you know him well?

Mitch and I knew each other from living in SF. He was very polite and sweet. We were all in our 20s and were young goofballs--he was one of us.

What topics have you been touching on recently in your standup?

I've been talking about fatherhood and the circus and fate and god and atheism.

I read your blog from when you joined Twitter and thought you had some hilarious things to say about social media. Has your viewpoint on this changed over the last few months? Who are your favorite people on there?

Yeah, my viewpoint has changed 1,000%. One good thing about being a comedian on Twitter, especially if you're following your funny friends, is it kind of made it a big game as far as coming up with a quick take on something. I've always got to top the other comedians. You're wired into a really cool conversation with some really intelligent people.

My favorite people on Twitter are those that are really funny and those that spend their time on the web finding really cool things to look at that are a good use of time, rather than going to some gossip site. I want to see rare footage of someone on a street corner in SF in 1905, stuff like that. Steven Webber is really funny. I also like Hudsonette, she's a great web scavenger. Roger Ebert has a really great Twitter feed, and Steven Fry too.

Who don't you like on Twitter?

The ones where you realize they don't know how to use Twitter correctly-- they're just posting responses to people so all you get are these confusing non sequiturs and it's like, 'Ugh, unfollow' because I don't want to have to go back and piece together conversations. Or, all they do is promote things all day with their weird, garbled bitly link to something. You better post something entertaining.

You've done a lot of voice work for animated features and video games. What's your favorite from these projects?

I've got to say Ratatouille. Getting to work at Pixar, there is nothing else like it. Beyond being in such a great film, getting to work with those people and be at Pixar was ridiculous.

Their offices must be insane.

They are. I was up there with Janeane [Garafalo] one time, and she just looked at me and goes, 'Why didn't I learn how to draw?' It's an amazing building filled with the happiest people.

If you had to actually be any of the charters you've played, who would you live out your life as?

Oh man, none. I've played a pretty pathetic gallery of people. I'm tempted to say Remy from Ratatouille but I don't want to be a fucking rat. I also don't want to be a tormented genius, either.

If you could force two celebrities to fight Vegas-boxing-ring style, who would you choose?

Ha! I would say Glenn Beck and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and it would have to be Thunderdome style. One of them would have to die before the other one would be allowed to leave.

What's it like working with Diablo Cody on United States of Tara? She's a former editor at this paper.

Oh, wow. It's been really fun. I'm doing more stuff because we just started the 3rd season. You're working with someone that thinks about the same things as you are, and even if her opinions are different from mine, they're just as passionately held. I went and saw Rambo: First Blood with her and a couple other fucking geeks and we were all flipping out. It was the way she was watching it, it was like she was delightedly observing this behavior and this will show up in something else. There's a lot of joy in things with her.

Love your bit about ironic t-shirts. What's the worst one you've ever seen?

Oh, Jesus. Some skinny guy with really dumb facial hair was wearing a Spice Girls tour T-shirt. It wasn't that the t-shirt was horrible, it was the combo of it on him. You could just tell he was presenting it to the world like, 'Yeah, you're welcome. It's good that I'm here being this cool for everybody.'

I could never put my finger on why I hate seeing those until I saw your bit about that.

This is kind of related - There's a Starbucks near me and everyone that works there are really nice and it's a nicely appointed Startbucks. But the customers there are the biggest d-bags. The people who work there must have to take medication for having to deal with their clientele.There were these three loud hipsters in line jabbering about shit -- "I KNOWWWWW!" -- and they each place their order, and the girl's name was literally something like "Trala" and it was like "Ugh, f--- I want to kill you," and the guy was leaning on the conter looking off to the side. The worker asked him, "What can I get for you sir?" And the guy, who was not looking at him, takes the LONGEST time to turn his head and he looked at the guy like "I can't believe you're bothering me right now, I'm just trying to hang out. I don't know, what's good?" He has to make it seem like everyone in the world is coming up to him because he's full of all this wisdom, but it's this guy's job. He's not coming up to you because you're so awesome, he's asking you because you're standing where the next customer would stand, you asshole! 

It's like they're playing a characterization of themselves.

That's a good way to put it. Doesn't' it feel like they woke up that morning and spent 5 minutes going, "OK, now, my persona is..." I remember back in the '90s watching Kathleen Hannah in the Sonic Youth video dancing around, and then literally the next day all the alternative-comic girls were acting just like that. It's my persona. I want to do that. I want to act like that because I'm going to be cool.

Now we sound like haters.

Yeah, man! Don't hate the game, hate the play--hahahaha.

We saw that a fan got a cartoon of your George Lucas story tattooed on him. What was your first thought when he said he was going to do it?

I was really flattered, but then I was very self conscious. It made me go, "This guy is tattooing a bit of mine to his arm. Oh god, now I have this general pressure not to suck."

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