Patton Oswalt shows his Wits at the Fitzgerald

Patton Oswalt shows his Wits at the Fitzgerald

If you ever needed unmitigated proof that the nerds you picked on in high school ended up being the successful ones out in the real world, look no further than the stage during the first installment of this season's Wits series at the Fitzgerald Theater.

Essentially a live radio variety hour (it was also recorded for broadcast later), host John Moe and musical guide John Munson gave a quick explanation of the format and Moe did a short, funny warm-up set regarding his junior high obsession with The Who.

Next, featured guest Patton Oswalt took the stage. "It's good to be here in Twin Peaks," he quipped in response to the intro Munson and Steve Roehm gave him on the upright bass and vibraphone, respectively.

It was obvious Oswalt was going to be in prime form. The discussion quickly turned to comics and how he's not like a superhero, "I'd fight one villain one time and that'd be all. I'd just want to tell the story for the rest of my life." He also read a passage from his new book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Scribner), about the ridiculous gifts his grandmother gave him as he was growing up (an owl lantern among them), and admitted that he misses receiving them now that she's gone.

The musical portion started afterward with Grant-Lee Phillips playing "Good Morning, Happiness" with Munson, Roehm, and Janey Winterbauer rounding out the band. Moe asked Phillips about obsessions he's had or still has, and somehow the discussion turned to Jesse Ventura's conspiracy theory televison program, complete with a spot-on imitation of Ventura by Phillips, who treated us to what it would sound like if Ventura had sung Phillips's "Mockingbirds," before finishing it in his own, much less abrasive/creepy voice. Phillips proved to be exceptionally quick-witted himself, which added considerable depth to the show.

Moe then facilitated a game of "Dungeons and Pattons," with Oswalt rolling his way through the '85 San Diego Comic-Con, meeting Stan Lee, and telling him to only make a Spider-Man movie if Robert Preston is the star. Phillips followed with an amazingly touching version of the Church's "Under the Milky Way" which was followed up by Oswalt reading another book passage, this one mocking the pretentiousness of wine descriptions on restaurant menus.

It all ended with a crowd sing-along of the goofy 70's Eric Carmen hit "All By Myself" and toasts that found Phillips praising whales and "all the sea life" and Oswalt raising his glass to harpoonists. Nobody had stopped laughing for the entire show, and after the oppressive winter we've just about wrapped up, this was a fantastic way to begin the spring.

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