A little over a week ago, while my wife and I took a train trip from Memphis to New Orleans, I watched Patton Oswalt’s new Netflix comedy special on my iPhone.
Patton Oswalt is always funny. He is EveryNerd, and has a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor that I enjoy. I’m not new to Oswalt’s brand of comedy, of course. I enjoyed him in the Comedians of Comedy movie about a decade ago, which featured Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Zach Galifianakis, and Maria Bamford during their famous comedy tour. Of course, I loved his acting on King of Queens and on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I am a fan. He has a likeable quality that shines through in whatever he’s working on.
And he shines here, as well. But, this time the comedy is leavened by a huge dose of tragedy. Oswalt’s wife passed away suddenly in 2016. Her name was Michelle McNamara, and she was famous in her own right as the founder of the website TrueCrimeDiary.com. And now, for the first time, Oswalt talks about her death in his act. And it is profoundly sad, as you would expect it to be, even though his words are sometimes tinged with gallows humor. Somehow, the way he addresses his grief in this “comedy” special elevates the material into something more. Something more akin to performance art.
I laughed many times during this hour-long set. So, it is comedy. But, I also found myself on the verge of tears several times. That is an emotional roller coaster.
You already know whether you like Patton Oswalt. I’m not sure that this special will necessarily win over new fans, but it will make most people who watch it feel something, I think.
One thing that stuck with me. Patton says that the day his wife died was the second worst day of his life. The first worst day of his life was the day after, when he had to tell his daughter that her mother had died. That still hits me right in the feels as I’m typing this.
Watch this special. It’s worth it.