This summer has definitely been the season of Patton Oswalt. Dude has been everywhere, both behind the scenes and in front of them. Oswalt provides the voice for Remy the rat in Pixar’s new animated blockbuster, Ratatouille. He recently released his second comedy album, Werewolves and Lollipops, on indie stalwart label Sub Pop. And he’s kept busy punching up the comedy of other films (he was an unacknowledged accomplice on the Borat script), doing more voiceover work, touring his stand-up act with Janeane Garofalo, and helping out other comedy projects like Human Giant. During his recent media blitz behind Ratatouille, Patton found time to talk with us about political humor, the comedic process, music festivals, and putting puppies in buckets.
Why do you think this is only the second time you’ve gotten around to recording and releasing a comedy album?
Because after the first album I did a Comedy Central special, a feature documentary about me and my friends on tour, and a six-episode TV series from the documentary. I wanted the new album to be totally original material, different from anything I did on the special, documentary, and TV series. Also, I work part-time as a skip tracer.
And what exactly is a skip tracer?
Oh good Lord. That was a joke. Please tell me you’re not following up that part of the question. A skip tracer is employed by a bail bondsman when a client jumps bail. A bounty hunter or birddog, if you will.
Sorry, I only knew it as the name of a great Sonic Youth song. I’ve read a lot of interviews or seen documentaries in which comedians talk about the process of refining their act. Do you have a set process? Did you say, “I’m going to work for x number of months on this new material before recording the album”?
My process is, I go onstage night after night and write and hone stuff onstage. When I feel like I’ve got enough new stuff, I record an album. After the album comes out, I scrap that material and start from zero. Stressful, but rewarding.
Comedy albums from the likes of Steve Martin and Richard Pryor were huge in the ’70s, but since then the genre has seemed to decline in popularity. Do you think comedy albums might make a comeback now that the indie-rock and comedy worlds are increasingly joining forces?
I don’t know that the two worlds are “joining forces.” Stuff like MySpace, YouTube, and the Internet in general certainly help. And the fact that comedy and al-Qaeda are finally joining forces.
What was the process of getting together with Sub Pop? Did the label approach you or did you approach the label?
They approached me and I said yes, like the slut that I am.
You perform here in L.A. often at the Troubadour, which is primarily a rock club. Do you notice a difference in the crowds at rock clubs as opposed to comedy clubs?
The ones in the rock clubs tend to be standing. And less drunk.
What’s been the best rock festival you’ve appeared at?
Bumbershoot, hands down.
Why is that?
It’s laid-back, and the weather is beautiful, and the entire thing is organized by people who actually enjoy music and leisure and know that the two must go hand in hand. Nothing is less entertaining then seventy-two hours of nonstop entertainment.
Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
TV on the Radio, Holly Golightly, and M. Ward.
Would you say your humor tends to lean towards one theme, like politics or relationships or social satire?
It sprawls o’er the landscape like a besotted Leviathan.
Do you think comedy dealing with the Bush administration has reached an exhaustion point? Are they beyond funny at this point?
I keep thinking that, and then they always come up with something fresh and original for all of us to laugh at. It’s certainly not edgy to make fun of Bush anymore — it’s like making fun of Creed or Avril Lavigne.
Any future Comedians of Comedy tour plans?
We’re putting together a fall tour. Hopefully for October and November.
How exactly did you hook up with Pixar and Brad Bird for Ratatouille?
Brad heard my first album and said, “That’s the rat!”
Do you know if there was ever any response from the Disney people like, “Who the hell is Patton Oswalt? Why can’t George Clooney voice the rat?”
I’m sure there was. Brad wisely kept me in the dark.
Do you have more voiceover work coming up?
Well, I’m always popping up on stuff like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Kim Possible. So, yeah.
What do you enjoy doing most: stand-up, voiceovers, sketch comedy, or acting?
I like them all equally. Why should I have to choose? And what’s that sad song the whippoorwill sings? Can puppies cry?
Speaking of puppies, I remember a while ago you were on KROQ saying you wanted to coin a catch phrase like Larry the Cable Guy’s “Git-er-done.” So where are the “Put the puppy in the bucket” shirts, caps, and mugs? I’d buy one of those.
And, for selling you one, I’d eternally suck cocks made of spider larvae in hell.