Three Great Things: Patton Oswalt

The prolific comedian, actor and writer, currently starring in I Love My Dad, on what gets his juices flowing.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current theatrical release of I Love My Dad, the new comedy-drama starring Patton Oswalt and writer-director James Morisini, the prolific comedian, actor and author shared some of the things he’s most passionate about in life. — N.D.

Eating an Egg McMuffin and Drinking Coffee in My Car
When I’m going somewhere early in the morning for an appointment, I like arriving really early, getting an Egg McMuffin and a small coffee and reading in my car. If I’m supposed to be somewhere at 9 a.m., I’ll show up at 8, so that I have a reason to sit there for an hour and not be rushed. There’s something about sitting in a car in the morning as the world’s waking up and having your muffin and just reading. I don’t do it a lot, but the isolation of the car is such a pleasure. Sometimes, I’ll not even read, I’ll just look around, staking out the world.

A day where I don’t have to be anywhere is such a rare thing, so by arriving early, I’m subconsciously engineering a situation where I don’t have to be anywhere soon. I’m creating little chunks of the day where I can let my head go wherever it wants to. If it feels like reading, great. If it reads a page and a half and gets bored and wants to stop and look out the window, I let it. If it wants to just go into the novel, or whatever it is I’m reading, and stay there, I let it. If it feels like meditating, we’ll do that. All those things are just as crucial as the other.

Later on in the day, if I have to do things or show up or be performative in certain ways, I can. And I let my mind remember when we had those nice 50 minutes when it got to do whatever it wanted to. It’s almost like reminding my brain that I’m looking out for its well-being: “See how I managed to get up early so that we could just relax for a bit?” If the heart is looking after the brain, the brain functions better.

I’m not really eating McMuffins that much these days and I’m also not drinking much coffee anymore, because they’re not great for me at my age. So doing this is saying to myself, “Hey, we’re outside of time right now. Don’t worry about this. We can afford this little treat.” It puts my mind in a relaxed space, and the way those two tastes hit each other, it just works.

Valley Heat
When I have to fold laundry or do dishes, I love letting a really good podcast – like Double Threat, You Must Remember This or Crime Town – just wash over me while I’m getting this menial task done.

At the moment, there’s a new comedy podcast I’m really obsessed with called Valley Heat, about an attorney who lives in Burbank who thinks the guy who cleans his pool is using his garbage can as a drug drop, and is trying to make a true crime podcast about that. Of course, it goes spinning off into the most insane directions, so it’s also a portrait of this guy’s marriage and the community around him. It’s non-stop hilarious. I’m now halfway through the second season, so I’m parceling it out, because I don’t want it to end. But my God, it’s so hilarious. It’s one of the best podcasts I’ve heard in a long time, up there with Welcome to Night Vale.

Comedically, it works the same way as films like Repo Man, where everyone in it is so deadly serious and it takes you a second to realize how funny and how petty and stupid it all is. It’s also a great commentary on podcasts: this guy thinks that because he has a podcast, he’s suddenly part of the fourth estate. Except all he’s doing is bothering people with his phone by recording them. It works on every possible level, and it’s really just brilliant.

The Books of Chris Offutt
I’m a huge fan of the writer Chris Offutt, who grew up in the deep hillbilly woods of eastern Kentucky. He’s written some amazing memoirs, like Same River Twice, and books of short stories, but now he’s started writing crime novels. They are mysteries based around the customs and rituals of life in the area he grew up in, which can be very different from life in the big city. The first one, The Killing Hills, came out two years ago, and his new one, Shifty’s Boys, just dropped. The books are centered on Inspector Mick Hardin, an Iraqi War vet who’s come back to his hometown and keeps getting pulled into new cases. Reading these books, I feel like I’m at the start of an epic crime saga told through this one character. It makes me really excited that a writer I love has made this shift into crime writing, using muscles he’s never used before, and is just fantastic at it.

I’ve been tweeting about Chris’ work for a while and when he did a virtual book tour for The Killing Hills (because it came out during the pandemic), I did a bunch of interviews with him. I’ve gotten to know him over Zoom, but I’ve never met him in person, because I think he still lives out in Kentucky. I’ve spent a little time in Louisville and Lexington, but I’ve never been to eastern Kentucky. If I ever get a chance, I’d love to go there to meet Chris. I also really like visiting the places where my favorite books are set. When I was down in Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago, I wanted to visit Slip F-18, which is where Travis McGee’s boat, the Busted Flush, is moored in John D. McDonald’s novels. I’ve also done Ripper tours of East London and a Bloomsday walk in Dublin, going to all the places Leopold Bloom goes. It’s also why I love James Ellroy’s novels so much, because as a longtime L.A. resident, I can picture exactly where he’s putting his characters.

Featured image shows Patton Oswalt with Rachel Dratch in I Love My Dad.

Patton Oswalt, who is currently starring in the comedy drama I Love My Dad, out now in theaters and on digital, is a multi-hyphenate talent (actor, writer, comedian) and award-winning performer known for his comedy specials and more than 200 film and television roles, including Parks and Recreation, for which he received a TV Critics Choice Award, and The King of Queens. He recently co-created M.O.D.O.K., the Marvel stop-motion animated adult comedy series in which he voices the title character, and currently co-stars as Principal Durbin in the NBC comedy A.P. Bio. Oswalt was nominated for a Critics Choice Award for his performance in Jason Reitman’s film Young Adult, starring opposite Charlize Theron, and was nominated for a Gotham Award for his role in the 2009 drama Big Fan. He provided the voices for Remy the rat in Brad Bird’s Oscar-winning Ratatouille and Max in The Secret Life of Pets, and played one of the “white voices” in the acclaimed indie hit Sorry To Bother You, the directorial debut of Boots Riley. He is also the narrator on ABC’s hit comedy The Goldbergs and has also voiced characters on TV shows such as The Boys, Family Guy, Rick and Morty, Archer, BoJack Horseman, The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.