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Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops

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Artist: Patton Oswalt

Album: Werewolves and Lollipops

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Aug. 16, 2007

In the wake of The Aristocrats, it might seem like anything left standing – man, woman, child, endangered species – would remain fair game for a comedian. So many seem to exclusively travel the low road that even alt-comics like David Cross and Sarah Silverman have allowed themselves to get mired in the anonymity of fiercely uncensored, un-PC barbs. Everyone is picking on the short bus and its helmeted citizens, with only Michael Richards reaping what’s been sowed.

Patton Oswalt drinks from the same trough of demi-taboo non sequiturs, but somehow pushes it further while turning the knife in at his own abdomen. With his new album Werewolves and Lollipops, Oswalt works the same bag of tricks as his previous work – there's the mouth-guitar sampling, a footlocker full of pop culture references, and an English major's vocabulary. Oswalt can boast of an increasingly deep well of sounds, quirks and phrases that appear in his own repertoire; it's a language only he speaks with any proficiency, but that anyone can understand. Referring to the planet Mercury as "the crimson eye of Cerberus," Oswalt gleefully dissects his own geekiness (which he explains has grown to be at odds with his nerdiness). Oswalt does take the occasional outward swipe at the average American, particularly on the increasingly famous homage to KFC Famous Bowls, which he describes as "a failure pile in a sadness bowl", but he spares no effort in defining himself specifically as that everyman.

Raised in Stirling, Va., Oswalt bypassed proximity to the DC scene that included Bad Brains and Fugazi in favor of Phil Collins, impressed by how dark he perceived the latter to be at the time. Anytime there's a doubt as to where he positions himself in the greater scheme of things, Oswalt is quick to invoke nicknames for himself such as "the bridge troll," or refer to his rotund physique as the result of a layer of "courtesy fat," gained by eating pizza for the benefit of others. To punctuate his largely Trek-Con lifestyle and aesthetic, he goes a considerable distance in describing a George Lucas murder fantasy. The comic's level of detail seems to indicate that the problem is not Lucas but Oswalt himself, loathing his own inability to resist Star Wars.

Between his indie comedy career (Comedians of Comedy and touring rock clubs like the 40 Watt) and his bizarro stage personae that pay the mortgage ("King of Queens" and his recent turn as the voice of Ratatouille), Oswalt can, and deserves to, settle into this period of introspection and ponder the infinitely more challenging territory of his own weight problem, his vanilla upbringing, and his place on the food chain, which is, apparently, closer to Brian Dennehy than to Katie Holmes.

By Andy Freivogel

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