It’s no exaggeration to say that Patton Oswalt is one of the hardest working comedians in show business. For younger audiences, Oswalt’s general hilariousness and irreverence has helped him amass 4.5 million followers on Twitter. He’s also logged a number of memorable acting gigs, including voicing lead (animated) character “Remy” in the Oscar-winning Pixar film Ratatouille and doing recent turns on multiple Emmy-winning HBO series Veep and the recent revival of cult favorite Veronica Mars. Older audiences might know him best as Spence from long-running TV sitcom The King of Queens (he appeared on 179 episodes). Additionally, Oswalt has won critical acclaim as a standup comedian (he’s garnered an Emmy and a Grammy for his comedy albums) and New York Times bestselling author (see: Zombie Spaceship Wasteland).
Thankfully, Oswalt won’t just be another tweet in our social feeds for much longer. He’ll be bringing his comedy show, Patton Oswalt Live!, to the Palace Theatre in Albany this Thursday, July 25, debuting an hour’s worth of all-new material. In fact, Oswalt’s show will mark his first-ever performance in the Capital Region.
A native of Virginia, Oswalt first tried his hand at standup during his student days as an English major at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. “I can’t remember a specific date, [but] I figured I’d try to turn what I liked doing into a vocation,” Oswalt tells saratoga living. After earning his degree in 1991, Oswalt dedicated himself to the craft. It took several years, but he landed his first onscreen TV role in 1994 in Comedy Central’s Small Doses, a short-lived prime-time series of mini-sitcoms. That same year, Oswalt also nabbed his first cameo as a video store clerk in the classic ’90s sitcom Seinfeld. (Coincidentally, Jerry Seinfeld will also be bringing his standup show to the Palace in October.) For Oswalt, getting to meet Seinfeld was a life-changing moment. “I auditioned for the role and got it, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Oswalt says. “His craftsmanship and joke writing are pretty much unmatched—no wasted words and maximum impact.”
It wouldn’t be until 1997 that Oswalt had his major breakout, appearing in his first big standup special, HBO’s Comedy Half-Hour. Since then, Oswalt has steadily built his résumé, becoming one of the most well-respected comedians of his generation.
However, all of the high points in Oswalt’s decades-long career couldn’t prepare him for the lowest of lows. In 2016, one day before the release of his Grammy-winning comedy album Talking for Clapping, tragedy struck. Oswalt’s wife of more than ten years, Michelle McNamara, a journalist and true crime author, passed away suddenly, leaving the comedian to care for the couple’s young daughter Alice. Though devastated, Oswalt remained surprisingly open about his grief and sense of loss both in interviews and on his Twitter feed, where he frequently posted touching remembrances and thoughts about his late wife. The following year, the comic released the critically acclaimed Netflix standup special Annihilation, in which he frankly discussed the loss of McNamara, battling his own depression and finding meaning in life again. “It was definitely cathartic doing that special,” says Oswalt. “I’ve always talked about what’s been going on with me, both personally and in a wider historical context, so it wasn’t really a ‘choice’ [to talk about it].”
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Oswalt. In addition to being nominated for two more Emmys and another Grammy, he remarried, wedding actress Meredith Salenger in 2017. Though not necessarily taking a break from show business, Oswalt is moving at a slightly more relaxed pace of late. “Right now, I’m focused just on a new Netflix special [that’s] shooting in September,” he says. That’s in addition to a new animated series on Hulu he’ll be writing for and producing called M.O.D.O.K. (short for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing), produced in partnership with Marvel.
There are still tickets available for Thursday’s performance at the Palace. You can pick them up here.