Patton Oswalt’s role as a desperate father who impersonates a beautiful woman on social media to fish for his troubled son in new film I love my dad it might make him the perfect person to assess Elon Musk’s crackdown on Twitter parody.
In his return to The Last Laugh podcast, Oswalt talks about finding the humanity in his “monstrous” persona and why he’ll never pay $8 a month for a blue check. The comedy elder statesman also breaks down part of his most recent Netflix special We all shout about realizing he won’t be “woke up” forever and shares what he’s learned from the backlash he received for simply posting a photo of himself with friend Dave Chappelle.
It’s the morning after the GOP’s “red wave” hasn’t materialized, and Oswalt feels a sense of relief. “It’s encouraging,” he says. “I think it shows that many people aren’t looking for thrills and madness in lieu of admittedly boring but competent leadership. Hopefully people realize that government shouldn’t be on your list of entertainment and distraction options. You have video games, you have streaming shows, you have the internet. Government should be boring.”
In recent months, Oswalt has been busier than ever churning out his own content, including his eighth hour of stand-up comedy and a both hilarious and haunting performance in James Morosini’s autobiographical comedy I love my dad.
Oswalt was initially drawn to the film because it seemed like the kind of “risky” project that “could fail massively and spectacularly” but if it worked, it could be something truly special. He saw on the title page of the script that it was based on Morosini’s real-life story, but the details seemed almost too crazy to be true. When he got on the phone with the 32-year-old writer, director and co-star and “found out how true that was,” he says, “it made me want to do it even more.”
What ultimately appealed to him was trying to “find a real humanity in what really seems like some kind of inhuman character.” And as someone who has been guilty of “doing the wrong thing for the right reasons,” Oswalt relished the idea of getting inside the head of someone who takes that urge to an extreme.
“There are some monstrous things that are done with good intentions,” she says of her character. “And I was guilty of it myself, thinking that I was the center, the main character, the offended hero, and then I got kicked in the head from the side.”
One of those times came after Oswalt posted what he thought was an innocuous photo with his arm around fellow comedian Dave Chappelle on Instagram, before he had a chance to rate the transphobic jokes in Chappelle’s The closest special. When the comments overflowed with fans disappointed that someone they thought was an “ally” could support Chappelle — along with some “alt-right goofs,” as Oswalt puts it, welcoming him to their side — he decided to apologize to those that he felt “betrayed” while also defending his 30-year friendship with Chappelle.
“It was a very liberating experience,” she tells me, “because it showed that no matter how many nuances and ideas you put into something, people will still get pissed off. So you can also try to do the best you can and apologize when you can.
While Oswalt wishes Chappelle was more “open-minded on trans issues,” he said he “can’t deny his genius on just about every other fucking issue.” (Our conversation took place before Chappelle’s last SNL monologue.)
With that in mind, she said she has to “take the good with the bad,” adding, “He’s still my friend, I’m still a fan. I disagree with his stance on trans people and I went and look. The closest and some of the tranny jokes really bugged me. But then some of the other jokes were fucking brilliant.
Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation. You can listen to everything from Subscription to The Last Laugh On Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stapler, Amazon musicor wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they’re released every Tuesday.
Since you’re playing a man in this movie who pretends to be someone else on social media, I thought it was kind of a natural following to talk about Twitter, which is having a good time right now. How are you enjoying our new free speech haven we all live in now that Elon Musk has taken over?
Oh, that’s great, it’s so cool to see the N-word come back. I mean, that’s really the whole point of free speech, is to be able to spew as much racial bile as possible. I mean, this is what the Founding Fathers did, even though they were slave owners, so fuck it. This is such an old old story. It’s someone who wants to be funny, and they’re not funny and not everyone can be funny. Not everyone can be a rocket scientist or business tycoon. Elon is a rocket scientist and business tycoon. These are pretty great things, but he demands to be seen as funny and likeable.
Her fanboys are also very predictable. When you say, “My god, that’s not funny,” they say, “Dude, that’s rich.” I didn’t say it was poor, I said it’s not funny. Why don’t you tell me one of his genius lines and then prove me wrong? And they’re just like, “You’re just jealous, man, that guy owns like five yachts!” Again, I’m not saying he’s poor. This was not my criticism of him. I said it’s not funny. So I think there are a lot of damaged people out there who become billionaires because they’re just focused on numbers and money and they can’t understand why people aren’t excited about it. While I’d much rather be with someone who’s fun and fun to be with than, “Well, this person I’m dating never says anything initial or funny or insightful, but he’s got more money, so I guess I should be with them. I never understood that.
His particular interest in comedy is something I find really interesting. One of her first tweets when she took over was, “Comedy is now legal on Twitter.” And then within a week she was ban parody that is not clearly marked as parodyapparently because people made fun of him.
He sees comedy the same way he sees money and status, whereas anyone who loves comedy knows that comedy and [what’s] fun is constantly fluctuating. And we sign up to be part of a very ephemeral profession where everything we say gets old immediately. But that’s kind of the fun, is that you’re always creating, especially for comedians. But he wants that math equation where it’s like, “I’m going to solve for ‘funny’ and I’ll always be the funniest.” And he doesn’t understand that that’s not how comedy works.
It’s never worked that way. And so making these strange statements, especially to comedians, also shows that he doesn’t understand comedy. Because once you make any kind of objective statement to a comedian, they’ll immediately start trying to find a way around it. That’s the fun of comedy. Isn’t this funny? Then I have to write a joke about this. I have to find a way to make it funny, and it’s been that way since the beginning of comedy.
It’s a challenge.
Yeah, if you look at WC Fields, it’s, “Can’t you fool the blind? Okay, I’ll find a way to make fun of a blind man. I’ll make it fun. So obviously, when he’s like, “comedy is legal now,” he’s like, “OK, let’s find out how legal that is then, Elon!” But again, it’s because he doesn’t get it. It would be like asking to be recognized as a rocket scientist. You don’t have the aptitude for it and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. This is the weird thing. Any other profession – basketball player, neurosurgeon, violinist – if you’re not good, nobody says, “Can’t you play the violin? Well, you must be a shitty person. I’m just like, “Well, you don’t have that skill.” But people who aren’t funny think it makes them an inferior human being, where it’s just another skill you don’t have. But that’s okay, you have other skills that are probably far more important than just cracking jokes. And so I don’t understand people who feel they have a right to be funny and expect people to say they’re funny. For me, it’s always the basis for tragedy, as we’re seeing right now. This guy spent $44 billion to be cool. And you can’t buy well. And when you ask comedians to think you’re funny, you’ve just declared the season open on yourself.
“You can’t buy cool. And when you ask comedians to think you’re funny, you’ve just declared the season open on yourself.“
The decision to host it Saturday night live [last year] hasn’t aged particularly well, similar to the Trump one.
no. Although, there’s a bit of cruelty with the Elon thing that he’s like—and I’m not really defending that, because I think he’s an asshole—but there was a certain amount of mockery to that. He hosted SNL the same way these billionaire idiots go hunting on a game preserve where they block off a small one acre area and then put the slowest, oldest lions there. He was like a rich man hunting on a game preserve, but for comedy.
It’s set for success and hasn’t been a huge hit yet.
Even when these big game hunters are successful, it’s always a tease, because they lock this animal into a small area where it couldn’t hide. They gave you the weakest and weakest animal. You have never been in danger. And now you pose as this beast as if you’ve somehow disrupted the food chain with your alpha ability. It’s so desperate and pathetic.
Well, I wanted to congratulate you on very briefly getting your second official tick. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
It’s not there now, so you won’t see it, but it briefly added a second official check to all of these accounts, including yours…
And then within hours they were gone. He said he killed him. He decided it didn’t work. [Ed. note: The “official” check marks eventually returned, although not to Patton Oswalt’s account.]
I don’t even know, at this point, what the value of a check mark is other than to protect your identity.
This was meant to be a second check to protect your identity in addition to the blue check, which now just means you paid $8 a month.
Well, wait a minute, then I want my blue tick gone! I don’t want people to think I paid them $8.
I know, that’s what I thought. It will be like a blue check of shame that you paid Elon.
Oh god, well, if that becomes the thing, I want my blue tick gone immediately. Holy shit.
Do you think you’ll stick with Twitter, though? Because you have been faithful to him for a long time.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been experimenting with Mastodon. I still don’t quite understand the platform. There seems to be a lot of extra steps that shouldn’t be there. I’m really trying to beef up my Instagram, making longer stories, learning the tools to do that. But with Twitter, I’m just standing around and watching. It’s like hey, while I wait for the fourth season of succession, here is the season 3.5. And I can watch it in real time. Is fantastic.
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