CD Review

Comedy is the new indie rock. That's the impression you might get if you perused Sub Pop's roster, which currently houses three comedians (David Cross, Eugene Mirman and Patton Oswalt) and a musical group who specializes in humorous lyrics and genre spoofing (Flight of the Conchords). It's a bold move by Sub Pop, as comedy albums generally pall after two listens, even on DVD. Rare is the comedian who can create a full-length worth multiple listens/viewings. Thankfully for people who like to laugh and still respect themselves in the morning, Patton Oswalt is that rare talent.

Currently starring in the hit film Ratatouille (he voices Remy), Oswalt will likely become filthy rich soon, but one senses he'll stick with this standup shit because that's what he was truly put on this godforsaken orb to do. Onstage, the Burbank-based TV actor/scriptwriter/humorist comes off as charmingly cantankerous and animated. His targets aren't extraordinary—KFC's Famous Bowls ("a failure pile in a sadness bowl"); his nave, teenaged love for Phil Collins ("that guy's totally punk rock—he's got sneakers on with a suit!"); the current administration (he modestly proposes that Bush and Cheney be slaughtered at a monster-truck rally with Aerosmith blasting over the PA); and Cirque du Soleil (why do old homophobes flip over the gayest thing he's ever seen?)—but his treatment of them is. Surprising observations keep springing out of typical liberal biases; hoary humor tropes get twisted into quirky new shapes. So gratifying and unhackneyed are Oswalt's scathing riffs that by disc's end, you want to buy him a bottle of wine that's beyond your price range.

Oswalt aims his caustic wit as often at himself ("My geekiness is getting in the way of my nerdiness") as he does at worthy objects of scorn. What elevates him over most of the so-called "alternative comics" are his eye for absurd details and ability to dissect outrageous situations and phenomena with uncanny precision and hilarious elaboration. Beware, though: After experiencing Werewolves, you will never be able to get the image of "Jon Voigt's pink, glistening ball sack" out of your mind.


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