There is a proverb that says grief shared is diminished by half, while joy shared is doubled. Comedian Patton Oswalt performed this existential algebra in Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall last Saturday night, Dec. 3rd, during a live show produced by Bob Nocek Presents LLC. He left his large audience of fans and social-media followers laughing in spite of themselves and somehow feeling connected with each other for having shared the experience.
It is not easy to laugh when a man tells you about the most painful thing that has ever happened to him, but Patton Oswalt pulls you into his life like a guide taking you through a dangerous jungle. Brandishing a gleaming machete of self-deprecation, Oswalt cut away at his despair over the recent death of his wife and the coinciding loss of American reason during his impeccably timed 70-minute set.
There is much to like about his show. Whether it is the silliness of the haunted house at his daughter’s Hollywood grammar school, where adults dressed like monsters pitch bad sequel ideas — “What if there were two rings in Mordor?” — or the virtuosity in which he can improvise with the audience.
But Oswalt’s genius, the part that you carry away with you when you leave the auditorium, revolves around the ways in which he creates comedy out of the wreckage of his soul. Patton Oswalt tells us about a long-standing argument that he had with his wife, the late true-crime author Michelle McNamara, regarding their individual worldviews. “The universe has order — There is a plan for us,” he tells her. And his pragmatic wife, who wrote exclusively about inhumanity, counters with, “No, the world is random, bad sh*t just happens, and there is very little you can do about it.”
As he relays this anecdote, he sounds like any other exasperated married man. “And then,” he says, “she went and won that argument in just the worst way possible!”
Oswalt is a master storyteller, and the highlight of the show might have been the retelling of how he and his daughter spent their first Mother’s Day after his wife’s death. He took his child out of school, flew across the country to stay with family, and filled every minute with fun activities for his little girl, only to be foiled by a well-meaning Polish airline employee who devastates them with her sympathy: “I lost my mother too at young age; it destroyed my father; he was never the same. We never get over it.” The Polish accent and the phobia that Oswalt developed of encountering her at every holiday, had the entire audience wiping away tears of laughter and maybe some not entirely of laughter.
Oswalt is famous for his disdain for Donald Trump, the new President-Elect, but Trump was only minimally featured in the Raleigh show. “I hate it when people tell me I must be glad as a comedian that he won, ” says Patton Oswalt. “I’m not. I’ll get maybe 10 minutes of material from him, and he gets to f*ck up the world.”
That big, random world where terrible things happen and there isn’t a lot that you can do about it, was made just a little bit better Saturday in Raleigh by the appearance of Patton Oswalt, sharing his brave and controversial humor.
PATTON OSWALT Bob Nocek Presents LLC, Dec 3 in Meymandi Concert Hall in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/patton-oswalt-bob-nocek-presents-llc-private-event-7951, http://www.bnpresents.com/events/2016/12/3/patton-oswalt, and https://www.facebook.com/events/1042458205875029/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.facebook.com/pattonoswalt/videos/.
Patton Oswalt (Portsmouth, VA-born comedian, actor, and author) http://pattonoswalt.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0652663/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/pattonoswalt/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/pattonoswalt (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patton_Oswalt (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manger, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.