Patton Oswalt at Pabst Theater
"Here's another sweat-pant adventure"
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It seems customary for anyone performing at the Pabst Theater to gush about how nice the place is. Patton Oswalt had even more reason than most to appreciate the venue during his stand-up show Saturday night. He last played Milwaukee in 1992, at a club that not only was named "Sir Laughs-A-Lot," but also was effectively a makeshift "fort" under a hotel's staircase. "That's how they would do comedy in Nazi-occupied France," he told the crowd. During a set that drew only a few minutes of material from his stand-up albums, Oswalt made such encounters—surreal and pitiful, but also too amazing to get bitter about—sound like the norm in his life. Having a new baby daughter hasn't smothered the virtuosic, obscene otherworldliness of Oswalt's writing, but simply goaded it on with poor clothing choices and sleep deprivation. (So much for "good old invisible 10 Hours Sleep A Night.")
That said, fatherhood takes its toll: "I just see permanent light tracers... everyone's afraid of me... [I] smell like cake mix and violence... I understand the logic of sweat-pants and flip flops," he said as he expanded on the parenting-inspired bits he's been developing lately. This material somehow managed to side-bounce into an image of Dr. Seuss trying to pick up drunk girls in bars, and offer proof that Oswalt's career choice is an indictment of his upbringing: "I get in front of strangers and I talk about my dick. This is not good parenting!" His new-dad stories often involve him wearing the aforementioned sweat-pants and flip flops, so he introduced one story—about being caught behind a fat guy who orders "all the ham" at a deli counter—with "here's another sweat-pant adventure."
On top of performing almost entirely new stuff, Oswalt kept up an exchange of sheer nerdiness with the crowd. When someone yelled out "two more sips!" (a creepy heckle captured on Oswalt's debut stand-up album, 2004's Feelin' Kinda Patton), Oswalt playfully griped back, "Now my hecklers are getting quoted." Right as Oswalt started a bit on people who oppose gay marriage, someone in the theater dropped a cup on the floor, and the sound punctuated Oswalt's disbelief that these people actually exist. "That was the perfect cup drop!" he said, re-imagining a stunned reaction with his water bottle, then proceeding to reduce Bible-thumpers to the level of kids jabbering about their favorite sci-fi novel.
In keeping with another favorite theme, Oswalt mocked food both fast and fancy. He walked the crowd through the terrors of a Japanese chain called Yoshinoya Beef Bowl, in a bit that demonstrated his gift for combining previously dull words in vivid bursts. Instead of just saying the food smells terribly and tastes even worse, he mused, "who put out the garbage fire with asparagus pee?" and "it tastes like a peppered aquarium."
Oswalt didn't just recite the few bits that came from his 2009 album My Weakness Is Strong. He improved on them with new flourishes. Weakness' story about Oswalt and his wife interrupting an orgy while house-hunting grew more joyously graphic. The bit already described being hit by "a wave of fuck-fumes," mind you, and this time, he added that the smell came on "like a spatula dipped in mayonnaise." Also: "Everybody knows Saturday night's fuck night! We all know that Jim Croce song." He finished the set with Weakness' tale of an angry magician-comedian, and after his walk-off music (which, inexplicably, was "Back In Black"), came back out to regale the crowd with new tales of KFC horror. The success of the Famous Bowl must have made the chain "Caligula-crazy," he said, speculating that the new Double Down sandwich was invented so that customers could burn themselves on it to prove their loyalty: "Oh, they love our bowls? Let them scar themselves!"