With his latest release, Finest Hour, Patton Oswalt has pretty much pigeonholed himself (I promise that's not nearly as dirty as it sounds). But I suppose if someone consistently releases one amazing album after another, that's bound to happen.
And I'm not complaining.
There are comedians whose work I enjoy and, with each new project they put out there, I find myself hoping it's as good as I believe it will be. With Oswalt, he has changed "I hope" to "I know it will be." Even before I listened to the first track, I knew I was going to spend the next 60+ minutes laughing uncontrollably and Oswalt didn't prove me wrong. Stand-up comedy is indeed a true art form and that's made all the more apparent when a true artiste (he deserves the fancy extra "e" spelling and pronunciation) takes the stage.
As Oswalt is introduced he is greeted with a thunderous applause that seems to take him aback. He humbly responds with, "Nothing I'm going to say will live up to that," but nothing could be further from the truth. Oswalt is such a master craftsman of comedy that pretty much everything he says is deserving of illiciting such a response from the audience.
Albums like this are especially difficult to review, but in a good way. Every one of the 23 tracks found here are so good, it's hard to single any of them out. But, in order to keep this review to a reasonable length, I'll try. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments here, many of them coming out of nowhere and catching you off-guard, that it's almost not fair to other comics.
I love Oswalt's comedy because his humor is one that lingers. I found myself laughing once when I would hear Oswalt mutter phrases like "I want all the ham" and then a second, third, fourth, and even fifth time as I replayed it over and over in my head. This is definitely an album that requires repeated listenings so you can go back and hear what you missed while you were laughing your head off (At the very least, it will require constant pause/rewind combinations).
Oswalt is a comedian whose comedy thrives in the mundane. It doesn't take much to get the funny rolling and in fact some of the best moments are ones we've all encountered: sweat pants in public, vowing to get in shape (this time for real!), and the things we say out loud when we're alone in our cars. Oswalt's re-creation of nonsense that spews from his mouth while he's driving alone will reduce you to tears, more than partly because we've all been guilty of making the same random sound effects and we've all penned more than a few songs that are nothing short of utter ridiculousness.
Of course, Oswalt also has a knack for finding himself in situations that could/would only happen to him. Perhaps it's the comedy gods' way of keeping him steeped in fodder for more side-splitting bits. After all, who else but Oswalt would encounter the man whose super power is the Zorro-like ability to use a vomit bag? Who else wants to be the first-and-only non-ironic visitor to the Spam Museum and only Oswalt would find himself darting through a grocery store in order to stifle his laughter after witnessing a man whose meat order consists only of five words; Five words that, when spoken in Oswalt's obese-guy voice, are the five funniest words you may have ever heard strung together.
Whether he is marveling at the mysterious power of cursive writing (and how it makes your signature say EwwwwwOOOOOOOoooooo!), explaining how dreams work (and the effect of Ambien on that process), or recounting the time his brother turned Jerry Maguire into the funniest movie ever made, Oswalt relays each story with masterful precision. He's perfected every nuance of each of his stories: the wording, his inflection, his timing, the order in which he divulges information pertinent to the story, and it's all done with the most comedic impact possible.
No one hits like Oswalt. He's like an MMA fighter out for the ultimate revenge and he doesn't pull a single punch. He hits us with one comedy wallop after another and he does so without any sign of fatigue (despite his story about becoming winded from impromptu dance parties with his daughter).
Just when we think we've made it out unscathed, when we've had a chance to catch our breath and regain our footing, comes the encore and whatever Oswalt may have had left over in his arsenal in unleashed at point-blank range. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be shot in the face with a missile launcher packed full of killer comedy, this is it.
Oswalt re-visits his famous KFC "failure pile in a sadness bowl" bit and relays to us the aftermath of having it blow up and take on a life of its own. It's the perfect cap to an already-flawless performance and Oswalt deserves the encore of applause and cheers that began the project over an hour ago.
Despite the fact all of Oswalt's previous CDs have been nothing short of amazing (His album My Weakness Is Strong deservedly landed itself on my Top 10 List of 2009), the title of this newest outing could not be any more appropriate. Each Oswalt CD has been the epitome of what stand-up comedy can -- and should -- be but this time around is it.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is indeed Patton Oswalt's Finest Hour.