Okay, that was mean. I’m sure his guts are normal-sized. Sorry.
But goddamn it! He’s just too fucking funny. It ain’t right. I’ve got angst.
Oswalt’s been all over the interwebs lately. First with this piece he wrote about the Boston bombings, and then with this little nugget of awesome. Yeah, that’s right. It is a nine-minute improv performance about combining the Star Wars and Marvel universes into one uber-movie. (Since they’re both owned by Disney now, it would be totally possible. And amazing. Let us all hope that J.J. Abrams takes note.) Oswalt’s done a ton of weird little parts. You may not know you’ve seen his stuff, but you probably have. I recently saw him in Young Adult and I think he was the heart and soul of that movie, even if he wasn’t in it that much. I think I first heard of him when I watched The Comedians of Comedy. Bunch of brilliant, crazy weirdos, those people. Love it.
Anyway, I just read Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Oswalt’s book. Mind. Blown. I knew he was funny on stage and great on screen. This book, though, is a whole different kind of funny. I really like the way he uses a bunch of different formats: essays, poetry, scripty bits, comics, greeting cards, and (probably my favorite) a wine list. Even the list of “other books by this author” at the beginning is a joke, and a good one. He doesn’t just play around with format or genre, he plays to them, uses their tropes and conventions, which makes everything even funnier.
One thing Oswalt talks about in great detail is the intricacy of surviving nerdism in the 1980s. He’s about the same age as my sister, who is *mumblemumble* years older than me, and through whom I lived an early, vicarious teenagerhood. Bitch made me watch all the Freddy/Jason slasher-type movies and listen to Metallica when I was six, is what I’m trying to say here. It’s probably why I’m so twitchy. And so delightful. Anyway, point is, I get a lot of the references in Oswalt’s book, but there’s definitely a little bit of a generation gap as far as group enjoyment or cultural appreciation of those things goes. My generation didn’t get that stuff when it was new and being hyped in the media, so we had to discover it later on our own. Much like we did with Star Wars or Led Zeppelin or chat rooms. His R.E.M. experience was my Nine Inch Nails experience. Either way, there are so many references to books and music and movies here that I’m going to be busy for quite a while looking them all up. Good times.
The book is simultaneously memoir and pop culture commentary. It’s interesting, and very well done. He talks a lot about being a nerd and nerdy stuff, but all that stuff? That’s life stuff. Those books and movies and games and people made him what he is. It’s all inseparable, it’s all one thing. Seamless. And where he could have gotten angsty or whiny about it, instead he seems to really value all that stuff, all those experiences, and it comes across as pure enthusiasm. It’s pretty touching. His putting a positive spin on these potentially bottom-of-the-barrel moments is fucking impressive. “At least I learned something” or “It made me want something better” or “It could’ve been worse, so I wrote a script about the worst possible scenario and made a ton of money.” Dude’s an inspiration, whether that was his intention or not.
And it makes me raging jealous.
I was talking to a friend the other night and she said something about how what I write on my blog makes me seem like I’m just this one thing. Like it’s a character I’m doing or that I’m cherry-picking aspects of my personality to show here. And to a point, that’s true. Mostly for the sake of the writing. Picking a nerdy pop culture thing to talk about and then expanding that conversation into a bigger idea gives me something to nail the bigger idea to. It gives me an in, a reason. Maybe that makes me a hack or whatever, but it also keeps me reined in so I don’t go off all half-cocked about every little thing. Could I talk about non-geek stuff here? Well yeah, it’s my space. But I think putting bigger issues into the context of these small cultural things makes both more interesting, doesn’t it? All art is just a reflection of the culture that created the people who made the art, and then that art becomes a part of the culture, so the people change and grow, and then we get new and exciting art. It’s a vicious, beautiful cycle.
Sure, I could wax philosophical about something else. I find a lot of things interesting. Politics, religion, gender issues, economics, abandoned mental hospitals, etc, etc. Could I talk about, say, the war or socialized health care or right-wing theocracy on the blog? I could. It would probably be boring. Whereas if I put it sideways, tell it slant, maybe slip it into an analysis of dystopianism via scifi or horror, you’ll already be paying attention and when I get boring and ranty, perhaps you won’t notice quite so quickly. But I guess assuming that I have to have some nerd bait to lure you in to my discussion trap is pretty shitty of me. It underestimates you as an audience, so I’m sorry if it seems like I do that. I should be able to just go off about whatever for no reason, even if it is boring. And if you don’t like it, it’s only a thousand words. You can click away and come back next week. It’ll be ok. No hard feelings.
Meanwhile, if you have a single comedy-loving bone in your body, check out Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. It’s incredible. And if you don’t know Patton Oswalt’s standup stuff, you should watch My Weakness is Strong! or No Reason to Complain. He’s a genius. An itty bitty genius. Damn it.