Best bits: “Sellout” “My Prostitute”
There are two things that Patton Oswalt does best: self-deprecation, and total dismantling of some meaningless (usually reviled pop-culture) subject. He does both here – while mixing in some more predictable family humor. “Tragedy” certainly isn’t one of the best comedy albums, and it isn’t Oswalt’s best, but he sells all of his jokes and anecdotes and proves that he’s still at the top of his game.
The album starts with a great self-deprecating bit called “My Fitness Future,” which is just being skinny enough that he doesn’t have to attend his daughter’s graduation in a motorized cart (Bonus: after she graduates, he says has to go sit in A/C and “swap my folds,” which is one of the most guttural trio of words ever spoken). Self-deprecation is peppered throughout the album, although the second half is centered around longer stories about Oswalt’s younger days.
First, though, is a few stories about his daughter. Two bits are titled “I Am a Great Dad” and “I Am an Awful Dad,” channeling (probably unintentionally) Louis CK’s “My 7-Year-Old is Better Than Me”/”My 3-Year-Old is a 3-Year-Old” two bits. He offers stories about his daughter getting scolded on a playground and accidentally seeing “The Wolfman” on TV, and while they’re very funny, they’re a little more traditional than Oswalt is used to. The follow-up, “Adorable Racism,” where his daughter starts being extremely racist in a Starbucks, is a lot funnier, and transitions into the album’s funnier half.
“Creative Depression” is a wildly funny bit that examines Oswalt blissfully committing suicide in a grocery store’s Lean Cuisine aisle. The whole rest of the album is largely unrelated but all hilarious anecdotes. The special’s midpoint is a lengthy bit on the opinion on selling out, and how 44 year old Patton disagrees with 25 year old Patton – and includes a total dismantling take on Nickelback that makes them look, somehow, like heroes. The bit includes a story about the gig that paid him more than anything else, ever, and how it took a very questionable turn. It’s a funny story, and Oswalt’s selling of his own fate in the story is perfect.
Afterwards, he gives stories about attempting to buy fancy clothes, a sad 19th century gardener, trying to tell jokes in humorless Germany, and a very funny bit about the one time he picked up a prostitute in Atlanta. These stories are nothing more than reflections on Oswalt’s past, and do not have much of a comedic arc, but they’re all very humorous. The special has it’s faults – occasionally a little too dark, and definitely bottom-heavy – but it has glimpses of Oswalt at his finest, and his total confidence telling embarrassing tales anchors the album. Oswalt is one of the most original stand-up comics working today, and when he starts to really get rolling, he’s unstoppable.
If you like this, try: It feels painful to ever compare a comic to Louis CK, because it’s such a cop-out, he’s the best working today. But this album did feel very reminiscent of CK’s 2011 special “Hilarious.”
-By Andrew McNally