Patton Oswalt (‘Annihilation’) on finding comedy from tragedy: ‘Being comfortable with silence’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“Whatever I end up being the most annoyed with, that’s where I end up getting my best comedy,” admits Patton Oswalt. Watch our exclusive video interview above where the comedian talks about how he takes on the Donald Trump administration and deals with the passing of his wife in his latest Netflix stand-up special, “Annihilation.”

In the special Oswalt talks about coping with the loss of his wife Michelle McNamara, how he had to tell their daughter and his life as a father in the wake of personal tragedy. He reveals, “It was therapeutic in the long run. But I was more comfortable and felt safer in the numbness of not confronting it. So having to re-confront something that I hadn’t finished processing was a brutal grind. Every single aspect of that portion was grueling. It was just difficult. Trying to refine it bit by bit. Doing it over and over and over again. I wish I had a more romantic way of describing it. But it was by going on stage night after night. That’s how it was done.”

In bringing personal grief to the stage in a stand-up comedy special, Oswalt reflects that “what’s weird is down the line I want to find a way to make it funny and get laughter. The thing that was different was I had to go for a long time with having silence on stage and being comfortable with that. Silence for a comedian is terrifying. These bits had inherently huge chunks of terrifying silences in them. To eventually get to laughter was the different thing. Now that I think about it I wasn’t looking for a different response from the audience. I was looking for a different approach from me. Being comfortable on stage and not getting an immediate laugh. That for a comedian can be scary. It was scary for me.”

In “Annihilation,” Oswalt also makes light of the Trump administration. When thinking about the current political climate he says “for me the funny comes from the fact it’s so instantly disposable. There’s almost too much funny. I try to talk about it in a more cosmic overarching sense. To talk about a specific thing he did, by the time the special comes out people won’t even remember what that is. Because he does something newly insane every day. I talk about that in the special.”

SEE Over 200 video interviews with 2018 Emmy contenders

Oswalt shares that it’s important to use comedy to take on the ridiculous and dangerous ideas in society. “I’ve been very creeped out about this rise of white nationalism and this creepy white victimization that’s been going on in America. It leads back to this kind of not so hidden racism that’s been going on lately socially and politically. I was making fun of people who talk about white genocide. I thought people would seize up, but they all immediately started laughing. It was a relief to hear that people, for the most part, think that’s as silly as I think it is. As horrible as racism is, there is such a level of clownish patheticness to it. In being able to laugh at it, you are able to rob a lot of it of it’s power.”

In the comedy special, Oswalt mentions that Michelle would say, “It’s chaos, be kind.” He says, “Somedays I’m not kind. The chaos gets so much. When I see somebody is being mean to someone else, sometimes I’ll do even worse harm to the person who’s being harmful. And that just illustrates the opposite of what Michelle said. And every day we do have those slip ups. But I do try to acknowledge when I do slip up. There seems to be this cult now of people; when they do mess up they’ve got to dig in twice as hard. I don’t know why it has become an endangered trait in humankind to go ‘oh God, I totally screwed up. I’m sorry.’ People can’t seem to do that anymore and that can lead to some frightening things down the line.”

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