Interview: Patton Oswalt

Categories:  Interviews, The Daily Rock Hatch

Patton OswaltLet’s get those obligatory project plugs out of the way, by stating, right off the bat, starting with the new Pixar film, Ratatouille, for which Patton Oswalt voices the main character, which also happens to be easily one of the best films I’ve seen, all year. Oswalt’s new comedy CD, Werewolves and Lollipops, meanwhile, is without a doubt the funniest new comedy CD I’ve heard in the last twelve months.

As it turns out, we didn’t actually talk to Oswalt much about either project. As is the nature of The Daily Cross Hatch, we opted instead to geek out, comic book-style, discussing Brian Michael Bendis, Oswalt’s post-rat voice-over work, and what Leonardo DiCaprio might be doing hanging out at cons. And oh yeah, we snuck in the obligatory question about the comedian’s comic geek pilot, Super Nerds. That part didn’t go over too well…

Is this sort of the niche part of the interview process? Are you doing all of the comic book/geeky blog stuff now?

No, it’s just sort of whatever we schedule. They have me talking to people all across the spectrum, which is really nice. I have many interests—it’s not just the one thing.

It seems like they’d be more likely to seek out a few of these more fringe sites with you, than your average rock artist.

I don’t know. I think you’ve gotta do both. It just depends on whatever the person’s interest is—whatever his area is. Whatever he wants to talk about, and this is definitely an area that I’m interested in. I just don’t look at things that way, in terms of what’s mainstream and what isn’t. For me, everything’s mainstream and everything is outside, depending on your perspective.

Over the past few years, comic books have certainly become a bit more “acceptable” for most people to talk about.

I guess, but if it’s something you love, It’s always acceptable. It doesn’t matter what ‘the masses’ think about it. It’s always acceptable. If you like something, why would you be embarrassed by it?

Do you ever go to any of the cons?

Yeah, I go to San Diego a bunch. I’ve been to Wondercon in San Francisco and the one in Oakland—they’re fun.

Do you go as an exhibitor or customer?

Sometimes I go to do a signing, sometimes I go to visit. I’m very casual about that kind of stuff.

Do you get approached a lot at these sorts of events?

Sometimes, but what’s good about a con is there’s so much visual distraction, and so many things that are much more important to the attendees than some celebrity. They’re there to buy comics and meet creators, and to me, that’s way more exciting than, “oh my god, Leonardo DiCaprio is shopping.” Who gives a shit? I’d rather talk to Brian Michael Bendis or Frank Quietly.

Do the creators tend to recognize you?

Mm-hm. A lot of them have my albums, and things like that. It’s a nice mutual thing, like “oh my god, I’ve got all of these books of yours.” And I’m friends with a lot of them, which really helps. I think people who do anything creative, be it designing clothes, or working with wood, or cooking—stuff like that—are just drawn to creative people, because there are certain themes that sort of link everybody. So a writer and an artist and a confectioner all tend to have things to talk about.

Even though it’s become more socially acceptable in the past few years, comics fans still tend to get excited every time a mainstream artist publicly announces that they too like comic books. Every time somebody like Michael Chabon says something about comic books, people tend to perk up.

Really? [laughs] I would just be happy to read comics and know that I can appreciate this art form that a lot of other people don’t appreciate. Rather than going, “I have celebrities A, B, and C on my side.”

Do people outside of the con setting tend to chat you up about topics like comics?

Yeah, they’ll ask me what I’m reading, and to me, novels, comics, magazine articles, they’re all the same thing—whatever’s good. I don’t tend to categorize, like, “these are books, and these are comics.” There’s always a very small percentage of things out there that are good.

When creators have booths set up at the cons, they tend to have a ton of people showing them portfolios. Do you get a lot people’s artwork and comics?

Sometimes I get some, but I’ve got such a huge stack of stuff that I have to read. They have to understand that, while I’m always appreciative, I probably won’t be getting to it, because I have so many favorite writers that I follow, not just monthly, but every week that I’m dying to read.

What’s at the top of the stack, right now?

Let’s see what I bought—I have the stack right here: Ed Brubaker, doing Uncanny X-men—he’s got a new storyline calle “The Extremists.” That’s pretty cool. And then—oh fuck—[J. Michael] Straczynski doing Ultimate Power. Oh, and then Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly doing the new Superman—fucking genius. Jimmy Palmiotti is doing a really good job on Midnighter, in my opinion. I like World War Hulk—I’m actually reading all of the cross-over shit, for once. I love Jonah Hex, and Joss Whedon, of course, on Runaways is fucking great. [In singy falsetto] I didn’t like 52, but I do like Countdown—that’s pretty good. Brian K. Vaughan doing Y: The Last Man—anything Brian K. Vaughan does. I like what Paul Dini’s doing with Detective Comics, and I like what Jeff Johnson’s doing with Action. That was just from yesterday.

You went out and bought all of those yesterday?

Yeah, that was my stack from yesterday. And of course, I have my abiding favorites—Bendis and [Warren] Ellis. Stuff like that.

How often do you go to the comic shop?

I go every Wednesday. I don’t get sent stuff from the majors, I get some stapled-together black and white stuff, from guys just starting out.

Have your reading habits changed much over the years, or are you reading the same stuff you would have been reading when you were 13?

I didn’t really read stuff when I was a teenager. I got back into them when I was in college, with Dark Knight and Saga of the Swamp Thing, and that was really writer-driven stuff, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I follow writers. I don’t care about the character. I don’t care who’s drawing them.

Can we talk about Super Nerds?

What’s to talk about? We did a pilot about ten years ago, and it didn’t get picked up.

Fair enough. Was it meant to appeal to the comic reading populous?

That was the idea. It could be targeted towards people who are really into comics and people who aren’t because we worked on the characters, but Comedy Central just didn’t pick it up.

Are you working on any more voice-over stuff, after Ratatouille?

I’m always doing stuff on Kim Possible, WordGirl, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I hope to do more voice-over rolls. I love doing it. It’s always fun.

There’s a lot more time to do projects like that, after the end of King of Queens.

Oh, yeah—though King of Queens never really got in the way of that. I’d work about one week out of the month. I was one about every second or third episode. You can always find time to do it, even if you have a show full-time. When you’re done rehearsing in the afternoon, you can go, “okay guys, I’ll see you at four o’clock,” and go do a quick voice-over.

Are there any specifically comic-related roles coming up, in the near future?

Not that I know of. I’ll know when they book me on something, but nothing’s planned.

They just call you up and tell you that you’re on? You never approach the creators, yourself?

No, I would never do that. I don’t believe in chasing things.

You’ve done a few comic writing projects yourself. Anything in the works on that front?

Right now, no. There’s some stuff I would like to pitch when I get some time, and then I have a short story coming out in The Simpsons Tree House of Horror, in the fall, but right now, there’s nothing really pending.

–Brian Heater