Reviews

Patton Oswalt: No Reason to Complain

Daniel Carlson

Patton Oswalt's audience exemplifies the politically opinionated but ultimately unmotivated young Left, who turned out to the polls in 2004 with the same low figures as they did in 2000.


Patton Oswalt

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Patton Oswalt
Subtitle: No Reason to Complain
Network: Comedy Central
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2006-04-04
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

Patton Oswalt may be growing up, but that doesn't mean he has to be happy about it. His Comedy Central special, No Reason to Complain, features the stand-up comedian ranting for 40 minutes on a variety of topics, most of them personal and all tailored to the post-boomers who stumbled through their formative teenage years during Reagan's America.

It's taken Oswalt a while, but he's finally developed a voice based on his own nerdy neuroses. A half-hour Comedy Central Presents performance, taped in 1999 and included on this DVD, reveals a startling difference between then and now. The older show is competent, but has more than a few awkward pauses, not to mention an uncomfortable-looking Oswalt in suit and tie. In contrast, the more recent special is both fast-paced and relaxed. Dressed in jeans and an untucked shirt, Oswalt roams the stage, at ease with his material and audience.

He avoids the typical observational humor that resurged with Seinfeld. For the most part, Oswalt sticks to personal stories -- about his girlfriend, places he's lived, and what he wants from a movie: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best movie titles of all time because just reading it lets you watch a free movie in your head. It's the same kind of resigned geekdom he displayed in the documentary The Comedians of Comedy and the subsequent Comedy Central show of the same name.

It's even more amazing to see where Oswalt is now when you look at where he used to be. Aside from the seven-year-old special, the DVD features a few deleted scenes and "Food for Thought," a series of poorly shot video vignettes at least 15 years old, in which Oswalt plays a grocery store stock boy. The roots of Oswalt's personality are there: absurdist humor, cultural references based in the 1980s, etc. But the sketches are just plain awful, and not in the enjoyably bad sense; they're simply unwatchable, full of awkward pauses and forced delivery and rough edits. It's like seeing a baby's first steps: It's nowhere near graceful, but at least you know it will develop over time. Thankfully, Oswalt learned to walk.

The deleted scenes included are unnecessary, though, nothing more than a loose collection of jokes that didn't make the final cut either for content or pacing reasons, or because Oswalt flubbed a line and wanted to start over. They don't add anything to the concert or shed any new light on Oswalt's performance rituals, if there are any. It's a shame, too, because Oswalt's confessional, conversational style is a welcome retreat from the Carlos Mencias and Larry the Cable Guys of comedy, extremist blowhards without anything worth saying. The growing popularity of such middlebrow comics highlights Oswalt's particular state: His star is slightly on the rise, but not quite fast enough.

Oswalt's at a peculiar time in his life, too old to keep partying but too young to be considered "old." He laments that all his friends are either getting sober or having kids, and that they're "equally annoying." He's got a girlfriend, but he's worried that being in love will ruin his career, since no one wants to see a happy comedian, the kind who'll come on stage and say, "You ever go out with someone and then you realize three months into it they're a little muffin basket made out of rainbow kisses?" He's a man without a country, both an overgrown kid and an immature adult, looking to make sense of things in his own way.

Reaction shots of the crowd show scattered hipsters throughout, young men with thin beards and thick-framed glasses and zip-up hoodies. Oswalt's preaching to his generation, and they love it. Predictably, the biggest cheers Oswalt gets are for his attacks on President Bush. Oswalt jokes that knocking the president isn't exactly edgy material, proclaiming, "I don't care who I piss off in the room full of people I e-mailed." And he's right: slamming Bush in front of a San Francisco audience shortly before the 2004 election was a surefire way to win the their support, even if it took no courage to do it. The war in Iraq was still relatively new when this special was taped, and the crowd exemplifies the politically opinionated but ultimately unmotivated young Left, who turned out to the polls in 2004 with the same low figures as they did in 2000.

Oswalt says there's a "sick part" of him that wants to vote for Bush just so he can die in the inevitable apocalypse, a massive fiery death "when George Bush was president and mediocrity held sway." It's the line he ends on, darting off stage on the evening's high note, unconsciously acting out what many of his generation and younger are known for: Delivering a passionate argument against what they view as an oppressor, then wandering off before actually taking action. Maybe we're not as grownup as we thought.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Music

Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.

Music

Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.

Music

The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.

Music

Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.

Film

In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?

Music

Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.

Music

Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.