» Life & Style / Interviews / Patton Oswalt is a funny dude

Patton Oswalt is a funny dude

Comedians of Comedy’s, Patton Oswalt on Ratatouille.

Patton Oswalt is a funny dude

It’s usually pretty boring talking to people from animated movies. They just talk about how they recorded their voice alone in a studio and it was really hard to convey the character and zzzzzzzz. Sometimes, really talented people can liven it up. Patton Oswalt turned a routine interview for Ratatouille, in which he voices the main character, into one of his standup routines. It helped that he likes food as much as his character, Remy, a rodent who wants to prepare fine cuisine in a French restaurant. 

CraveOnline: You like food. Has this project opened doors for you that you never expected it to?

Patton Oswalt: It seems to be doing that now. Like I got to go to the French Laundry and meet the cooks and staff there. But I’ve been a real hardcore foodie since around ’95 and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of chefs and talk to people that I like at certain restaurants. So now I’m starting to sit at more chefs’ tables or go into the kitchen. They’ll show me stuff that they’re working on. But I don’t think that really has anything to do with whether you’re a celebrity or not. If you really are excited about the food that you’re trying and you tell the chef, "Hey, you bring out what you like the most." Chefs are artists. They want you to, especially if you’re a regular customer, they’ll start bringing you back and go, ‘Hey, look at what we’re working on now, which is always exciting.’

CraveOnline: How do you think Ratatouille will stack up against other great food movies?

Patton Oswalt: Honestly, and it has nothing to do with me being in it, I think this will be on the top of the pantheon. I really do. I think it will be up there with Babette’s Feast and The God of Cookery, even beyond those movies. Even before that movies like Big Night and Tampopo. Tampopo is basically a gun fight done with noodles. You’ve got to see Tampopo because there’s so much of that passion. It’s about opening a little noodle hut. There’s so much of the same passion of that movie in this movie, too. I don’t know if they’ve seen it or not but you can’t believe how emotional you’ll get. Like, "I hope these guys open this noodle hut."  Movies about food that really illustrate it, I honestly think that this is going to be the new standard.

CraveOnline: Have you ever had ratatouille?

Patton Oswalt: Yeah, I’d had Ratatouille. I was a big fan. I never had that much access to really good French food. In Los Angeles I would go to one on Beverly Blvd where they make their own pickles and olives in the jars, Mimosa. Their menu changes seasonally so we’d go to get the new seasonal menus. And then Chez Francois in Great Falls when I was growing up in Virginia. We’d go there a lot which is this amazing, amazing French restaurant in Virginia of all places.  And then also just a lot of the Vietnamese fusion, you’d get a lot of that French flavor in really good Vietnamese restaurants. So I was as much as I could be but I was always a broke comedian. I didn’t have the money to go to these places.

CraveOnline: And now?

Patton Oswalt: Now, are you kidding? I’m going to be calling up Thomas Keller. "Hey man, I’m going to drop in for lunch. Whip me up a burger, what do you think?" Trust me, I’ll be using as much of this cache as I possibly can.

CraveOnline: Is this the ultimate cool factor to be asked to be in a Pixar movie and hear your voice coming out of that rat?

Patton Oswalt: Yeah. It’s even more beyond that. I’m in a Pixar movie that’s being directed by Brad Bird. So it’s like, "Okay, The Who, The Stones, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin have decided to form a band and they want you to be the lead singer." I’m working with Brad Bird and I’m working with all these amazing animators, and I’m working with the director of photography, the lighting… I’m working with all these people who are not just the top of their field, they’re the point men in their field, all coming together to do this. It’s ridiculous. And Michael Giacchino doing the music. I got to go and watch him do the score. It was ridiculous. Like, "I can’t believe that I get to see all this."

CraveOnline: So you’re a fan?

Patton Oswalt: I’ve been a fan of Pixar since the mid-’80s when I would see Luxo Jr at animation festivals.  It’s so weird the parallels between Pixar and Disney, where you know when Disney said, "I’m going to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’m going to make a feature-length cartoon." Everyone’s like, "Cartoons are like four minutes long. I mean, they’re cute but no one is going to sit down for an hour and a half and watch it. Are you nuts?"  And then the same with computer animation when it first came out. It was very captivating and, "Oh, this is new." They go, "We’re going to make a full length feature." Everyone’s like, "That is the dumbest idea. It’s going to be so expensive and no one is going to see it. And by the way, you’re animating toys? So you’re not even seeing people?" And then boom!  Everything changed because of these guys taking all of these risks. So to get to work at a company like that with a guy like Brad Bird… I mean, I’m glad I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet fully. I’m glad I’m still kind of inarticulate.

CraveOnline: You just had a Comedy Central special, so when you go out with new material, what are you going to be talking about next?

Patton Oswalt: Well I have a new album coming out next month so this is all new material that was not part of the special. So up til July 10th I’ll do stuff from the album. After July 10th, it’s not like a music album where you put your music out and people want to see you do that song live. They’re like, "We’ve heard it. We’re coming to see you to see what else you’ve done." So I’m writing furiously. I have until July 10th and then all that stuff is burned.

CraveOnline: What’s going to be on the album?

Patton Oswalt: There’s a whole bit about how, it’s a bit called, Great Food is Prepared by Psychos.  It’s about all these four-star chefs and how nuts they are. If you read the description of their restaurants, there’s a place I’m dying to go to called Fleur Dy Lys in Las Vegas. You can tell it’s all these weird OCD rituals. They’re like, "Every day at Fleur Dy Lys we fly in 3,000 ice pink roses and put them each in their own silver dusted crystal decanter." You read that and for a second you go, "That had nothing to do with the food!" But for a second you get drawn into their insanity and you know that’s crucial to them. "If we don’t have 3,000 ice pink roses, then our food’s going to suck."  I mean look, if you’re going to do stuff like that, just do stuff that I can never check up on. Really let your insanity go wild and just write stuff like, "Every day our Kobe-rubbed beef is read the book Are You My Mother? by a Guatemalan child." You’re like, "Wow, that sounds great." "And we fly in the surviving cast members of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. We lock them in a lightless vault 80 feet below the main dining room and we give them each a jar with three fireflies." You’re like, "Wow, we should try their steak." "And you’ll eat that steak next to a waterfall made of Holly Hunter’s tears!" "What? We’ve got to go!" But that’s how all these guys are. Go eat at Alinea in Chicago where they give you a nitrogen frozen tarragon ball with boiling hot carrot soup in it. If you put the ball on your tongue and you don’t bite it immediately, it’ll burn onto the surface of your tongue because it’s nitrogen frozen. You have to bite it so that the boiling hot soup hits the nitrogen frozen tarragon and it all evens out so that it’s warm carrot soup in your mouth.

CraveOnline: Do you have to sign an insurance waiver for that?

Patton Oswalt: They should have you sign an insurance waiver. It’s nuts. They also do different seasonal menus so they’ll bring out rabbit loin that has glass globes over it, and the globes are filled with smoke. They pick the globes up and they put them in front of your face and it’s burning leaves. And the burning leaves smell is infused into the rabbit loin that you then eat.  Every course is like that. They have hand grenade soup. It’s a paraffin bowl of potato soup and there’s a silver wire with a thing of butter, bacon, cheese, and a little tiny bay leave. And as you pull the wire out, this ball in the wire pushes all of them into the soup and then it all melts in the soup and you eat it.

CraveOnline: Were you satisfied with the ending of King of Queens?

Patton Oswalt: It was bittersweet for all of us because yeah, it was a really fun show to work on. But we’d had nine years and we were really pushing our luck. Most shows don’t get nine years so wow. It was such a blessing and then for Michael Weithorn, the guy who created it, to write this great one hour season finale which so kept with the idea of the show. Because the whole point of the show is everyone is wrong and nobody wins.  It’s the anti-Full House or Family Matters because no one learns a lesson. In fact, a lot of these people learn the wrong lesson. Like there’s even ones where she’s trying to get away with a lie because normally she just tells the truth and he’s always lying. She’s so bad at it that what he’s angry at is, "I can’t believe you wouldn’t respect me enough to work on a good lie. Next time you do this you should really show me that you want to put the effort into really trying to lie to me."  Like that’s what the lesson is.  "Respect your partner and really try to get one over on them." There’s something kind of weird and dark and beautiful about that.

CraveOnline: Would you do another TV show?

Patton Oswalt: I don’t know if I would actively look for one. I mean, if something good came along. I don’t just want to be in something just to be on TV. I liked being on King of Queens. It was a lot of fun because they gave me all the weird B stories to do. I never had anything boring to do that I didn’t want to do.  I would like to create something now that I’d give myself a little plumb side role in. I don’t know if I’d want to, in a live action way, carry something. I’d rather bounce back and forth off of people and have a really good ensemble. Like if you look at the model of how they did The Larry Sanders Show, then you look on the extras. Sarah Silverman said this great thing, "People stole all the stuff from Larry Sanders and they didn’t steal the one thing you need to steal which is how they actually did it. They didn’t steal the process." And that process is waiting.  Ricky Gervais kind of did it for The Office, and that’s yet to be exploited the way it was exploited on that show, in that great way where it was so fertile. That’s what I’d want to go for.

CraveOnline: Do you have any critic that’s made your life a living hell?

Patton Oswalt: No, not yet. I’m sure that’s coming. I mean, luckily I’ve been obscure enough that the only kind of criticism I’ve gotten has been from some pretty clueless people, anonymous people on message boards. And they’re criticism is always in terms of like, "I can’t believe he did that commercial!"  It’s like, "Yeah, I can’t believe I went and made money so that I could have the freedom to produce more comedy tours and do what I want to do."  Especially if they would go after friends of mine. Like, "What’s David Cross doing on Law & Order?" Paying his bills so he can keep doing stand-up.  God forbid your favorite stand-up is able to feed himself and do more of the jokes you like. I’ve never understood that.

CraveOnline: Do you go on the message boards and talk back?

Patton Oswalt: I do have a Q&A on this great message board called A Special Thing, which is turning into like the Cream magazine of stand-up comedy. It’s all these budding Lester Bangs and Robert Christgaus just going after each other. They criticize every single show and really review them very deeply. And there’s very, very deeply held opinions on that board. It’s really fun to watch these guys. I feel like I’m the grandfather going, "Everyone calm down. I understand your passion but there are these things called bills and I have to pay them so calm down."  It’s just so ridiculous.