Patton Oswalt: A “Fan” for All Seasons

Patton Oswalt: A “Fan” for All Seasons (photo)

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One of the most irreverent, quick-witted and prolific stand-up comedians working today, Patton Oswalt is instantly recognizable from his TV appearances (“The King of Queens,” “The United States of Tara”), voiceover work (“Ratatouille”) and cameo roles in movies (“Observe and Report,” “Starsky and Hutch”). So the most surprising fact about Oswalt’s first film leading role is that it’s far too unsettling to be called a comedy. “Big Fan” marks the directorial debut of Robert Siegel, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of last year’s “The Wrestler.” A convincingly sincere Oswalt stars as Paul Aufiero, a sad-sack Staten Island parking lot attendant who obsessively follows the New York Giants, and spends his free time writing triumphant rants about his beloved footballers to be unloaded on a sports radio call-in show. Oswalt has joked that the movie should be called “Fattsy Driver,” but the more accurate Scorsese reference is “The King of Comedy,” as Paul becomes dangerously fanatical about his favorite linebacker. In town to promote the film and his new comedy album “My Weakness is Strong,” Oswalt sat down with me at a midtown Manhattan pub to talk about comic books, why Staten Island isn’t entirely depressing and the last time he got his ass kicked.

So you’re a comedian doing drama, working with a former Onion writer now recognized for drama, and you’re shooting this quick and dirty little indie. How unusual was this project?

[laughs] Quick and dirty is correct! What was challenging was the lack of any kind of facilities. You change your clothes in the back of the van, you stay in the car with the heater on to stay warm, or we’re all on location at someone’s house. Because I’m such a film buff, [I had] that nerdy exhilaration: “This is what it probably was like to do ‘Mean Streets’ or ‘The Rain People’ or all these early movies when they had no fucking money.” It was all “Quick, grab the shot before we get arrested,” or “Call your friend tomorrow, we got a mock-up. Doesn’t he have a room that’s really white? We’ll make it look like a hospital. Fuck, what are we going to do?” It was all [about] who can pitch in where, and I loved that kind of moviemaking, where we used the world around us, rather than depend on sets.

Do you get pampered working on studio projects?

Well, there’s a level of comfort from being on a much bigger budget thing. Something like this, it didn’t take you long to get into the character: “What is the effect of staying in this room my whole life done to me?” I’ve been here for eight hours, and it really is starting to affect my worldview, and pissing me off a bit. There’s something beautiful about that.

The film was shot all over Staten Island. Is there any place more depressing?

It’s not that the place itself is depressing. There’s just been no effort towards any kind of design or aesthetics. It’s like that Oscar Wilde quote — “Why are Americans so violent?” He goes: “Well, you guys have such ugly wallpaper.” That sounds funny, but there’s something psychological to it. If you surround people with ugliness, then they’re going to be in a bad mood all the time. But a lot of the [restaurants] were all family-run, so that part still had a lot of humanity to it. It had this cool dichotomy that I loved.

I know you’re not a sports fanatic, so let’s talk comic books. What’s the most obsessive thing you’ve done in the name of comic collecting?

I don’t collect them, but I do read them, so I do get very obsessive. I want my new comics on a Wednesday. I fucking want them. I’ve gotten in cabs and driven to the outskirts of Las Vegas to find a comic book store on a Wednesday, so that I’ve got my pile. But I’m not obsessed with the characters — I very much follow the writers and artists that I like: the Luna brothers; everything Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan, Daniel Way or Matt Fraction does; or Warren Ellis, his 19 titles a week. [laughs] That stuff jazzes me up. The things I love… I try to have them enhance my life, not replace my life.

08252009_BigFan3.jpgSo what’s the through line of your taste? What appeals to you in modern comics?

The only genre I have left is just “good.” I tend to trust writers, and I also read reviews. When people say, “Oh, there’s this new writer, you should really check him out. He’s doing something great,” that’s what I follow. I don’t sit there and go, “I like robots. I like werewolves.” It doesn’t matter. Dave Mazzucchelli has this new one — “Asterios Polyp,” about an aging architect — that I could not put down. At the same time, Darwyn Cooke adapted Richard Stark’s “The Hunter,” and I could not put that down. I just like good stuff.

Besides being obsessive, your character Paul’s fandom is communal. Do you have any hobbies you share with a collective of friends?

There’s nothing I meet up for anymore. It’s all solitary. I’m so busy working, writing and performing that I don’t have time. Going to see movies with friends, and sitting and arguing about them afterward, that’s still an abiding passion. But I wouldn’t say that that’s a hobby-like meeting — tt’s just me and my friends going to see movies.

From my limited exposure to your onscreen buddy Kevin Corrigan, he seems like a real-life eccentric.

That’s really how he is. He’s not “Oh, I better put on the weirdo character now.” It’s just the way he interacts with the world and the way his thoughts come out of him. You realize he’s moving at a different and random speed. That’s what gives him his genius.

In so many ways, Paul just wants to be left alone. Being in the limelight now more than ever, is there anything you want to be left alone about?

Not really. I’ll discuss anything with anyone. There’s nothing I feel like I have to hide, or just… [in a whiny voice] “Oh, guys, just leave me alone.” I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you like it, don’t be guilty about that.


Hockey + Space = Funny

The Force Is With the Benders Star Wars Poster

The Force is with Benders Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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A long time ago in an ice rink far, far away, the gang from Benders decided to pay homage to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster that recently hit the Web.

It is a period of civil war in amateur ice hockey. The taxation of beer kegs to outlying rinks is in dispute and it can’t be settled on the ice. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of hockey sticks in front of the Zamboni, the greedy beer distributor has stopped all shipping to the small rink where the Chubbys play.

While the Congress of the Penalty Box endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Referee has secretly dispatched two of the best forwards in the league, the guardians of peace and justice on the ice and in the galaxy, to settle the conflict. But first they need to get a healthy buzz on.

Check out the Benders take on Star Wars below.


Rocky Horror Picture Show

Frank N' Facts

10 Things You May Not Know About The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Do the Time Warp with Comedy Bang! Bang!

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Aliens! Dancing! Meatloaf! When The Rocky Horror Picture Show hit the big screen all the way back in 1975, no one knew exactly what to make of it. 40 years later, Comedy Bang! Bang! is celebrating the beloved cult movie with an all-out costumed extravaganza. To get you ready for the party, we thought it was high time to jump to the left, take a step to the right, and learn a little bit more about the movie that put the “Time” in Time Warp.

10. Meatloaf Never Rode The Motorcycle


While his character, Eddie, may have been a hog riding badass, in reality a stunt double did all the future Celebrity Apprentice contestant’s bike riding stunts. That is, except for close-ups, when Meatloaf was pushed around in a wheelchair.

9. Rocky Didn’t Have a Belly Button

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The makeup department actually fashioned a plug to cover up Peter Hinwood’s belly button, as his character was grown in a tub, and thus wouldn’t need one.

8. It Was Tim Curry’s First Movie

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Curry actually originated the role of the cross-dressing mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter on the stages of London and Los Angeles, before reprising it in his film debut.

7. Mick Jagger Wanted In On The Fun

Rolling Stones Records
Rolling Stones Records

Jagger was supposedly a fan of the stage production, and made enquiries into playing none other than Dr. Frank N. Furter.

6. The Movie Made Susan Sarandon Sick

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The drafty country house that doubled as Dr. Frank N. Furter’s castle famously had no heat or bathrooms. Susan Sarandon complained, but no one took her seriously until she caught pneumonia while filming a dance number in a freezing pool. Always a pro, she finished the scene.

5. The Crew Used Real Skeletons

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The gothic clock was no mere prop. In fact, the woman who first commissioned it to be made had one request — to be entombed within it. That’s her real skeleton revealed hiding inside.

4. David Bowie’s Makeup Artist Created the Film’s Looks

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Pierre La Roche, who worked on the Ziggy Stardust tour and the Aladdin Sane album cover, designed the iconic makeup for the film. Still, rumor has it he took so long to apply it, nearly four hours, that Tim Curry just ended up doing his own.

3. Magenta and Columbia Started As One Character

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Before production, Magenta and Columbia were split into two separate characters, to create a part for singer Marianne Faithfull to play. She ended up turning the role down, but the characters remained separated.

2. The Corpse Was a Deadly Surprise

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The corpse revealed hiding inside Frank N. Furter’s dinner table was kept a secret from the actors, so their shocked reactions would be as real as possible.

1. RHPS Holds the Record For Longest Release in Film History

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

A flop upon release, Rocky Horror gained a following as a midnight movie at New York’s Waverly Theater in the late ’70s. It has since played non-stop for four decades, smashing the record for longest release of a film.


Music and 'Staches

The 10 Most Epic Examples of Facial Hair in Soft Rock

Catch the story of Blue Jean Committee tonight on the season finale of Documentary Now!.

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Documentary Now! closes out its 50th season this week with the film “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee,” a Behind the Music-style look at the rise and fall of one of the most successful purveyors of mellow, California-style soft rock. Despite the fact that the members of BJC hailed from Chicago, their hits like “Catalina Breeze” fit in perfectly with contemporaries like Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, Poco and other giants of “Yacht Rock.” (The band’s feathered hair and awesome ‘staches also helped.)

In honor of the Blue Jean Committee’s story finally being told, check out our tribute to the most epic facial hair in soft rock.

10. Paul Davis

The bearded “I Go Crazy” singer gets extra points for his luxurious mane of blonde hair.

9. Seals and Crofts

“Summer Breeze” makes us feel fine and so does the one-two punch of Seals & Crofts’ mesmerizing beard/goatee combo.

8. Rupert Holmes

Mr. Holmes’ neatly trimmed beard doesn’t excuse the fact that he was using the personals column to cheat on his lady. “The Pina Colada Song” is basically the Ashley Madison of its day.

7. Pretty much every member of Orleans

The ’70s bros in Orleans loved two things — beards and going shirtless on album covers.

6. England Dan and John Ford Coley

Ladies, these guys (and their mustaches) would really love to see you tonight.

5. Bobby Kimball from Toto

You might remember Toto for their monster soft rock jams “Rosanna” and “Africa.” But if you’re like us, you see the majestic follicles of singer Bobby Kimball’s mustache when you close your eyes and drift away on a blissful wave of smooth.

4. Both Guys in Dr. Hook

The “Sexy Eyes” and “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” band is a facial hair two-fer, thanks to Ray Sawyer’s awesome mustache and Dennis Locorriere’s respectable beard.

3. Michael McDonald

Possessing a set of velvety pipes that have brought weaker men to their knees, The Mighty Beard of Michael McDonald has remained strong since his days in The Doobie Brothers.

2. John Oates, Hall & Oates

Word is Daryl Hall is a major BJC fan, but we have to salute his musical partner’s famous lip magic.

1. Kenny Loggins

Besides being a ’80s soundtrack master, Loggins possesses some of the greatest facial hair in pop culture. Bask in the glory that is Loggins on Documentary Now! tonight at 10P.

THE EXORCIST [US 1973]  LINDA BLAIR     Date: 1973

Take This Quiz for a Spin

The Power Compels You to Take the Exorcist Movie Quiz

Catch an all-day Exorcist marathon on Sunday, November 1st.

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The Exorcist is a modern horror classic thanks to many of its haunting images: the ominous stairwell, the spider walk, the face of the demon. Before you catch IFC’s all-day Exorcist movie marathon on November 1st, take this quiz to see how well you remember the film, its sequels and its influence in pop culture.


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