Comedian Patton Oswalt translated his acerbic, defiantly absurdist sensibility into surprising mainstream success, enjoying a thriving television and film career without dulling his edge. Born January 27, 1969, in Portsmouth, Virginia, Oswalt initially pursued a career as a writer, and also worked as a paralegal before performing his first open-mike gig at the Washington, D.C., club Garvin's in the summer of 1988. He began his professional standup career the following year and in 1992 relocated to San Francisco, continuing to hone his craft in nightclubs. After collaborating with fellow comedian Blaine Capatch on Food for Thought, a series of short films for the cable network Comedy Central, Oswalt settled in Los Angeles in 1995, working as a writer on Fox's fledgling sketch program Mad TV and appearing on HBO Comedy Showcase. In 1996, he made his feature film debut with a brief role in the comedy flop Down Periscope. Cast as nerdy Spence Olchin in the long-running CBS sitcom The King of Queens in 1998, Oswalt worked alongside veteran standups Kevin James and the great Jerry Stiller, solidifying his rising profile via roles in the features Magnolia, Man on the Moon, and Zoolander. In 2003, he even expanded into the world of comic books, writing the DC one-shot JLA: Welcome to the Working Week.
Oswalt's debut standup LP, Feelin' Kinda Patton, appeared on Michael Penn and Aimee Mann's United Musicians imprint in 2004. The indie rock fanzine Chunklet also released an unedited and unexpurgated two-disc version of the same performance as 222. In the fall of 2004 Oswalt teamed with Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford as the Comedians of Comedy, a collective that eschewed traditional standup clubs in favor of indie rock venues. A feature film documenting their tour followed in 2005, as did a six-episode Comedy Central series. In 2007, Oswalt appeared in a number of voice acting roles, including Jim in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants and Rémy, the star of the Pixar film Ratatouille. In 2007 he released Werewolves and Lollipops, with My Weakness Is Strong following in 2009. Finest Hour arrived in 2011, with Patton discovering "The Miracle of Sweatpants." Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time followed in 2014 and focused on the highs and low of parenting with tracks like "I Am a Great Dad" and "I Am an Awful Dad," respectively.
In April 2016, Oswalt debuted a new comedy special, Talking for Clapping, the title referencing an infamous recording of an intoxicated John Wayne delivering a speech at an ROTC function in the late '60s. Tragically, the standup special debuted just days before Oswalt's wife, writer Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly at the age of 46. Talking for Clapping went on to win an Emmy Award for Best Writing for a Variety Special, and in September 2016, it was released as an album by A Special Thing Records. ~ Jason Ankeny