Patton Oswalt has reached that level of success where he’s compelled to say up top, “Nothing I’m going to say will live up to that!” to lessen the audience’s expectations. Which doesn’t matter because the opening applause is but one of many breaks during his latest hourlong set, “Finest Hour,” out on Comedy Central Records as a CD (it’s also on video, but the DVD will have to wait until 2012, as Showtime continues to air it on cable over the next couple of months, at least).
If 2009’s “My Weakness is Strong” was about Oswalt preparing to become a father for the first time, then this year’s “Finest Hour” is about how well he has prepared.
And if his reliance on sweatpants and Ambien is any indication, then he’s doing about as well as his parents and every previous generation is faring, even if they’re screwing everything up in the process. He lampoons his own weight, too, vowing: “Every album I do now from now on I’m going to say, ‘I’ve got to lose some weight!'” He compares his parenting to that of his brother-in-law and his parents, but is willing just a breath later to talk about strippers, then break into song.
On his previous effort, Oswalt gave us “Sky Cake” to describe heaven and religion. He still has his own unique ways of reframing religion by putting it into different terms (“The Invisible Anus”) or translating the miracles of Jesus into comic-book superpowers, imagining a meeting between Jesus Christ and The X-Men. This video clip covers that entire discussion (tracks 8-10 on the CD). Roll it.
Oswalt also makes room again for silly observations, whether it’s an obese man in front of him in line at the grocer’s deli counter, or the Museum of Spam, or the continuing existence of the circus. “The Ham Incident” is funny as Oswalt repeatedly delivers the obsese man’s line as if he were straight out of that scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. And yet. There’s nothing in this hour that’s quite as remarkable or as memorable as Oswalt’s KFC Famous Bowl bit, and his “encore” tacked onto the final track of the CD acknowledges this as he recounts the fast-food chain’s various responses to his routine, as well KFC’s subsequent new products such as the Double Down sandwich.
The title lends itself up to headline writers and big quotes. A review that says this is, indeed, Patton Oswalt’s Finest Hour. Or something like that. More like fine. It’s an hour. It’s Patton Oswalt. You know him. You love him. He’ll make you laugh. What more do you need to know?