Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour

Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour
Though he's rarely cited as such, Patton Oswalt is one of the most diverse comedians working today. His routines range from horribly vulgar (a description of a senior citizen giving birth on Werewolves and Lollipops) to PG-cute (ranting against "grocery robots" on My Weakness is Strong). He can paint himself as a drug addict and a buttoned-up comic book geek, a loving husband and a repeller of women. Yet every weird angle of his persona feels very much like a part of the same dude. All those personas appear on Oswalt's fourth official live document, Finest Hour, recorded early 2011 after his daughter's birth. Its topics vary wildly, from cursive writing to circus animals and morality in religion, but Oswalt's exhausted, exalted state of mind keeps everything on track. "I'm a bit more lucid than I'd like to be," he confesses early on. A state of mind fuelled by many sleepless nights left alone with his thoughts provides an undercurrent to the sometimes-random assortment of ideas. Most of the material is hilarious, even insightful. What doesn't work, as usual, are Oswalt's forays into more topical humour. The two-part bit "Invisible Anus/Power of Jesus" mocks literal interpretations of scripture, but ultimately feels soft. If Oswalt lacks anything as a comic it's the type of righteous anger heard from Bill Hicks or George Carlin, influences he has cited but would do well to avoid; he's too warm and friendly for that kind of comedy. Fans should dig the Finest Hour DVD's extra features, including Oswalt's return visit to KFC's "famous bowls." His 2007-era takedown of that horrifying chicken dinner selection proved to be one of his most popular routines, and his thoughts on how it has followed him through the years provide a nice bookend to the time when an Oswalt Oscar nomination (he was snubbed for Young Adult) seemed totally impossible. (Paramount)