Patton Oswalt Thinks We Should "Maybe Try to Educate" MAGA Supporters
"Somebody along the way didn't care for this person, didn't take the time to help them along, and probably smarter, progressive, liberal students, made fun of this person and made them even angrier and more isolated."
Published Jul 28, 2022On June 24, Patton Oswalt was on stage in Lincoln, NE, and about to start another stand-up show on his Who's Ready to Laugh? tour, which wraps up at Just for Laughs in Montreal on July 29 and at Massey Hall in Toronto on July 30. Earlier that day, the US Supreme Court overturned two cases, including Roe v. Wade, which had long granted women in America the right to abortions. Despair and shock shook the world.
For his part, Oswalt began his set with a statement that set the tone, a version of which he later posted on Twitter: "My show tonight is going to be extra silly and goofy, because if I get within a mile of how I'm really feeling right now, no one's going to have any fun. So if you were one of the people cheering the death of Roe v. Wade, rest assured, there's nothing in tonight's show that will offend you or make you walk out. But also know that I absolutely despise you. This hour-long sanity bath isn't for you."
For fans of the prolific Grammy- and Emmy-winning comedian — he stars in the film I Love My Dad that opens on August 5; he appears in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman that also launches August 5; the debut issue of his first original comic book series Minor Threats is out August 24 via Dark Horse Comics; and his next stand-up special, We All Scream, is out on Netflix on September 20 — his words weren't surprising. But they were a reassuring line in the sand and a way for him to convey reality to nihilistic, power-hungry proponents of hate.
Speaking to Exclaim! from his home in Los Angeles, he says now, "I do think that when you're celebrating terrorizing other people and taking away people's freedoms and their ability to make choices, and your reasoning is 'Because, fuck you,' [or] 'I suddenly matter in the world because I took something away from someone,' if that's how you're going to be, then own that. Keep grinning through all that hatred you have. Hey, [US Supreme Court Justice] Brett Kavanaugh, you're going to have to sneak out the back of a restaurant and miss your fucking dessert. Yeah, because people are angry that you took women's agency away from them; sorry, I hope you're okay, Brett."
There's something rather odd about this infectious form of libertarianism that Oswalt finds both amusing and heartbreaking, mostly for its obliviousness.
"A lot of these MAGAs think, 'We're punk rock,' and then everyone that they have worshiped throughout the years, they find out, hates them," Oswalt argues. "There's nothing more fun than watching these people realize that, like, 'Hey, Rage Against the Machine, I went to their concert last night and like, they're saying, all this stuff against pro-lifers. I mean, what the fuck? When did they get so woke?' And it's like, 'Oh, dude.' Everyone that these chuds have loved throughout the years — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rage, Bill Burr — yeah, all of them fucking hate them. I mean, there's that great interview with Bruce Springsteen where they mention [former New Jersey] Governor Chris Christie, who worshiped Springsteen," Oswalt adds. "And Springsteen is just like, 'Motherfucker, that guy's a fucking loser.' Just laughing his ass off. It's like, if that's what you're going to live like, then that's what your fucking heroes are going to think about you."
Having said that, Oswalt acknowledges that this moment in history may demand more nuance from comedians and satirists who normally revel in exposing hypocrites and idiots for the flawed thinkers they are — exemplified, for instance, by the work of the bold, social media-savvy comedy duo the Good Liars. When pondering why MAGA or Freedom Convoy proponents seem hellbent on embracing anarchy over any systems of rule and order, he agrees that they may be lashing out as victims of classism who've fallen through the cracks of education systems, and now conflate intellectualism with snobbery and view empathy as weakness.
"It's a little depressing," says Oswalt. "I love the Good Liars, but after a while it's like, why? Why aren't we helping these people not be as dumb, rather than carting them out like sideshow freaks? Maybe try to educate them. I mean, somebody along the way didn't care for this person, didn't take the time to help them along, and probably smarter, progressive, liberal students, made fun of this person and made them even angrier and more isolated. So yeah, if you can, try to bring those people along."
It's an old nefarious, political trick to capitalize on people's pain and create oppositional narratives that generally don't scrutinize the people actually in power and responsible for their specific plights, but do give them something unrelated to channel their rage at.
"Classism is the thing [but] they use racism, homophobia and transphobia as the smokescreen," Oswalt remarks. "Because if they can keep us all fighting each other, then we won't start fighting them — the people that sold jobs overseas, the people that exploit workers. Before Trump, there was a sense of shame about, 'Oh, I don't want to be racist," he continues. "And now, it's like, 'No, I'm going to double down on everything.' Look, this is something we're going to have to live through. This is a generation dying out, and this is their last howl. These are the baby boomers. This is their last temper tantrum. And we're going to have to live through it."