If you were to look at Patton Oswalt’s August interview with the A.V. Club you might get the idea that success and family have mellowed him a bit. If you listen to Finest Hour, his latest album from Comedy Central, you’ll find you were wrong. Mellowed, no doubt, is a relative judgment—but there is no sense of the word, where it would be applicable to Oswalt’s standup routine, not unless you would consider allowing that the Bible was a really great read, especially if you were into torture porn. And who knows, perhaps he has mellowed, at least by his lights. In the interview, he says, “. . . my feelings on religion are starting to morph. I’m still very much an atheist, except that I don’t necessarily see religion as a bad thing.” If this is mellowing, Oswalt himself recognizes it may not evident to all audiences. “So, that’s a weird thing that I’m struggling with that seems to be offending both atheists and people that are religious.”
The one group he won’t be offending is the Oswalt fans. They know what to expect—more than likely they would be offended if they didn’t get it. No need to worry, Finest Hour delivers patent Patton. Whether he is riffing on Jesus’ super powers or gays as portrayed in romantic comedies, he happily hammers away at pretentious platitudes. Clearly much of this will not go down well with believers; one man’s platitudes are another’s cherished creed. Believers be warned; offense is likely.
Not everything in the set is controversial. There is a funny piece on weight loss groups and William S. Burroughs and another about an engorged Axl Rose. Oswalt makes fun of himself when he has a little problem with the word “brewery.” He talks about parenting, about the span museum, about sweatpants, and hygiene, but most of the best material is either controversial or raunchy. There is his politically loaded analysis of arguments good and bad against gay marriage, which gets him going on the authority of the Bible. His bit about strippers and comics is a winner, and his description of interrupting two crackheads in a somewhat indelicate act while walking his dog in New York which ends the show is hilarious.
The set, which was recorded at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, Washington, in May of 2011, has been featured as an hour special on Showtime and is scheduled to be shown on Comedy Central next year. According to Oswalt’s website, the album contains about ten minutes of material that isn’t included in the TV show. If it’s “The Horror of New York City” track, it is probably the best part of an extremely fine album. If the audience in Seattle felt Oswalt had mellowed, if it was offended by the show, you couldn’t tell by their reaction.