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Patton Oswalt On His New Stand-Up Special, The TV Shows On Which He'd Still Like to Guest Star and Hosting the Spirit Awards

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire January 15, 2014 at 11:24AM

An interview with Patton Oswalt on his incredible year of television in 2013, why he's so proud of his part in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and what shows he still hopes to guest on in the future.
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Epix 'Patton Oswalt: Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time'

Patton Oswalt is a man of many talents: stand-up comedian, sitcom star, should-have-been Oscar nominee and Twitter god. There are plenty more impressive attributes attached to the former "King of Queens" regular, and 2013 saw many of them on full display. Oswalt appeared in virtually every television show on the air. In addition to his regular slots on Adult Swim's "The Heart She Holler," FX's new animated show "Axe Cop," and narrating every episode of ABC's "The Goldbergs," Oswalt stole episodes as a guest star in the likes of comedies "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Portlandia" and, quite memorably, "Parks and Recreation."

Oswalt also held his own in the dramatic realm, continuing to prove the accolades he received for "Big Fan" and "Young Adult" were no flukes. He proudly co-starred in Ben Stiller's ambitious interpretation of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" as an overly involved service representative and made an impressive appearance as Constable Bob Sweeney on "Justified." In addition to this extensive body of work, Oswalt managed to prep a brand new comedy special that's set to debut this Friday, January 17 at 10pm on Epix before rolling out on Comedy Central in April. Oswalt took a few minutes to speak to Indiewire about the upcoming special, his busy 2013 and what's next for the man of many hats.

I liked your title for the upcoming special, "Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time." It's clever.

Yeah, it came from a famous Woody Allen saying ["Comedy is tragedy plus time," from "Crimes and Misdemeanors"] and I just put a spin on that.

The special is going from Epix to Comedy Central, but some comedians are self-releasing these days. How do you feel about the changing distribution models for stand-up?

I like that's it's changing. I like that more and more comedians are having a say where their material is going out and how it's going out there. I like that they have more access to the machinery that distributes and shows their stuff. I think you're getting a lot more original and younger voices out there. There aren't as many comedians who are afraid and intimidated by putting up a special, and I like that.

Do you have a preference personally, or one you're more comfortable with?

I've never found what I'm comfortable with. I don't want to lock myself down. Who knows what I'll be comfortable with in a month?

'Justified'

You had one heck of a year in television in 2013. How did you get hooked up with so many quality programs? DId they find you or vice versa?

These days I've been pretty lucky. It's about a 50/50 split between stuff I'm being offered and auditions. And I'm happy to audition. [But] it is hard to control my time because my time is not my own. I take each thing as it comes, and I try to remember I want to make time for my daughter and myself. I rarely get to pick and choose how things come down the pike. You just try to do the best you can.

Well, you did pretty well for yourself.

I felt really lucky. Everything I've had offered were for shows I'm a big fan of. I love "Justified." I've been a fan of "Parks and Rec" for so long. TV is really exciting right now. To do all these shows that I like was great.

Your "Star Wars" filibuster has become the stuff of internet legend. Did you ever worry it was too accurate and you've ruined all of J.J. Abrams' plans?

[laughs] It better not be accurate at all. If I was accurate, those movies are going to stink. I want it to be very inaccurate.

Gotham Awards

Are there any favorite shows you still want to get involved with?

I'd love to work on "Hello Ladies" and "Girls" and "Orphan Black" and "House of Cards." "Veep" -- "Veep" is amazing.

You worked in film, television, online and live in 2013. How do you approach working for the different mediums?

I'm not married to any medium. I just look for the quality in something. I just want to do something that's challenging or new. I've seen some really funny stuff online. Right now, because the landscape is changing so much, you have to look more for the quality and content rather than the medium. 

You'll be hosting the Spirit Awards on March 1st. Have you started to prepare yet? What do you have planned?

I'm going to try to write a lot of jokes and be relaxed the night of [the show]. After the New Year's, we're going to really sit down with the writers and get to it. I talked to a couple of the former hosts [namely Andy Samburg and Seth Rogen], and I've got great writers. The head writer, Wayne Federman, is a friend of mine, and he makes things feel really good.

Do you see this show as a sort of stepping stone to even bigger hosting gigs? Perhaps the Globes or the Oscars?

I try not to think of anything as a stepping stone. I just want the thing itself to be good. If you think of things as stepping stones than odds are you won't do very well with the thing itself. 

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'

You said on Twitter you were "proud to be in" "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." What about the movie connected with you so much?

I think it's a terrific film. I'm flattered to be asked to be in anything good. I got to do good work in something great, and there was some riffing back and forth [with Ben Stiller during the shoot]. I was with him off camera for all our conversations. There was a lot of improv in those scenes.

We've just been through that time of year when all the critics and even some celebrities' top 10 lists surface. You're a big movie buff -- have you ever thought about releasing a list?

I would never do a top 10 list. A year of movies for me never includes just new movies. I'm always going back to fill in the gaps with classics that I've missed out on until now, so I never think of it in terms of a list for the year. I think that's kind of pointless.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Patton Oswalt, Epix, Comedy, Spirit Awards, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty