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Comedian Patton Oswalt Plays Not My Job

Patton Oswalt
Courtesy Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt is TV and film actor and the author of a new book of essays called Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. But he's first and foremost a standup comic, famed for his extraordinary enthusiasm for certain things — and his disdain for others.

Oswalt become infamous for his bit on KFC Famous Bowls, so we've invited him to play a game called "Stick this in your famous bowl." Famous bowls are just the tip of the fast-food iceberg, so we'll ask three questions about foods that are possibly even worse.

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PETER SAGAL, host: And now for the game where we ask talented people onto the show and they wonder why they never have to use any of their talents.

Patton Oswalt is an actor in film and TV. He's the author of a new book of essays, called "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland." But he is first and foremost a standup comic, famed for his extraordinary enthusiasm for certain things and his disdain for others. We're delighted to have him with us. Patton Oswalt, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PATTON OSWALT: Oh gosh, thank you.

SAGAL: So, one of the things - I mean, so you're famous for your various rants about Black Angus Steakhouse, of course the KFC Famous Bowl.

OSWALT: Yeah.

SAGAL: One of the things we heard you going on about once are the music interludes on NPR.

OSWALT: Yes.

SAGAL: You did not like them.

OSWALT: Well, I like NPR so much, but the music interludes, even if I'm driving or doing something active, I feel like an 81-year-old shut-in...

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OSWALT: You know, I just have a problem with the mood that it sets. It's, like, I want to look at my lap and expect to see a shawl there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OSWALT: That's what all the music feels like. And it's like all the music that NPR plays in between their segments is just the fact the music is going, "This tea is too hot."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You involuntarily start buttoning up your cardigan. I know the feeling.

OSWALT: Yeah, exactly. And by the way, let's all brace ourselves for the letters going, "excuse me, the shawl goes around the shoulders, a blanket goes across the lap."

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SAGAL: They do like correcting us. I'll let you know that.

OSWALT: Yeah.

SAGAL: We were actually researching you and we were thinking of what to ask you, and we actually thought of like, I know, we said we'll ask you about - your name is Patton, we'll ask you about General Patton. But then we found out that you actually were named for General Patton.

OSWALT: I was named for General Patton and I have actually, because of my narcissism have read up on him quite a bit.

SAGAL: Really?

OSWALT: So that would not be a good subject to ask me about.

SAGAL: But tell us the story. So you were a military brat?

OSWALT: Yeah, my dad as a marine, and we moved around a lot when I was little, and he gave me the first name Patton, I'm assuming with very high hopes.

SAGAL: Yeah.

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OSWALT: Which I then, when he saw me at age 15, you know, rolling up my eighth Dungeons and Dragons character, he was like, boy, I named this one wrong.

SAGAL: Really?

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CHARLIE PIERCE: On the playground, would you slap other kids across the face?

OSWALT: Yeah, exactly. If kids were crying because they were too stressed by the coloring assignment, yeah, I would slap them upside the head.

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SAGAL: You malingerer.

OSWALT: Get them off of this playground.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, did this cause stress that you were a self-described geeky kid growing up, wanted to do comedy and wanted to perform and your dad was a marine and named you after General Patton?

OSWALT: No. But my dad had a very kind of gentle way. He was never like, oh my god, I'm so disappointed in you. Because he had been through so much war and so much stress, he was just, like, I don't want my kids being in the military. But there were times he was like you don't really think you're an elf, do you?

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SAGAL: Knowing your stuff, it seems very personal. Like, I was listening to your latest record and it's about you and, like, wearing sweatpants and being a dad and being overweight. Was that always your style? I mean, were you always like this confessional comedian, or did you find your way to that?

OSWALT: No. When I started off, and I think a lot of comedians when they're really young, what they start off doing is pointing out how dumb everything else is so that you can seem smart and cool.

SAGAL: Right.

OSWALT: But what you realize as you get older is that the enemy of comedy is cool. Cool makes you not funny. And if you really want to connect with an audience, you've got to be very present and just going, okay, guys, let me tell you about this thing I did, and just kind of admit everything that you're doing.

And I did realize I'm out in public in 2010 in sweatpants and flip flops. Like this shouldn't be happening, or this is not the future I had planned.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you started doing standup when, like late 80s, early 90s?

OSWALT: Oh yeah, I got into standup in the summer of '88, right when it was dying.

SAGAL: Right.

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OSWALT: I decided to jump into it as it was basically heading out the door. And I ended up doing nights at places, like, called like the Comedy Factory Outlet and Sirs Laughs Alot.

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OSWALT: It'd just be the saddest, saddest places you could imagine. I did a thing called Buck a Yuck, which was six comedians for six dollars, like, that's how low they were selling at that point.

AMY DICKINSON: No.

SAGAL: Can you tell us...

OSWALT: Like, I was doing the version of standup that if they could commodify it, they would have sold it at carwashes in those little racks on the way out.

MO ROCCA: Wow.

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SAGAL: Can you tell us the kind of jokes you were telling then?

OSWALT: I actually couldn't because they were so absolutely forgettable. They had nothing to do with me. It was just like, have you seen this dumb thing, and oh, this guy's an idiot.

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OSWALT: Let me tell you about another awesome thing that I said to a dumb-dumb.

SAGAL: Your material is not exclusively but it's to a good degree about your own, shall we say failings.

OSWALT: Oh yeah. Yeah, I mean...

SAGAL: But you are fantastically successful. You've done many TV shows, movies. Is it hard to maintain that edge when you're doing so well?

OSWALT: In a way it's actually gotten easier. Because you would think with more success I would have less and less embarrassing moments, but I just seem to get more and more embarrassing as - it's almost like the higher you go up, the more good looking people I end up hanging out with, the more of a bridge troll I turn into.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: One of your more famous bits, I mentioned it earlier is, of course, your thing about the KFC Famous Bowl.

OSWALT: Mwa.

SAGAL: Mwa, delicious. And this became this huge YouTube sensation. You became known for it. And basically it's you going on about this dish, this food they serve at KFC. First of all, have you ever actually eaten one? And had you eaten one before you started ranting about it?

OSWALT: I had not eaten one before I started ranting about, but then Onion called me and said would you do a taste test and eat it and write about it? And honestly, I went and got one and I did like an as I'm doing it, eating it. It was like the lamest Hunter S. Thompson piece you've ever read.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OSWALT: You know, instead of gobbling peyote and, you know, and driving a car off a cliff, I'm just sitting there eating this horrible bowl of glop in my apartment and going well I really don't - I don't fell well right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OSWALT: I'm just burning and numb. I don't understand...

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SAGAL: We were just outside Bakersfield when we ran out of mashed potatoes.

OSWALT: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So it became such this huge thing. Did you ever hear from KFC? Did they ever respond in any way?

OSWALT: KFC made a bobblehead of me and sent it to my manager.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Oh gosh.

PIERCE: Wait, was it wrapped in newspaper and was the head missing?

ROCCA: I know.

OSWALT: What was eerie about it was they had really lovingly made it, like it really looked like me.

ROCCA: Oh, that's creepy.

OSWALT: It was almost saying like we can take the time to make this look really, really beautiful and then just throw it away. So think about that.

ROCCA: Oh my god.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well Patton Oswalt, we're delighted to talk to you, and we've invited you here today to play a game we're calling?

KORVA COLEMAN, host: Stick this in your famous bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So like we said...

OSWALT: Ohh.

SAGAL: You're well known for the KFC Famous Bowl rant. But my friend, the KFC Famous Bowl is a tip, just the tip of the fast food fat-berg. So we're going to ask you three questions about potentially even worse foods out there. Get two right, you'll win the prize for one of our listeners, and maybe also get inspiration for more bits in the future. Korva, who is Patton Oswalt playing for?

COLEMAN: Rodney Swaner of Salt Lake City, Utah.

SAGAL: All right, here is your first question. According to Men's Health Magazine, which chain restaurant entrée is the quote, "worst food in America"? Is it A: Bentihanas Whole Hog Special? B: Applebees Fried Cheese Balls with Cheddar Sauce? Or C: Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing?

OSWALT: I've got to go with Outback Steakhouse.

SAGAL: Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing?

OSWALT: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right, that's what it is.

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SAGAL: Men's Health named it the worst food in America. It is 2,900 calories per serving. And it is...

PIERCE: Wow.

SAGAL: It is an appetizer.

ROCCA: Oh my gosh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: Wow.

SAGAL: Very good. Here is your next question. Just this month, one fast food chain unveiled a chicken dish in a new frightening shape. Which of these was it? A: Jack in the Box's "Nunchicks." Little...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OSWALT: Oh god.

SAGAL: Tubes of chicken connected by a chain of breading, ancient weapon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Was it B: Popeye's "Dip'n Chick'n," which chicken extruded into a spoon shape so you can pick up whole cupfuls of dipping sauce.

DICKINSON: Oh no.

PIERCE: Oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: Qdoba's Los Swastikas de Pollo?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PIERCE: Swastikas de Pollo.

OSWALT: You know what?

SAGAL: What?

OSWALT: As horrible an idea as the swastikas are, food shaped like the implement you would eat it with is so, like, Willy Wonka on PCP, I'm going to go with the chicken shaped like a spoon.

SAGAL: You're right, the Dip'n Chick'n. You can get that at Popeye's.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ROCCA: But I don't understand.

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SAGAL: All right, you've got two right, let's see if you can be perfect. Here's your last question. It surprises many to learn that McDonald's has a secret menu. At certain McDonald's you can go and order something not on the menu and they will give it to you if they are in the know.

ROCCA: I hate that.

SAGAL: You can order which of these items? A: the Land Sea and Air Burger, which is a beef burger, a filet of fish and a chicken patty on one delicious sandwich.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PIERCE: That sounds so awesome.

SAGAL: B: the Texas Leprechaun, which is a Shamrock Shake made with just one shot of McRib sauce right in the middle.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: the Whole Meal in Your Hand, that is a McDonald's Apple Pie stuffed with hamburger meat?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OSWALT: Well, I know number two is fake because I wrestled under the name of Texas Leprechaun.

SAGAL: Of course you did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It was you.

OSWALT: As horrifying as this sounds, I'm going to go with number one.

SAGAL: The Land Sea and Air Burger?

OSWALT: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right. Well done.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: We could not put this past you.

PIERCE: And what is it exactly? What is it exactly?

SAGAL: The Land Sea and Air Burger, they will go in the back and they will make for you a sandwich with a beef patty, a filet of fish and a chicken patty. So Korva, how did Patton Oswalt do on our quiz?

COLEMAN: Patton got three right and that's enough to win for Rodney Swaner.

OSWALT: Yes.

SAGAL: Well done.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Patton Oswalt's new CD is called, "Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour." It's out now. His book, "Zombie Spaceship Wasteland," is out on paperback on November 8th. And if that's not enough, you can see him on TV on Adult Swim's "The Heart She Holler," on November 6th. Patton Oswalt, you're so busy. We're so grateful you could stop by with us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!. Thank you so much.

OSWALT: Hey, hey.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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