Patton Oswalt: Annihilation ★★★★


So I watched Patton Oswalt's new special Annihilation this morning. It's hysterical, of course, the guy's comedy has always made me laugh, but there's something more profound and special about the new one. I saw him perform stand-up last year with my dad, who first showed his stand-up to me, and we saw most of his material about grieving his wife in person, an incredible, terrifyingly raw and intimate experience. I can only imagine watching Zulawski direct Isabelle Adjani in Possession or David Cronenberg coaching Art Hindle and Samantha Eggar in The Brood would possibly approach the charge of watching an artist at the height of their power deal with the most stressful time of suffering they've ever experienced. Missing from the special was the little warning Patton gave the crowd about the direction his stand-up was about to go. "This is my artform and it's the greatest one in the world and this is how I'm choosing to deal with my trauma." Or something very similar anyway, I was a little too bowled over to take note of his precise wording. But then he gathered himself and delivered one of the most brave pieces of live threatre/stand-up/performance art, whatever you want to call it, that I'd ever witnessed. There is no cure for grief and when you lose someone close to you, it completely unseats what you knew about the world and yourself, but nothing gave me more courage than watching this man talk through the hardest period in his life. His humility, coupled with his ability to get honest laughter and tears from his audience (try holding it together during that section if you watch the special on netflix, I almost couldn't) is ferocious. I may never see anything as fearless as long as I live. This man has been so unfailingly kind to me over the years beyond simply making me laugh everytime he's released an album, been in a film or appeared on a podcast, and to see him give the performance of his lifetime as himself going through his worst moment in life was nothing short of inspiring. The guy gives me the courage to be myself every time I release a video essay. And he could only do that because he's always had the courage to be himself on stage. Incredible work and beautifully captured by Bobcat Goldthwait, who emphasizes his vulnerability and humanity on the stage, and in a beautiful but brief epilogue that backs out of the theatre and finds Oswalt's melancholy figure alone on the roof of the theatre. He can command thousands of people 7 nights a week but there's still a sense of his being a tiny figure dealing with cosmic forces he'll never fully comprehend. The world out there, the Chicago skyline, is beautiful, but it's still chaos. So be kind.