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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Patton Oswalt

A few weeks ago I wrote about interviewing Patton Oswalt, saying he wasn't the most forthcoming subject I'd ever spoken to. Well, now you can see for yourself. Will you notice? I'm not sure. As I wrote, he was polite enough. It was just a sense I had at the time. Now you can see for yourself. That interviewed is now available at a computer near you. In fact, probably on the very one you're at right now. Just follow this link and presto, you'll be taken back to February 21, 2008 to relive that magical moment. If you disagree with my assessment, feel free to leave a comment after the interview. Or right here on this blog, if you'd rather. Or ignore me altogether.


darren frost said...

the one thing i can be critical in the interview

it did seem in print you kept going down roads where he seemed to be giving you the hint to drop it

also I know it is hard but i had read things in the past where patton does not like the division of alternative vs traditional comics

he seems to get mroe jazzed when you ask him things that are not so obvious cause he does tons of interviews

there is the problem you need to get the basic info out of the subject and he is tired of it

Guy MacPherson said...

All points I've considered, Darren. And I will ultimately take responsibility for things like not connecting with the subject by asking questions he or she cares about.

Here's the thing, though, as I mentioned in the previous post I wrote. I conducted the interview like any other. And in all the hundreds of interviews I've done over the years, I've never seen a correlation between great answers and great questions/topics. Never. Sometimes I get absolutely golden answers from quite mundane questions or topics. And sometimes I get lousy answers from questions or topics that I think are unique and interesting. It's a total crapshoot and the final result is more about what the subject offers than anything else.

We've all been in situations where someone is talking about something you're not interested in. What you do is manage to steer the conversation to what interests you and hopefully they'll follow. Oswalt could have done that.

But it's interesting to note that even in the subjects he gets more "jazzed" about, he still offers nothing! He basically agrees with me, or it's one sentence and out. End of discussion.

I can well understand he wouldn't want to do another boring phone interview, but the bigger picture is that he wants a sold-out show. And artists rarely do interviews if the shows are already sold out. So instead of doing a half-assed job, and potentially pissing off the reporter at the other end of the line (which he didn't do with me, but might have with others) so that they write a less than positive piece, why not just go in with a good attitude and actually converse with the human at the other end of the line instead of taking it as a literal Q & A? It makes no sense.

As for treading on topics he had already talked about, he's got to remember that, despite what he may think, not every single reader knows everything there is to know about him. Think of yourself, Darren, when you're being interviewed. No doubt you're asked the same things over and over, but you're gracious and forthcoming. That's all anyone can ask for. Just be a regular human and treat the other person like a regular human.

Thanks for reading. And commenting!

darren frost said...

You do assume one thing: that patton does everything you just asked him to do and then the article comes out and it is pretty bad or misquoted etc...

so they get a little jaded about it

I also understand the idea that we need the media but i have also been burned by it. I choose to treat those as rare occasions but I do not have the same amount of press obilgations as maybe a patton does.

I do realize the bottom line and in canada is important since it is a smaller market and even ten more people could help.

Also the bigger picture of a sold out show does not affect him directly when it is a festival show. Yes if no one shows up then he will not get booked back but do you think that would make him that upset.

I am not saying this about patton but i do know that many american comics treat canada like a place that they dont care about and just do it for money or work the kinks out.

Just a fact of business of comedy. Smaller market that will not change their status means fuck it for them.

I am not saying this is right but I am saying that exists.

Also some comics only do comedy cause they love it and dont care about the bottom line as much and i would put patton in this category. He makes far more money in other ventures but you know he loves comedy. That is why he tries not to fall in the elistist trap of prop comics are hack and tradional comics are lame.

I am still glad the interview exists and maybe he was having a bad day. I dont think you did anything wrong but you are right it was not the most insightful from his end.

Guy MacPherson said...

Love the back and forth, Darren.

Was he having a bad day? Maybe. But like I said, he was pleasant enough.

But come on, you've read most of the other interviews I've done. They're not all Canadian and not all struggling and many of them have way more press obligations than Patton Oswalt. So why does he stand out? I think you're cutting him too much slack. If you want to talk just about the comics I've interviewed who are more or less in the same "school" as Oswalt, I've interviewed Louis CK (twice), Janeane Garofalo (twice), Marc Maron (twice), Todd Barry, Maria Bamford, Greg Behrendt, Doug Stanhope, Sarah Silverman, Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan (twice), Joe Rogan, Paul Provenza (twice), Andy Kindler, Jen Kirkman, Bob Odenkirk, Morgan Murphy, Jimmy Pardo and Andy Richter. And even though they all had different styles and were in different moods, all -- every single one of them -- were decent interviews.

And then there are the bigger names who no doubt have even more of a press burden: Margaret Cho (twice), Wayne Brady, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Roseanne Barr, Eddie Izzard, Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, Bob Newhart (three times), Russell Peters, Lily Tomlin, Brian Regan, Don Rickles (twice), Cedric the Entertainer, Joan Rivers... etc. All of them completely professional and giving.

And that's what it's all about, ultimately. Just being a professional. Trust me, I know some journalists are less than fair. Back when I was a sports reporter, I witnessed firsthand reporters taking quotes completely out of context, either deliberately or just through sloppiness. But here's the thing. If you really have a distrust of all journalists, don't do any interviews. Why would you? I wouldn't, if that's how I felt.

But if you do the interview, don't you think there's a better chance of you getting "burned" if you don't really say anything and don't connect with the interviewer in some way? The commonsense approach would be to give it your best and let the chips fall where they may. And if you keep getting burned, don't do any more interviews. But until then, suck it up.

Keep in mind, I've never slagged another interview subject. Ever. They've all been great. And even with Oswalt, as I've said, he was friendly enough. So what I say, I say with some experience in talking to famous American comics. One of these things is not like the other. That's all.

darren frost said...

wow check out the big brain on brad

where did I say that you have not interviewed other big comics or bigger ones

I said I..repeat I dont have as many press obligations as patton so i was speculating.

also the idea of not doing interviews is one you could say to patton but how do you kow how patton was asked to do the interview. Maybe he said no a few times and he was asked and he relented.

I am not cutting anyone slack i am mainly providing another option.

but now i know for the future to not bring up you have never interviewed famous people

the interview was all pattons fault

I am screaming it from the rooftops of halifax as i type

"fuck you harbour and you to patton for failing to be a good interview for guy"

Guy MacPherson said...


Look, you know I wasn't bringing up those names to show how many famous comics I've interviewed. And I think you know that. I was bringing it up to refute your arguments that he was just not enthused because of the questions I asked and/or because he has lots of press obligations and it gets tiring. I was just trying to show that many others both of his ilk and even bigger ilk come into an interview with the same interviewer with a positive attitude. That's all. I couldn't very well show interviews of other comics with different interviewers to prove my point.

And also, let's not forget, I've been more than willing to lay blame on myself. Ultimately, it's my failure for not being able to connect with the guy. I take responsibility for that. But at the same time, I look at all those other interviews that all went well and wonder what went wrong in that one.

And for the record, I loved his show even after that interview. I didn't hold anything against him. His show was impressive. Really really funny.

darren frost said...

oh no this is turning into the comedy couch

it was in a joking spirit and i still say you are correct that patton is to blame for the interview but i understand from his persepctive how this can happen.

I also know you were trying to make a point and just felt you went over board with that many examples is all

the job of the comedian is to point out when something has gone too far...

Guy MacPherson said...

No offense taken, Darren. I'm just trying to get to the bottom of it. It's interesting to me. And Patton, if you're reading this, no hard feelings.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Guy M. emailed me and invited my comments, because I had a similar experience with Patton. I've logged hundreds if not 1,000s of interviews, mostly musicians but quite a few comics as well as normal people, and I felt like I was pulling teeth with Oswalt...

I wouldn't voluntarily talk to him again. Also, I would rather take a bullet than talk to David Cross a second time.