The comedian ends his latest stand-up special I Love Everything with a long, masterful bit about just how depressing that particular diner chain can be. But after two months in quarantine, he would welcome it with open arms.
Normally, Oswalt would be performing stand-up at clubs in Los Angeles and touring theaters around the country. “I’m missing it so terribly,” he says. “I wish that my process was sitting at a table and writing jokes, but that’s not how it works for me. Some comedians can sit and write, some can’t. I’m one of those that has to be up on a stage, so it’s been a little rough.”
I Love Everything, which is streaming on Netflix starting today, is Oswalt’s first special since 2017’s Annihilation. In that hour, he spoke frankly—and at times hilariously—about the experience of losing his wife, the crime writer Michelle McNamara, to an accidental drug overdose.
In the four years since, Oswalt, who recently turned 50, got remarried and rediscovered joy. That’s what the title of his new special is meant to convey.
“I think it reflects just that kind of resurging of the life force after being in so much darkness and then being back in the light,” he says. “You know, like a man who was dying of thirst and gets a sip of water and it’s the most luxurious, delicious water he’s ever had. So that’s kind of how life felt to me after coming out of all that.”
After tackling grief through comedy, the new special is full of both silly meditations on trivial topics like breakfast cereal and deft takes on Trumpism and the #MeToo movement.
“I would like it to be a good time to release a stand-up special because everyone’s in a good mood and I can add to the happiness,” Oswalt says. “But it’s a good time to release a stand-up special for very bad reasons. Everyone is stressed out and stuck in their homes. I wish that wasn’t why it was a good reason, but, you know, there you go.”
Highlights from our conversation are below and you can listen to the whole thing right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Why Fox News pushing to reopen the country is the ‘height of evil’
“It’s very, very frustrating when you see people’s economic and job frustration being weaponized to benefit the rich. Obviously you sympathize with people that are out there going, you know, reopen businesses and stuff because they have to go work. But those kinds of protests are being astroturfed by wealthy people to get those people back working for them. And they’re the ones being put at risk. So it’s the height of evil when you see the Fox and Friends people, who are in remote studios and safe from each other going, ‘We need to end this social distancing, don’t you think?’ Why don’t you guys do it first? You’re seeing them throwing bodies onto the barbed wire to benefit themselves.”
On the futility of trying to ‘parody a parody’ like Donald Trump
“I was on The Roast of Flavor Flav and Jeff Ross went up and said, ‘How do you shame a crackhead who wears a Viking helmet?’ Like, what is our function here even at this point? How do you parody a parody? How do you parody someone who’s a bad comedian trying to get jokes and get attention and shit like that? After a while, the insanity and stupidity of his daily existence—and our daily letting it happen—is going to steamroller anything you’re going to come up with as a joke. How do we satirize the transcript of our reality right now?”
On Trump’s latest ‘sarcasm’ excuse
“That is every idiot that you’ve ever worked a shitty office job with, who thinks that he or she is funny and they’re not. It’s always the people who aren’t funny, who insist that they are. They say something horrible and then everyone in the office is pissed off. And they’re like, ‘I was being sarcastic’ or ‘I was punking you.’ It’s just desperate. Someone who’s never been funny trying to make themselves seem awesome after the fact. And also, so hang on, your explanation for telling Americans to perhaps ingest bleach or disinfectant was that you were being sarcastic? So let’s rewind that. At the height of a pandemic, we were approaching 70,000 deaths, your plan was to go out and be sarcastic and snarky about the whole thing? Either way, it’s horrible.”
Why he decided to tackle #MeToo on stage
“As a comedian, it feels a little weird not to address it because it’s a huge cultural shift that’s going on. I think for the better. There’s going to be a lot of really dumb, well-meaning male takes on this. I’m not as fascinated with the people that are the enemies of progress. I always love the people who think that they’re allies, but they fumble it. Because there’s been a lot of times when I have thought I was being an ally and I fumbled it. What’s funny to me is not people being mean to each other. What’s funny to me is people trying to be well-meaning and trying to be nice and fumbling it. That to me is always so much more fun. So I kind of wanted to embrace that with the whole #MeToo thing.”
On ‘Star Wars’ fans who are already angry about director Taika Waititi’s upcoming film
“They’re doing the right thing with all these Star Wars films, giving them to really interesting, cool directors. So, yeah, I could not be more excited to see [Taika Waititi’s movie]. I thought The Last Jedi was fantastic. I don’t understand all the hate for it. He did everything you don’t expect. [Director Rian Johnson] went in every new weird direction, which is the same thing that made Empire so much fun. Everyone’s like, ‘No, you’re supposed to do this and this and this!’ Why would you want a movie to meet your expectations? Don’t you want it to surprise you and startle you? Why are you paying money to see something that’s going to give you what you’ve flatly stated you want? ‘I’m going to say this thing, now parrot it back to me, here’s $20.’ I don’t get it! I don't know what he’s going to do and I want to keep it that way. I should not, as a fan go, ‘Make this thing and please, here’s my checklist. I expect these boxes to be checked off.’ Shut up!”