I Saw Patton Oswalt in Portland Last Weekend and It Made Me Think of Chinese Graffiti


Disclaimer:  This is not really a review. I am not a critic by trade and I don’t feel qualified to pass judgment on the show itself, not that that’s ever stopped anyone before.

But if I had to review the show it would be to say that I have seen Patton Oswalt on several different occasions and have never been disappointed. He’s one of the best standup comedians working right now and everyone should take any chance they can to go see him live. The club was packed and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Especially this one girl.

I feel like enough has been written about hecklers. Professionals with far more experience than I have taken this phenomenon apart and really tried to answer the question of what drives someone to interrupt a show they paid to see and try to force themselves into it, usually with negative results. I’m not sure that the urge is totally masochistic, but I do see some similarities between serial hecklers and those people who advertise on Craigslist for a volunteer to come to their house and beat the shit out of them while they masturbate. They are both enjoying something I can’t imagine being pleasurable.

But there’s a difference here. This particular girl wasn’t yelling out insults or critiques for the sole purpose of disrupting the show and drawing attention to herself. She was shouting out requests for the purpose of hearing a joke she particularly liked. Disrupting the show and drawing attention to herself were just happy side-effects, I guess. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt here and assume that her exuberance to hear her favorite joke from her favorite comedian was just too much for her self control and she found herself shouting out ‘Orgy Story’ at the first quiet moment. 

I’d like to, but I can’t.

The reason I can’t because she didn’t just do it once.

Patton handled it very well, by the way. He told her he was doing new stuff tonight. He said he was very happy she liked the bit, but he knew what he was doing tonight and the orgy bit wasn’t in there. (It’s a great bit, by the way. I think it’s on his album My Weakness is Strong. Check it out.) He was reasonable and professional and it never got ugly. Eventually she gave up and he got on with his act, which was pretty great. On the scale of interruptions, I’m sure this was barely a blip on Patton’s radar. As a comedian who has been performing on the road for more than 20 years, he’s seen much worse, I’m sure. But it still made me think.


I couldn’t figure out how to write about this show for a long time. I wanted to for the simple fact that it was an excellent show, but didn’t want to parrot Patton’s act back to an internet that already knows he’s funny.  That’s when I happened upon an article about a teenager from China who was caught tagging ancient ruins on a trip to Egypt and the backlash he was facing. This kid filled me with insane rage. Not only because he had defaced something priceless and irreplaceable but because he had done so for the equivalent of “Billy Was Here”. I can’t imagine a phrase that would have been OK to carve into ancient hieroglyphs, but a little creative effort wouldn’t kill you.

This act of vandalism reminded me of a more extreme form of heckling. Both this kid from China and the young woman from Portland shared an urge to insert themselves into something that was happening around them. They showed a selfish disregard for the part they played in this something as audience members, and for what others might get out of it.

And there’s something else that bugged me. At one point, Mr Oswalt made a joke about his wardrobe. He said something like, “I wear jeans and t-shirts and loose shirts over that to hide the man boobs and the love handles…”

Not cool dude. Now everybody knows the secret.

Do you have any idea how many short sleeved, button-up shirts I have? A lot.

My weight tends to fluctuate.

One Comment

  1. J. Gabriel Allan

    I saw Norm Macdonald at the Schnitz in Portland. There were people doing the same thing “Bert Reynolds” (Norm replied that the bit was all mustache), but then one guy yelled “Poop boobs”.

    True story.

    Keep Portland weird?

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