Between 1997 and 2017, Patton Oswalt released eight comedy specials, a couple of standalone stand-up albums, and the Comedians of Comedy tour film. If you’ve seen or heard any of them, you know he definitely doesn’t love everything. Still, on his brand new Netflix special, Oswalt is generally more cheerful than he usually is, even though he can still be as hilariously frustrated and annoyed as ever.
On I Love Everything Oswalt seems about as well-adjusted as he’s ever been. He’s mostly fine with turning 50, even if he wants to skip straight to 90 and get to the part of life where he never has to do anything he doesn’t want to do, or make excuses for himself. He breaks down the different decades and how they relate to each other in a funny bit that’ll feel familiar to you no matter where you currently fall on the age spectrum. Oswalt’s always had the ability to take personal anecdotes and observations and turn them into long, increasingly hilarious stories with a larger ring of truth and a tinge of the absurd, and that’s still true on I Love Everything.
The main reason he seems more content, though, is his family. His story about having to miss the premiere of the Han Solo film to go to his daughter’s science fair might hinge on how disappointed he was to miss a life-sized Millennium Falcon, but it ends with a kicker that admits there are things way more important in life than Star Wars. A hilarious story about the inherent seediness of Denny’s contrasts with the innocence and optimism of his daughter who’s simply excited to go out to eat. Oswalt talks about his second marriage and how much peace and calm it’s brought into his life, and how that combination of family and homeownership has helped ease his passage into his 50s. There’s nothing unique about the subject matter, but Oswalt’s ability to depict the everyday with a weird mix of resignation, indignation, manic desperation, and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture ensures an idiosyncratic and inspired viewpoint.
Oswalt also delivers the Trump stand-up routine that should officially end all Trump stand-up routines. He explains, with an amazingly detailed and vivid analogy, how utterly impossible it is to make jokes about Trump and his administration. Nothing any comedian can say or think would be crazier or more ridiculous than what’s actually happened in America over the last few years—and this was recorded well before the coronavirus pandemic. At this point political comedy’s only value is as catharsis, and Oswalt is smart to generally avoid it in this special.
One real-world issue that he does dig into, though, is the #MeToo scandal—and it’s clear that Oswalt and Louis C.K. aren’t now friends, if they ever were to begin with. Oswalt never mentions him by name, but when he’s talking about how there’s no cool or sexy way to masterbate in front of people who don’t want you to, it’s impossible to miss who he’s targeting. Oswalt takes the angle that seems like a complete no-brainer—what C.K. did is obviously wrong and bad—and yet which many comedians can’t bring themselves to state or support.
I Love Everything is obviously a tongue-in-cheek title, and feels like a response to his last special. 2017’s Annihilation was as bleak and depressing as stand-up gets, with Oswalt discussing the tragic and unexpected death of his first wife the previous year. It was a respectful and darkly hilarious way to deal with that tragedy, and on I Love Everything Oswalt deals with the lives he’s rebuilt since—both his and his daughter’s. The result is a thoroughly entertaining hour from one of the most consistent comedians of his era.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.