Actor and stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt’s set at the Arlington Cinema ’N’ Drafthouse on Saturday hit this food writer's sweet spot. After opening the show by calling himself “the rebuttal to Magic Mike” (the movie showing earlier in the day) and talking of his need to lose weight to avoid riding a Rascal scooter to his daughter's high school graduation or die “looking like the gluttony victim in ‘Se7en,’ ” he satiated the audience with food jokes from the get-go.
I've been a fan of Oswalt's stand-up work for years and enjoyed his voicing of Remy in the 2007 movie “Ratatouille.” While many comics use food as a punchline, there are a few who do it better than the rest. Aziz Ansari is one; Oswalt is another. Both seem to appreciate great restaurants and good food, and they often couch it in their love of being fed rather than cooking something themselves.
Oswalt’s Twitter feed is chock full of tweets and photos of what he eats, whether a whoopie pie, salad or a four-star meal at Moto in Chicago, complete with a NSFW photo depicting the restaurant’s pastry riff on the comic’s well-known bit about “The Christmas Shoes.”
On previous specials and tours, Oswalt has smacked down KFC’s “Famous Bowls,” but in the weekend show, his shame-filled desire to buy a frozen Lean Cuisine entree while listening to the Muzak version of Toto’s “Africa” was the packaged-goods joke du jour.
“We used to hunt our food and track it, and dig a pit and jump down and club it and skin it and cook it . . . so that's the end of that evolutionary event,” said Oswalt during the show. “If we started with hunting food, and then it ends up with me putting a thing [in the microwave], pressing one button and just standing there while it cooks, that part of our development is over. We went from hunting to ‘ding.’ Yeah, we're done.”
He also shared a story about being so bored on a movie set that he added a handful of Cadbury Mini Eggs to a bowl of tapioca pudding — ”well, I'm preparing something . . . this is cooking” — and ate it over a nearby trash can. “Then, I ate a plate of ravioli,” he added as the audience roared.
The 43-year-old Sterling native mentioned that his trainer recently encouraged him to make oatmeal and green tea in the morning. Yeah, right. Oswalt said he awakes barely able to “swim up through a swamp of regret of the awful memories of [things]” he’s eaten the day before.
Sure, there were plenty of jokes about non-food topics — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nickelback, parenting a 3-year-old, Veruca Salt and Oswalt’s days as a 20something wedding deejay in Dranesville. But food was the big callback. If Saturday night's show were a cookbook, the index might have looked something like this:
Oatmeal not happening
Green tea see Oatmeal
Tapioca with Cadbury Mini Eggs
Coffee calling my name
Pancakes see Coffee
Bacon see Coffee
need to work harder to get me to notice you
Lean Cuisine Thai Noodles in Peanut Sauce too much work
Lean Cuisine Macaroni and Beef see Easiest Lean Cuisine entree to “make”
purchase of which for daughter nearly incited race riot
on a plate, on her head
Sandwiches not suitable reference for a family newspaper