Patton Oswalt: Annihilation – Review

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation is streaming on Netflix starting October 17th.

I’ve never cried while watching stand-up comedy until now.

It’s strange to review a stand-up comedy special. Comedy has always been subjective and I find it slightly strange to offer my opinion on how this or that joke is funny enough that you should devote your time to see it, assuming you’ll have the same reaction as I did while the reality is you may very well not. However, while we may or may not share the same sense of humor one thing is for certain; Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation is a work of beauty on many levels.

First, it is very funny. Oswalt’s dry delivery with over-the-top descriptions of scenarios involving pop culture references are a staple of his form of comedy and his slanted perspective on the world. There are no shortages of his descriptions on how the world as he sees it is operating. He begins this special by coming straight for how we as a nation use forms of social media for our news and entertainment before seamlessly transitioning into Trump jokes, however, his take on Trump is perfectly stated and I hope more comics take his lead of just avoiding those jokes as low hanging fruit and focusing on more topics that take more effort.

Oswalt proceeds to discuss various topics ranging from; white genocide, fights, robocalls, superheroes and more while never missing a beat between transitions. It’s the mark of a true professional who has been honing his craft for over several decades, but where the special takes an incredible turn is during the portion where Patton begins discussing the recent death of his wife and how he’s coped in the aftermath. If you’ve seen many comedy specials and even documentaries regarding comics and their methods of telling jokes, many have referenced that being honest and talking about one’s pain in life is essential for getting laughs because it not only is therapy for the comedian but many in the audience can relate. As I’ve heard these perspectives spoken ad nauseum from comedians, no pain that I’ve seen is more visibly on display than during Oswalt’s monologue about his wife’s passing.

Oswalt is shaken up at times, unable to move from one story to the next, but remains fearless in his delivery of being completely vulnerable and exposed to an audience that just knows his pain through whatever media outlets have reported. He manages to humanize and discuss the quiet moments of grief in a way that I’ve never heard before while also allowing for humor to shine through the darkness. The prime example of this, and the part where I admit I found myself tearing up, was how he handled telling his daughter about his wife’s passing. Mind you, all the while he is still delivering jokes in between these stories that are hilarious. What’s interesting to notice during these jokes are the audience’s reactions. There are several shots of the front rows and while some are laughing uncontrollably there are many that are looking semi-confused as if wondering if it’s okay to laugh or not. I went through the same array of emotions as I found myself feeling overwhelmingly saddened from his story and asking myself during the jokes, “Is it okay to laugh at this?”

Annihilation is a great special. It’s not Oswalt’s best work, however, it is his most brutally honest and watching it, specifically the latter half, is being a spectator of someone who is creating beauty through immense pain. My words cannot do it justice, but the result will stay with me for some time. As I stated in the beginning, I couldn’t believe I was crying and laughing at the same time, but to Patton Oswalt’s credit, he manages to tap into those emotions simultaneously while entertaining you throughout the entire special.

I give Patton Oswalt: Annihilation an A-.