Fresh at 50 

Five questions answered by comedian Patton Oswalt.

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Patton Oswalt is what's known as a quadruple threat.

He's earned fans for his observational stand-up comedy, his acting in television and movies, his voice-over work and his writing in books and comics.

For uber-fans, maybe even all of the above.

Impressively, at 50, he shows no signs of slowing down.

A military kid who was born in Portsmouth and went to Broad Run High School in Northern Virginia, Oswalt attended the College of William & Mary where he majored in English, hosted a morning radio show and joined the Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity.

But performing standup around Virginia and Washington quickly eclipsed the allure of college. After eight years, he was hired to write for MADtv and embarked on a prolific television career including roles on "Seinfeld," "The King of Queens," "Reno 911," "Portlandia," "Veep" and others. He won a TV Critics Choice Award for his work on "Parks and Recreation." You've heard his voice-over talent in popular movies such as "Ratatouille" and "The Secret Life of Pets."

His latest Netflix comedy special was "Annihilation" from 2017, which showcased his honest writing style and easygoing atheist appeal – though he can still come across like a curmudgeonly comic book nerd at a mall bar on occasion.

His next Netflix special will be filmed on this tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, right before the Richmond stop. Style Weekly caught up for a brief chat.

Style Weekly: I'll start with an easy one: How do we fix all this rabid divisiveness in America today?

Patton Oswalt: Unfortunately, and I don't want to tear down my profession, but I don't think comedy is doing it, because I think a lot of people on the right are frustrated comedians. So when they see a lot of the satire on the left, it makes them even madder and they dig in and adhere to this kind of nihilist philosophy.

You see it with evangelicals who support Trump. They're like, "we know how shitty it is, but we don't care. We just want our stuff to get through." Nothing is valued anymore except for just immediate libidinal pleasures. We made it uncool to have values, which I think is very scary.

It was refreshing to see your Twitter effort to help the medical expenses of a Trump supporter earlier this year, to forget the ideological differences and just do something human. What was most interesting about that for you?

Well, the positive thing for me is that it inspired other people to do it. And by the way, I was inspired by something that Sarah Silverman did a year before. She helped a guy out that was going after her. She went to [help] this guy who was ill and had back problems and was supporting a president who wanted to make life even worse for him. So I did the same thing. But the sad thing was, at least according to the guy's Twitter timeline, it didn't change anything at all. If anything he got worse.

When you come back to your home state of Virginia, is there any twinge of nostalgia? Do you still have family and friends here?

I have family in Northern Virginia and friends up in Fairfax and Alexandria. But I'm trying to become more nostalgic and moony for the present. I think nostalgia is the poison that's gotten us into the mess we're in. The world is changing as it should, it should always change and there are people who don't want to get out of the way.

There are moments when it's like: I hope when it comes for my time to get the fuck out of the way, I'm able to do that. Rather than a lot of these boomers that I've seen who are like, "no, we need to stop things." Or "when I was still 20, when I was vital." It's just very weird.

[Nostalgia] is always a temptation but I think it's something you need to fight as you get older, or you just stagnate.

Did you see the new Chappelle special that has gotten so much response?

No, I won't be able to see this one until after my special. Which is probably good, because he's such a big influence on me. I don't want that affecting what I'm doing.

Do you think stand-up comedy, overall, has gotten better as its grown more sensitive about offending people?

I think its always evolving and changing and getting better because there's younger people doing fresher takes on things. That's one of the things that makes our profession so vital, so tied in with things. It's great.

[Over a long career] You get better at forming concepts and executing because you've been doing them so long — it takes less and less work to get to where you're going. I think the challenge is how to keep the profession itself fresh, and not let all the travel and stuff wear you down, so that you're still excited when you go onstage.

Patton Oswalt performs at the Dominion Energy Center's Carpenter Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $35 to $49.50. dominionenergycenter.com.


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