GRAND RAPIDS — Before launching into his closing bit — a story about a disinterested, lazily-costumed clown at a child’s birthday he attended with his five-year-old daughter — Patton Oswalt admitted to an audibly appreciative crowd last night at the Fountain Street Church, “Thank you, guys. I needed this so bad.”
Moments later when the veteran comedian began acting out the scene in which said clown emerged from the trees at the park where this party went down (this meant Oswalt ducking behind the huge Gilda’s LaughFest sign onstage) the curtain on which the sign was hung began slowly, ever so slowly, flopping down until it met the ground, covering Oswalt for a few seconds until he emerged victorious. “I literally brought the house down,” Oswalt announced.
It was an unexpected turn of events for sure, but it couldn’t overshadow Oswalt’s perfect set that preceded. Covering everything from the seemingly simple — trips to the DMV and post office, Christmas in Los Angeles, getting older, the differences between goys and girls, dealing with the holidays — to big world issues like gay rights and Barack Obama’s legacy as President of the United States, the 46-year-old everyman proved his remarkable ability to be philosophical without being pretentious and introspective without spiraling away from laughs– feats lesser comedians would never achieve. Oswalt could also tell a really funny shitting-your-pants story.
Peppered between these expertly crafted bits were genuine interactions with the audience. As a result, a local business 2/90 Sign Systems became a callback for Oswalt throughout the show and a dentist was anointed as the Meth Dentist, whom, based on Oswalt’s advice, should for now on specialize in taking care of meth addicts’ horrible teeth.
Even before those black curtains comically tumbled upon the former King of Queens star, Oswalt’s pristine performance had become a highlight of the fifth annual Gilda’s LaughFest. It’s just that now there’s about 1,500 Michiganders who can say they were there giving Patton Oswalt a standing ovation after he fought through the wreckage and rose like a Phoenix.