Credit to: Patton Oswalt Figured Out How to Deal with Trump BY: ANNA PEELE
Two months before Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency, Patton Oswalt’s wife, true-crime writer Michelle McNamara, passed away in her sleep. Oswalt emerged from what he calls a “swamp of grief” to find that the country he thought he knew had revealed itself to be a strange and terrible place. The comedian, who is now married to actress Meredith Salenger, found a way to cope: his daughter, Alice.
“She’s already gone through this horrible trauma,” Oswalt says. “So not only am I trying to help her recover from this grief, but then the world that we’re emerging into was so hostile. It really kinda galvanized me and made my way very clear, ’cause I was just thinking of my daughter. ‘Well, if this is how the world is, how do I make this world better?’ ”
It won’t surprise that Oswalt’s method of world improvement is comedy. His incredible 2017 Netflix special, Annihilation, walks you through the stand-up’s shock and agony at his wife’s death and what’s happened to America, providing a blueprint for coping with the bleakest of times. GQ talked to Oswalt about how exhausting it is to do the right thing, apologizing when you fuck up, and Trump’s pain of sexual rejection.
GQ: I have this overwhelming feeling of fatigue from the news, but whenever I try to divert my attention with something lighter, I’m just like, “This is too frivolous! I can’t think about this when there’s serious stuff going on in the world.”
Patton Oswalt: It is a constant expenditure of energy for the health of a nation and a body politic I guess we shouldn’t be expending that energy on. And it’s detrimental to our health. It’s not just that the president has affairs: It’s that his lieutenants and his spokespeople are always screaming at other people for lack of morals, lack of character, and we have a president who is just constantly contradicting all that stuff that’s being yelled about. So yes, you focus on that. And then you go take a mental-health day, going, “I just need to look at something absurd, and fun, and goofy because we need that.” But then as you’re doing that you’re going, “Shouldn’t I be marching, or tweeting something?”
I’m trying to do work with all these smaller Congressional races, and you have to tweet every day. After a while it’s like, “But I’m a comedian. My Twitter feed can’t just be me being pissed off and outraged at things. I gotta also put out jokes. Not just for my career, but also for just my own mental health.” And this goes both ways. There’s something very sick but pleasurable in seeing Donald Trump scream and yell to his MAGA followers, “We’re boycotting the NFL! These guys that are kneeling…” It’s like, these poor people. You’re taking away their health care and jobs, and then you’re telling them, “And the thing you enjoy every Sunday just to get you through the week, I can’t have you watching that because my feelings are hurt.” It’s a level of “I need you guys to be in misery all the time. I’m only happy if I know that you’re being offered zero relief.”
And now with the tariffs on aluminum, the price of beer is going to go up, so you can’t even afford to cope with how terrible things are with alcohol.
Oh, my God. It’s Soviet-level shit that he’s doing. Like, “Show your love of the Motherland by the amount of deprivation that you’re going through.” He is someone who has not felt pleasure in a very, very long time. He is angry all the time. And so in a weird way that’s the world he wants everyone living in, where he can go to sleep at night at least knowing, “Everyone is as miserable as me, and is feeling just as little pleasure and relief, and is being given no breathing room. At least I can sleep knowing that.”
That assumes a much higher level of self-awareness than I’m willing to give President Trump credit for.
I don’t think that is from a self-awareness aspect of him. I think that is a lizard brain, gut reaction to everything. You know what I mean?
He seems to really need compliance from everyone around him. He’s like one of those people who, everyone around him is an employee—even the women he sleeps with are models and porn stars he pays off.
Do you think in his experience he’s ever been with a woman where he has seen a sincere look on their face of desire for him? That status will feel very, very empty after a while. And every testimony—like Stormy Daniels’s—they’re all like, “Trust me. I was not into this guy.” They always make it very clear that they’re not attracted to this guy. After a while, that has to take a psychological toll where you’re like, “I’m worth billions of dollars, but every woman who’s ever been on record about me has talked about how disgusting and gross it was and how they had to basically muscle through their revulsion to be with me.” That has gotta just grind at him.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how there’s an increased sensitivity and divisiveness among Americans. Roy Wood Jr. had a great quote about it. He said, “The problem comes with thinking that freedom of speech entitles you to freedom of venue. There are nights when I go onstage and I have to decide how much of an argument I want to get into with the audience.” When do you employ self-protection and when do you just go, “This is my comedy and I have to be true to myself”?
It’s not so much that I’m employing self-protection. I’ve been doing comedy since the ‘80s, so I was very, very comfortable from early on going, “You say something, and if people don’t like it, you gotta take your fuckin’ lumps.” I guess it’s a generational divide. You’re seeing these anonymous trolls that are writing horrible things online and then going, “First Amendment. Freedom of speech.” It’s like, “Well, no, freedom of speech means the government can’t lock you up.” But a company or a paying audience…and these are the same guys saying the free market is invaluable. “Well, the free market just rejected the thing that you said.” People say shitty stuff all the time. You just say, “Ah, I fucked that up. I just learned something. My bad.” But we’ve gotten into this weird, no-apology culture.