My favorite comedian of all time is Patton Oswalt. I've seen him several times live, watched his DVD, and listened to his album, and, whenever I do any of those things, I am thrown into fits of uncontrollable laughter, tears stream down my eyes, and I literally start to hurt. I am not exaggerating. Once, I laughed so hard that I actually thought I was going to die. The only other time that happens is when I read my own work.

Oswalt is smart, vulgar, and has one of the most imaginative minds and sophisticated vocabularies in comedy today:

What a surprise to discover that he voices the main rat in the Pixar movie, Ratatouille. It seems almost obscene to cast him because he's so obscene, but, hey, more power to him. If a filthy mouth can infiltrate the mainstream, then, man, a world of possibilities has just opened up for me.

Incidentally, Ratatouille is a surprisingly complex study of creativity, artistic collaboration, and an artist's relationship to his work, his audience, and his critics (formal and informal, external and internal). It's also funny and entertaining, and I mouthed to myself several times during the movie, "This animation is fucking amazing!" Some of the visualsParis at night, a kitchen during dinner rush, rodent furare so vivid and textured that they look more real than reality.

But back to Patton Oswalt. A vociferous opponent of George W. Bush ("That's the one thing I like about George Bush: I really think he can get us into the fucking apocalypselike the Biblical"), he often criticizes Bush, and this is a pretty common occurrence in Oswalt's act. I was at a comedy club in L.A. a while back, and, when Oswalt dived into a routine about the irrefutable, nonpartisan disaster that is the Iraq war, four people got up and headed for the exit. Shocked that anyone would be horribly offended at the mention of Bush and Iraq, especially in a comedy club and especially coming out of his mouth, Oswalt asked the hasty patrons if they were really offended by and disagreeable to what he was talking about. One of the guys barked at him, and the group continued on their way out the door. Oswalt declared (I'm paraphrasing), "Ladies and gentlemen, there goes a millionaire! I never thought millionaires would come to my show!" It was a tense but brilliant moment.

—Reporting From Glendale, California

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