If you read this blog, you may have noticed that I’m a fan of comedy. I read comedy books, I go to comedy shows, I watch funny TV series, that sort of thing. I’m a comedy nerd. (There, I said it. Feels better already.) So it would seem natural that I’d read Patton Oswalt’s book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. (Which I did.) And it would also seem natural that I liked it. (Which I did.)
Cool, okay. That’s basically it. I thought it’d be funny to set up that first paragraph so it would seem like I might hate the book, but I totally don’t. It wasn’t my favorite comedy book; Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter still holds that title. But ZSW actually lived up to most of the hype quotes plastered on the back cover and the first few pages. Normally, I find this stuff irritating, but I couldn’t help read it all when all the flattery comes from other comedians I like. They all comment on how great a writer Oswalt is, and I have to agree. He has a way of sounding erudite and immature at the same time, which is a compliment of course, and each word he writes is so easily heard in his voice. I almost wish I had bought this as a book on tape, because it would have been even more fun to read with… him doing it for me, in my ears.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the first appendix (yes, there is more than one). Back in the day, Oswalt came up with a character, Erik Blevins, under whose name he wrote a bunch of intentionally-bad film treatments. I found myself laughing out loud in whatever public place I happened to be reading them in, which was a little awkward for everyone else, I imagine, but perfectly delightful for me. I’d rather not quote any of the treatments, as they’re best read in their entirety, but the standout was “Carvin’ It U!p 2 Da Streetz.”
Of course, I’ll quote other things that he said, because he’s got quite a way with words:
p. 86, on moving // “When you’re beginning to suspect you might be leaving a place, you become hypersensitive to it, as if your mind is subconsciously stocking itself with smells, sounds, sights, and tactile sensations of a place you’ll no longer see every day.”
p. 98, on Zombies (and later Spaceships, and Wastelands, as the title suggests) // “Zombies can’t believe the energy we waste on nonfood pursuits.”
p. 143, on a shitty hotel room // “I make a pot of coffee with the little coffeemaker that’s in the room. Now the room smells like a hot, wet hat. The coffee tastes like pants.”
If those quotes sound like they come from three different books, it’s because I think that was sort of his intention. Oswalt clearly had the ability to Get Real, in the sense that he wasn’t afraid to be sincere (i.e., not funny) at times, but he didn’t want to go a very long time without getting a laugh, either. So he alternated between chapters with real life career-in-comedy stories, and nonsensical, creative theories about all sorts of topics that he’s clearly been developing for some time. His brain is a fascinating place.