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Massawyrm devours Patton Oswalt's new book ZOMBIE SPACESHIP WASTELAND

Hola all. Massawyrm here.

If you’ve never had the chance to see Patton Oswalt live, you’ve not only missed out on one of the best things going on in standup comedy today, but one of the truly geeky live experiences out there. Patton is one of us – a comic book loving, genre-obsessed fanboy - whose equal passion for the craft of standup has forged an act that seamlessly blends politics and pop culture into razor sharp and hilarious social commentary. I’ve had the opportunity to see him live a number of times, and count them among some of the very best shows I’ve had the fortune of attending.

But unlike many books by successful standup comedians, Oswalt’s new book ZOMBIE SPACESHIP WASTELAND (Scribner, 196 pages) is not a mere extension of his act. In fact, there are entire chunks of this book that bear little resemblance to his act at all. Fans hoping for two hundred pages of Patton Oswalt riffs might find themselves fairly confused at first. This isn’t straight comedy; it is satire. While chunks of the book are first person accounts of his childhood and teen years in Virginia, and one of the final chapters is a substantive narrative about his nightmarish first gig as a headliner, there are swaths of this book that feel like complete non-sequiturs – strange pieces of performance art amid what is an otherwise well written memoir.

From the get go, Oswalt subtly establishes the voice that will ultimately become so prevalent - even if it takes some getting used to – by offering up a list of other books “Also by Patton Oswalt”. Here Oswalt is in full on geek mode, riffing on sci-fi/fantasy titles while also offering up a few hints of his patented inappropriate humor. He then follows that up with a few more earnest pages before once again spoofing the medium with a series of bullshit quotes pulled squarely out of his comfort zone. And then it begins, following up the satire with honest, often quite self-deprecating, stories of his youth. Following that is a strange letter from Patton to the producers of an imaginary film (which from the description appears to be one of the very worst things ever to go before cameras) offering his requested punch up notes. And this is where the book becomes something else entirely.

In PUNCH-UP NOTES, Oswalt offers a voice that seems just as complicit in the bad comedy as the makers of the film and, coming on the heels of such naked honesty, is a bit jarring. It was a chapter that demanded I read it twice to try and understand what he was saying. It wouldn’t be until a few chapters later, after soaking in a series of hilarious wine descriptions and bullshit greeting cards that the depth to which he was willing to go for the sake of satirizing his target became wholly apparent.

What at first seemed like it would be a breezy afternoon read full of long form recollections would actually prove to be more of a Burroughs-esque series of seemingly erratic pieces skewering ever more random targets, only to swerve effortlessly later on to weave four or five seemingly unrelated chapters together into one seriously heady look into the way Patton Oswalt sees the world. All of his passions seem ripe for the picking as he mocks aspects of his profession, his hobbies and his own status as a minor celebrity – each getting a good walloping at the hands of his brisk, muscular prose.

While his satire is equally biting and irreverent, the times he is being purely honest and straightforward are both funny and occasionally heartbreaking. Oswalt has a way of making the truly pathetic kind of endearing, and while he often uses this to drive home a point, there are a few occasions in which you can only shake your head and sigh at just how truly sad some of what he has to say is. There is one point in the book – when a waitress asks him if he is gay for not hitting on her – that I had to close the book and down a beer, just to soak in the various levels of awfulness present in the whole of the encounter, before picking the book up again and rejoining the story.

By the time you close the cover on ZOMBIE SPACESHIP WASTELAND, you’ve not only laughed your ass off, but you’ve taken a cerebral and somewhat surreal tour through the thought processes of Patton Oswalt. It is an inspired and unique work, operating well outside the realm of the disposable comedy memoir. It is exactly the type of book I wish I’d had as a teenager – one that doesn’t soak in a rags-to-riches story of success as much as it chronicles how the influences of our youth can forge a world view that turns us into the men and women we become, while simultaneously pulling comedy drive-bys on the things that get under geek skin.

It is a book for the shelf, not the sell back box; more Robert Anton Wilson than it is Paul Reiser. At 196 pages, it’s a mighty quick read. I devoured this in a single sitting and will no doubt read it again. A must read for any Patton Oswalt fan, this comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

ZOMBIE SPACESHIP WASTELAND is available from Scribner on January 4th, 2011. Find it HERE.


Until next time friends,Massawyrm



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Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 15, 2010, 9:23 a.m. CST

    I Like Patton . . . Or Did


    Until he made me have to read a book. Isn't the movie version coming out soon?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 9:39 a.m. CST


    by typhonicbeast

    Is it January yet?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 9:42 a.m. CST

    Man, this site is fucked.

    by henrydalton


  • Dec. 15, 2010, 10:15 a.m. CST

    BTW, Any Mods Reading . . . Can't Get to the AICN Situation Talkback Anymore


    I get a "You don't have access here." error. <Br><Br> What's up with that? What's up with that? Oooooooo weeeeeeee. What's up with that? What's up with that? Oooooooo weeeeeeee. What's up with that? What's up with that?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 10:19 a.m. CST

    BTW, Any Mods Reading . . . Can't Get to the AICN Situation Talkback Anymore


    I get a "You don't have access here." error. <Br><Br> What's up with that? What's up with that? Oooooooo weeeeeeee. What's up with that? What's up with that? Oooooooo weeeeeeee. What's up with that? What's up with that?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 10:29 a.m. CST

    This site isn't fucked, it's FUCKED!

    by jawsfan

    And unless there is a mode I don't know about yet, you have to click on each and every post you want to read instead of being able to open them all up at once. Sucks.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 10:30 a.m. CST

    and FUCKED sites can drive away viewers forever.

    by jawsfan


  • Dec. 15, 2010, 10:31 a.m. CST

    Once browsing the site becomes a chore, people leave.

    by jawsfan

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Took about 4 hours to get the site to even open

    by henrydalton

    It's been down all afternoon here in the UK, dunno if anyone else had that problem...

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:20 a.m. CST

    the this the final version?


    is this expand(ing) stuff permanent? the catch is, you have to HAVE NOT have clicked one talkback to have expand all work. you have to expand all right off the bat. it's fucking retarded. i never minded reading everyone's posts at all. most often, you need the context of something you skimmed to make sense of a later post. if i want to ignore someone, a large post, or a spam post, i just DO. in my head. i can do that. i don't need AICN to protect me from that. i hate clicking on talkbacks to see them. oh, and i hate having to log in and wait 2 minutes each time i want to post.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:23 a.m. CST

    agree with jawsfan


    one it gets difficult or annoying, people leave- to never come back. in 'simplifying' AICN, they have somehow made it overcomplex and uneccessarily encumbered. hey, remember myspace? friendster? the path that facebook is taking? all sites must die. AICN is on its deathbed, wheezing and shitting itself.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:23 a.m. CST

    by henrydalton

    And now half the stories I'm getting told I 'don't have access' to. Yay white screens!

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Who on earth is doing the design for this site?

    by heks

    Really. Who is it? Cause this is crazy. Several articles are now giving an access error when you try to load them, including the article on the "AICN Situation"

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:27 a.m. CST

    Don't worry too terribly, guys

    by Massawyrm 1

    Believe me, once everything gets sorted and Harry is able to tell the whole story, you'll understand the clusterfuck we're all pulling our hair out over. This isn't about brainless oafs rolling out stupid ideas - it is about strangeness I cannot even begin to talk about...that said, why not keep the talk on topic, okay?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:33 a.m. CST

    i'd like to hear the strangeness


    thanks for popping in massa- i had the feeling everyone was still asleep at the wheel. i felt like we were shouting into the void. I clicked on this thread wanting to thank you for telling me about a book i'd not know about otherwise, and that i'll have to get one in January. but then i clicked on stuff and shit happened, and i got distracted. i'd love to hear the 'whole story' and my brain is trying to ponder why it can't all be addressed 'now'. were you hacked by chinese spies? did you hire people that hate AICN to redesign the site? the mind boggles. but yay for Patton!

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:34 a.m. CST

    How To Always Have All Talkbacks Opened Automatically


    Install AICN Extra Stuff (it's free!) if you're using Chrome. Install Greasemonkey Add-on for Firefox and AICN Extra Stuff for Firefox. If you're using anything else, well . . . pester the AICN gods for such things to be set as PREFERENCES! They don't even have to be stored per user, they can be stored in cookies. Or something! But rather than doing everything one size fits all, have an "Automatic Expand Preference" (as I do, thanks to my AICN Extra Stuff mod) and let people turn it on and off as they please.<br><br>Speaking of preferences, latest version restores the preferences panel. Depending on which version of the AICN Extra Stuff mod you are running, the preferences at the bottom of the screen may have disappeared. They are now restored in the latest version . . . <br><br>

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Massawyrm? Really? Stay On Topic?


    "that said, why not keep the talk on topic, okay?"<br><br> Seriously? Should we wear a coat and tie, too? Why don't you just change it so all the talkbacks are moderated and there's a profanity filter, too.<br><br>Ugh. Reading that--assuming you're actually the Wyrm--is worse than anything that's gone wrong with the site design, from my point of view.<br><br>And: "Oh, if you only knew the story"? Now all I want to hear is the story. Bastard.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Zombot: Definitely Chinese Spies


    Hacking into AICN for secret month-old entertainment news!

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:41 a.m. CST

    Seriously. Stay on Topic? Hey, I'm Spraying Boiling Water In Your Face


    And I took a dump in your shoes. But don't talk about! Stay on topic! <br><br>I mean, I'm sorry, I hate to be that guy. I'm not that guy. Really. But how can you rationally expect people just to talk about a Patton Oswalt book when the site is barely working for them and they are confused by the format changes and stuff works one minute and doesn't the next . . . of course they aren't going to stay on topic.<br><br> Sheesh.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Can you guys mail me a letter when you have it sorted out?...

    by FlickaPoo

    ...I was going to say email, but relying on anything digital is probably a mistake, at this point.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:05 p.m. CST

    It's been years since AICN has been this sucky

    by rev_skarekroe

    But it was crippling, just like it is now. Why is it so difficult for this site to get its shit together?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:07 p.m. CST

    Oh, and the reason I chose not to stay on topic...

    by rev_skarekroe because I really wanted to talk about comics, but that article is fucked and inaccessible at the moment and I needed to vent. Patton would understand.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:17 p.m. CST

    So, what I want to know is...

    by Dollar Bird

    ... where's the Neil Cumpston review for this book?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:24 p.m. CST

    What HAppened Massa?

    by HarryKnowlesNonExistentInceptionReview

    Did you guys piss off Julian Assange somehow?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:46 p.m. CST

    BTW, The "AICN Situation" Talkback is Gone . . .


    The Site Maintenance Notice is closed for comments. If you want folks to stay on topics, it would be good to include a place for Talkbackers to, I dunno, talk back about the changes and the problems, even if they overreact and don't "know the whole story" so jump to conclusions. <br><br> I'm not going anywhere, but I can see why people are bailing.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:47 p.m. CST


    by L.H.Puttgrass

    This place is as wacky as Patton Oswalt. <p> The internets are a-jumpin'.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 12:50 p.m. CST

    Capital letters are in short supply.

    by L.H.Puttgrass

    Aw, man.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 1:25 p.m. CST

    What is it about..

    by Big_Daddy_Nero

    ..comedians that makes them have to be on anti-depressants and be so nasty mean to people? I like Oswalt just fine, I think he can be absolutely hilarious.. I was one of the 12 people who saw Reno 911: Miami, and he stole that movie. But I have seen him enough to also know that he carries a lot of anger and nastiness and downright meanness inside of him, and that really is such a shame, and it does not bode well for his future, or even for him living a long life.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 1:33 p.m. CST

    Hey Massa, does he get political much in the book?

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    I generally adore the man, but I find that I can only tolerate so much of his political "discussions." Even when I've seen him perform live he'll occasionally go from irreverent to downright venomous when getting into political topics. That being the case, and with my full understanding the book *is* satire, do the contents weight heavily on political topics or more on observations on society as a whole? Your input is greatly appreciated, as I appreciate your perspective as (from what I've ascertained) a fairly moderate conservative.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 2:15 p.m. CST

    My favorite Oswalt bit

    by Bag_of_Hammers

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 2:19 p.m. CST


    by skimn

    CLICK ON EXPAND ALL!!CLICK ON EXPAND ALL!!CLICK ON EXPAND ALL!!CLICK ON EXPAND ALL!! I am so tired of reading posts that read "you have to click on each and every post you want to read instead of being able to open them all up at once. Sucks"...Adapt or die.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 2:41 p.m. CST

    Re: Oswalt nasty..

    by skimn

    I've always gotten the impression that he harbors a bit of self loathing, so he's actually harder on himself than others.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 3:10 p.m. CST

    shut the fuck up donny

    by Massawyrm 1

    No, the book isn't political - more about society, Hollywood, comedy and geekdom as a whole.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 3:35 p.m. CST

    Yea I like Patton

    by ChocolateJeebus

    Too bad he's a dirty hippy.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 4:06 p.m. CST

    Site fuckage

    by daggor

    The way I understand big boys & girls do it, they develop the new site, make sure it works... THEN they roll it out. The site is clunky and aspects of the previous, simpler site that we liked are now gone. Why is Massa's post not in white/reversed out of black? Did the "programmer" forget to do that? Bring back the other site until you get it right. What, will you have to copy and paste a few dozen articles?

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 4:07 p.m. CST

    Back on topic

    by daggor

    I love me some Patton, but his last Twitter post, saying "Nope" to a call to end the political shit on his feed is a bummer. Bummers kill comedy.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 5:14 p.m. CST

    Thanks Massa!

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    All the topics I DO love hearing him go on about. I know what I'll be asking my wife to get me for our anniversary!

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Daggor, and that may start to bite him in the ass...

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    He's posted some hostile stuff lately like "if you agree with X (the name escapes me), un-friend me because you are what's wrong with America..." But, that's not the kind of material that made him such an icon in comedy. His fans know that, and are trying to help him reign it in a little. However, Patton's devil-may-care attitude is admittedly one of the reasons he's loved by so many...

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 8:12 p.m. CST

    I'm seeing Patton Oswalt on January 21st in Orlando

    by superfleish76

    He better be there. He already postponed once on me! Definitely looking forward to reading the book, too.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 8:12 p.m. CST

    jesus kevinwillis, give it a rest

    by BadMrWonka

    the site is BEING UPDATED AND FIXED. Harry said that the options were either to leave the site up in this crappy state for a couple weeks while they handle business, or shut it down completely. <p> do you HONESTLY think that shutting it down for weeks would lose them LESS viewership than having it kinda goofy like this for a little while?<p> honestly, what is the big deal? you have to click "expand all" before reading the talkbacks, and some of the time, there are double posts. OH MY FUCKING GOD! get over it. <p> I swear to god, the people complaining the most now are the same people that always complained the site was old-fashioned. now they're revamping it and people are complaining about it's interim state? jesus christ. <p> this is like someone hiring a contractor to redo their kitchen, and coming back an hour later when everything is exposed, and going, "What is this shit? I can't get to the cupboards! And don't get me started on the sink! Oh and, blah blah blah"<p> if you can't stand it so much, just go somewhere else for a week or so. I promise you, we won't miss you, kiddo. <p> oh, and I checked out your site...and no, Rush Limbaugh is not right....about anything. and global warming is real. sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  • Dec. 15, 2010, 9:59 p.m. CST

    lol badmrwonka

    by Sardonic

    the kitchen bit was clever

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  • Dec. 16, 2010, 2:01 a.m. CST


    by BadMrWonka

    Thank you sir, I try. <p> I never take issue with people that have legitimate arguments, but when they just want to whine for the sake of whining...I have to set them straight.

  • Dec. 16, 2010, 5:37 a.m. CST


    by Meadowe

    He did what he could with his craptastiq part in blade Trinity, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear him in ratatouie (spl?) and to hear that he's got a midigeekchlorian count that's way up there is pretty coo' to hear too.

  • Dec. 16, 2010, 8:25 p.m. CST

    Reviewing Patton's book is a conflict of interest...

    by Billy_Batson

    …seeing as he used to write for AICN.