Patton Oswalt is gonna go down in the history books as an authority on geekdom and comedy. I feel like at least once a month he’s sharing some thoughtful constructive criticism on both fields, and often the union between the two. For his latest inspiring speech, it was all the latter: Patton was the keynote speaker at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival over the weekend, but he made an interesting choice as to his audience. While the beginning of the speech was directed at the network executives who put sitcoms into being, his message is for aspiring comedians who have all of the tools to become the next Louis C.K. or Lena Dunham.
The cranky star of Louie was Patton’s main inspiration here, with the unexpected success of his show and his unorthodox methods of promotion, like offering his DVD special to Redditors for only $5 but then raking in millions. The whole speech is worth sitting down with a coffee and reading through and then bookmarking, but I’ll be discussing some of the highlights here.
It awes you a bit what Patton is saying, that this era of comedy hinges on the comedian him/herself pushing his/her content out there in any way possible, and that they don’t need permission from the higher-ups to do so:
Our careers don’t hinge on somebody in a plush office deciding to aim a little luck in our direction. There are no gates. They’re gone. The model for success as a comedian in the ’70s and ’80s? That was middle school. Remember, they’d hand you a worksheet, fill in the blanks on the worksheet, hand it in, you’ll get your little points.
And that doesn’t prepare you for college. College is the 21st century. Show up if you want to, there’s an essay, there’s a paper, and there’s a final. And you decide how well you do on them, and that’s it. And then after you’re done with that, you get even more autonomy whether you want it or not because you’re an adult now.
Comedians are getting more and more comfortable with the idea that if we’re not successful, it’s not because we haven’t gotten our foot in the door, or nobody’s given us a hand up. We can do that ourselves now. Every single day we can do more and more without you and depend on you less and less.
Here’s where some of Patton’s geek cred probably leaked in, because he realized that the solution for this situation is rather similar to how geek has become so mainstream: Accept and celebrate the fans in all of us.
I want you, all of the gatekeepers, to become fans. I want you to become true enthusiasts like me. I want you to become thrill-seekers. I want you to be as excited as I was when I first saw Maria Bamford’s stand-up, or attended The Paul F. Tompkins show, or listened to Sklarbro Country….
I want you to be as charged with hope as I am that we’re looking at the most top-heavy with talent young wave of comedians that this industry have ever had at any time in its history.
This part gave me a little chill, but the good kind:
You know why we can do that now? Because of these. (Oswalt holds up an iPhone)
In my hand right now I’m holding more filmmaking technology than Orsen Welles had when he filmed Citizen Kane.
I’m holding almost the same amount of cinematography, post-editing, sound editing, and broadcast capabilities as you have at your tv network.
In a couple of years it’s going to be f*cking equal. I see what’s f*cking coming. This isn’t a threat, this is an offer. We like to create. We’re the ones who love to make sh*t all the time. You’re the ones who like to discover it and patronize it support it and nurture it and broadcast it. Just get out of our way when we do it.
Gah, I’m close to copying the whole thing over, but that would be a disservice to the folks who transcribed it. So just go read it already!
Photo: Frank Altmann/WENN.com