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Comedy knows no limits—and neither does Patton Oswalt. His work is honest, and with honesty comes indecency and, in Oswalt’s case, vicious self-deprecation. “My circle of friends has always been funnier than me,” Oswalt jeered with his recognizable croaky chuckle. “It’s just the playfulness and creativity of their comedy that always keeps me going and [...]
Danny Hamen

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Comedy knows no limits—and neither does Patton Oswalt. His work is honest, and with honesty comes indecency and, in Oswalt’s case, vicious self-deprecation.

“My circle of friends has always been funnier than me,” Oswalt jeered with his recognizable croaky chuckle. “It’s just the playfulness and creativity of their comedy that always keeps me going and keeps me focused.”

Oswalt stands at a mere 5’3” and was named after the famous general from WWII, leading a life of living up to almost impossible standards. He carries with him a brooding, hyper-aware persona that you might not expect from a pudgy, middle-aged comic. Although Patton’s father was a marine, the family opted to settle down in the suburbs of Sterling, Virginia, shielding a young Patton from the military lifestyle.

I didn’t have that military brat upbringing,” he said. “I grew up in a featureless, personality-less suburb. There was nothing to push against.”

Oswalt has always been a stand-up comic, first and foremost. Cutting his teeth on small stages led him to a gig as a writer for MADtv, and eventually to his first stand-up special for HBO’s Comedy Half Hour. Oswalt later became a household name for his popular role as the lovable stooge-y sidekick, Spence Olchin, on The King of Queens, and his first starring role as the anthropomorphic rat chef, Remy, in the smash Pixar hit, Ratatouille. Throughout his ascension to the top of the popular comedy scene, standup remained a big part of Oswalt’s arsenal. He returned to this mainstay for his most recent venture, Talking for Clapping, a new stand-up special which debuted on Netflix last April.

As expected, his act is wearily optimistic, like the man himself. It’s a fully realized set of self-effacing wit, broaching subjects like hard drugs, My Little Pony, and even God Himself.

“I think I realized I was [an atheist] when I was studying religion in college,” Oswalt said when asked about his staunch aversion to organized religion. “It wasn’t the contradictions in the religions, but the similarities in different world religions. That’s when I realized that I thought that religion was just a common myth that people made up to deal with the harshness of reality. And if anything, it just made comedy seem that much more beautiful. Like, well if there can be creation and destruction myths in order to deal with life, than maybe jokes are just mini versions of that. And there is something kind of cool about that, you know? You see, I have never been a militant atheist; I have always been a happy atheist. I am happy that other religions exist because it shows the power of storytelling.”

Oswalt is also known for the virality of his strong and often pugilant Twitter presence—picking fights with everybody’s least favorite pharma bro, Martin Shkreli, and putting Trump on blast throughout election night.

Trading funny for fascism isn’t much of a fun trade-off, Oswalt said.

“He’s not going to help anything. I’ll get 10 new minutes of material, and then the world is going to suck for the next four years for a lot of marginalized people.”

Oswalt is a single dad, after tragically losing his wife, true crime writer Michelle McNamara, last April. He admits that becoming a parent has changed his creative outlook on comedy, although it hasn’t softened his jokes. He said that his daughter would probably be ready for his comedy when she is in her teens.

“It isn’t even so much about the language; I am just talking about stuff that I don’t think she really cares about all that much. She would rather watch Teen Titans Go.”

That, or perhaps Ratatouille.

Patton Oswalt will perform at the Palace Theater on February 24.

For more, visit  pattonoswalt.com.

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Arts & Culture

Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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