06/19/2007 06:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Patton Oswalt: When the Jester Takes the Throne

With The King of Queens now a sitcom memory and Spence Olchin's fate sealed, Patton Oswalt marches on. Throughout the show's nine year stint, Oswalt's stand up act flourished and amassed to a brazen cult following. Now, he's on the brink of a mainstream breakthrough.

While not quite a household name, Oswalt's ubiquitous. He's a regular columnist for The New York Times Magazine, takes small roles and does "punch-up" writing for films, appears regularly on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and was an uncredited writer for the Borat movie -- among other gigs.

Oswalt's brand of humor is gimmick-free observational comedy, where he flourishes as a creative wordsmith. He crafts textured jokes against his targets, weaving vivid and searingly funny descriptions. He proves to be angry and smart, using sarcasm as a pointed, satiric saber, then playfully exaggerates with generous riffing. His humor derives from the impulse of a disciplined writer--or perhaps just a symptom of a voracious reader. And, like his idol Bill Hicks, it's not without an abundance of foul-mouthed dick jokes.

Oswalt's Revolution Summer-inspired Comedians of Comedy helped spawn a comedy revival within the independent rock scene. Soon, indie music labels clamored for comedians. Sub Pop already snagged David Cross and metal stalwarts Relapse Records took on Brian Posehn. Oswalt's past releases involved musical affiliations ranging from Aimee Mann and Michael Penn to The Melvins. Sub Pop is handling his latest album, Werewolves and Lollipops.

Recorded at the Cap City Comedy Club in Austin, Texas -- where, he observes, one can pay for sandwiches with a song -- Oswalt's latest brings on more acerbic strangulation of the absurdities of contemporary society. It's a harrowing reflection: Hollywood socialites, KFC's Famous Bowls, Cirque du Soleil, five star restaurants, and the recent Star Wars movies; what's not to hate?

There's more introspective material about growing up a short, pudgy, and culturally hungry -- but often deprived -- geek than the angry political tirades that pepper 2004's Feelin' Kinda Patton. Although, his comparison of Bush and Cheney as The Dukes of Hazzard is a long overdue analogy. Oswalts revisits material from the Comedians of Comedy ep, but the Costco bit is reinvigorated when Oswalt rips into a heckler who ruins the story's dramatic climax. That tangent is a moment of inspired improvisation that proves Oswalt's talent for smart, spontaneous humor.

Oswalt insures his acting career by insisting that "they'll always need a fat best friend." But, after nearly 20 years of honing his comedic craft, Oswalt proves he's worth far more than a geeky, token-collecting sidekick. Currently, he's on tour with Janeane Garofalo to promote his first film feature starring role--as the voice of Remy, an animated rat in the latest Brad Bird and Pixar collaboration, Ratatouille.

While face may still be peeking from secondary character obscurity onscreen, I'd say Patton Oswalt is sitting pretty.

Watch Oswalt slay the crowd on Late Night with Conan O'Brien:

Ratatouille movie teaser: