Recording information: The Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA (05/2011).
Finest Hour is an arguable title thanks to this comedian's killer trilogy of previous albums, but Patton Oswalt is experiencing an oaklike kind of mellowing as he reaches that unpivotal age of 42. Instead of throwing out precious moments such as "failure pile in a sadness bowl" (Werewolves and Lollipops) and "Uncle Touchy's naked puzzle basement" (My Weakness Is Strong), Patton stuns his audience here with an embrace of "The Miracle of Sweatpants" during the opener, and exits with "The Horror of New York City," a masterwork bit that might just sound like "you kids get off my lawn" to a Brooklyn Hipster. These button-down bookends fly in the face of the comedian's earlier cynicism, which has now turned into a keen awareness of cynics and the over-abuse of irony. Sounding genuine, he shows concern for the good people at "The Museum of Spam" who are forced to endure more "hipster douche bags" than real customers. After all, ire is worth saving for things that truly deserve it, and targets like the circus and religious fanaticism are chopped up into absurdist little bits, while surprisingly uncool things such as Jerry McGuire and courteous people are gently hugged. Patton's quest to let the warm fuzzies into his life doesn't mean sacrificing the masterful, vulgar wordplay (here you get "swamp ass" and "nut fog" right off the bat), while hints of nerd-speak suggest he's still willing to join any "Marvel vs. DC" argument in the general vicinity. When he realizes that masturbating to Internet porn has taken time away from teaching his daughter how to read, it's a hilarious and transcendent bit that captures the true worth of Finest Hour. Less catch phrases and more life lessons may not be to everyone's taste, and while the laugh count is down a shade no matter what side of 40 you fall on, this more reserved Patton offers a richer experience, especially on return visits. Plus, he's totally right about the sweatpants. ~ David Jeffries