Patton Oswalt - Actor, Comedian - Biography
Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt Biography

Actor, Comedian (1969–)
Quick-witted comedian Patton Oswalt has lent his talents to such projects as 'The King of Queens,' 'Ratatouille' and 'Veep.'

Who Is Patton Oswalt?

Comedian Patton Oswalt started performing stand-up as a college student. He later found work on such TV shows as Seinfeld before joining the cast of The King of Queens in 1998. After the show ended in 2007, he later landed roles on United States of Tara and Justified. In addition to television, Oswalt has found success with such films as Ratatouille (2007) and Young Adult (2011). He is also one of the country’s most popular stand-up performers and received a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping.

Early Life

Born on January 27, 1969, in Portsmouth, Virginia, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt is known for his work on such TV shows as The King of Queens and Veep as well as his own comedy specials. His distinctive first name is in honor of the famed General George Patton. The son of a marine officer, Oswalt moved around a lot in his early years. He and his family settled in Sterling, Virginia, in the mid-1970s. Oswalt later attended Broad Run High School.

After graduating from Broad Run, Oswalt enrolled at the College of William and Mary. It was during his college days that he discovered his love of stand-up comedy. Oswalt took the stage on an open mic night at a comedy club in Washington, D.C., during his summer break. After that moment, “I wanted to be out in clubs telling jokes, so every Friday afternoon, I’d finish my last class, drive off and do a gig,” he explained in an interview posted on his college website. “It paid for my rent in college, which was nice.”

Career Highlights

Oswalt eventually made his way to Los Angeles. One of his early memorable TV roles was a guest spot as a video store clerk on Seinfeld in 1994. Around this time, Oswalt also landed a job writing for the late night comedy show MADtv. He went on to do guest appearances on such shows as NewsRadio and Mr. Show. In 1998, Oswalt landed a role on the sitcom The King of Queens starring Kevin James and Leah Remini as Doug and Carrie Heffernan. For nearly a decade, he entertained audiences with his character Spencer "Spence" Olchin, a friend of James' Doug Heffernan. This experience provided on-the-job acting training for this stand-up comedian. As he told Variety, “I learned so much from watching others work out scenes and will forever thank the show for not firing me in those early seasons when I was such a horrible actor.”

In 2004, he debuted his well-received comedy special Patton Oswalt: No Reason to Complain. Oswalt also toured with several other comics, including Zach Galifianakis, as the “Comedians of Comedy,” around this time. In 2007, he voiced the character of Remy, a rat with spectacular culinary skills, in the hit animated film Ratatouille. Oswalt, showing his talents as a dramatic actor, starred in the 2009 independent movie Big Fan. He earned strong reviews for playing a sports fan who gets assaulted by a football player from his favorite team. This positive notice helped open the door to other serious work, including his stellar turn in 2011’s Young Adult starring Charlize Theron.

In recent years, Oswalt has enjoyed a wave of TV success with roles on such shows as United States of Tara, Bored to Death, Justified, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Veep, among others. He is also an in-demand voice-over talent, working on several animated series, including We Bare Bears, Archer, and BoJack Horseman. Oswalt has published two books, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (2011) and Silver Screen Fiend (2015). In 2016, he released his comedy special, Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping, for which he received a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. 

Personal Life

Oswalt married true crime writer Michelle McNamara in 2005, and they had a daughter, Alice, in 2009.

While working on a book about the Golden State Killer, whose identity remained a mystery as he committed numerous rapes and murders in the 1970s and '80s, McNamara died in her sleep in April 2016. An autopsy revealed that she had an undiagnosed heart condition and had taken a mix of prescription drugs. 

Oswalt saw to it that his wife's work was completed, hiring an investigative journalist to help piece the story together through her notes. The book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, was published in 2018 and optioned to HBO a few weeks later.  

Amazingly, authorities nabbed a primary suspect in the case in April. Although a spokesman said that the book did not provide specific information that led to the arrest, it did bring attention to the saga that "kept interest and tips coming in."

Patton has since remarried, to actress Meredith Salenger.

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