To some people, Patton Oswalt is first and foremost a stand-up comedian with decades of experience.
To others, he is a geek who will passionately defend or decry any movie or comic book at the drop of a hat.
Yet, others know him from his many darkly comic and dramatic film roles, or as the voice of the cartoon rat Remy from “Ratatouille.”
After that came starring roles as a food-loving rat in Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” a dangerously obsessed New York Giants fan in “Big Fan” and as Charlize Theron’s oft-ignored moral compass and former classmate Matt in “Young Adult.”
With the exception of “Ratatouille,” most of his major roles mirror the black humor he employs in his stand-up routines, punctuating punch lines with painful self-awareness.
Oswalt’s stand-up topics are as varied as his film roles, featuring topics such as his failed attempts at dieting, his desire to be the first nonironic visitor to the Spam museum, Toto-induced supermarket depression, why his wife would rather he and his friends sneak off to strip clubs instead of playing Dungeons and Dragons, and why sweatpants are the greatest invention known to mankind.
A big portion of Oswalt’s appeal comes from his encyclopedic knowledge of nerd culture.
He discusses at length in his stand-up why the X-Men probably wouldn’t let Jesus onto their team and why the Avengers would, and he reckons time not just in years but in years since the release of “Predator 2.”
What sets Oswalt apart is that he has been joking about these things for years, long before geek culture went mainstream, and he remains one of the best gateway drugs to the world of sci-fi and fantasy that the comedy world has to offer.
As one would expect of such a long career in comedy, Oswalt continues to reinvent himself both personally and professionally.
Once firmly opposed to children in general, his stand-up now features material about his young daughter, from accepting faulty parenting advice from his own parents with a smile to the sleep deprivation-induced hallucinations that come with being a new parent.
He recently published his second book, “Silver Screen Fiend,” which chronicles his addiction to binge-watching movies and how the colossal disappointment of “Star Wars: Episode One” set him free.
Over the course of his long career, Oswalt has been a ranting nerd, a Grammy-nominated comic, a bewildered dad, and an accomplished actor and author.
What form he will take next remains to be seen, but the latest manifestation will be on display this Sunday.