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Published on January 6th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Patton Pending

Does Patton Oswalt have a blinking neon sign over his head that says “intellectually rape me”?

It feels like just yesterday (in reality, almost two years ago) when he publicly dealt with another comic doing his act word for word at a show in Iowa.

Whether you approve or disapprove of his aggressive methods in that case, you can’t deny that it sparked a healthy debate not just about thievery, but about the trend of comedy lynch mobs and questions about how this type of thing should be handled.

It looks like history is repeating itself, in a different combination of videotaping & blog synergy. A Los Angeles comic named Barbara Gray blogged an account of an open mic show that Oswalt performed newer material at, and where a woman openly whipped out her video camera and started filming his set. A set he’s working on for an upcoming special, and would understandably not want to have distributed to the world before it’s ready.

You can read the account for yourself, but long story short: Oswalt ripped into them, the women and her friends left the room in disgrace, and everyone is supposed to feel sorry for what big bad Patton (aka “asshole”) did to them.

Whether Oswalt’s actions truly sucked the life out of the room is open to interpretation by those who were present. But the debate raging on Twitter is whether the woman deserved anything other than what she got.

It’s alarming how many people are defending the use of a camera at a show like that. But fortunately, just as many people are defending Oswalt. Even mild-mannered Andy Richter is throwing some sharp punches at the Youtube apologists.

Oswalt promises a full response to Gray’s blog shortly, and we’ll certainly get a fuller picture of what happeed.

But the one question I have, which isn’t answered in Gray’s post: Who was running the room? And why were they not able to shut down the camera use before Oswalt was?

It shouldn’t be the comic’s job to police the room, under any circumstances. Good producers and club managers won’t hesitate to warn – and subsequently toss – a person who is causing a disturbance or doing something they aren’t supposed to. That includes videotaping. From the sounds of things, the woman and her friends ended up on the correct side of the door. But it shouldn’t have been up to Oswalt to prod them there.


About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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