LOS ANGELES – Bob Hope taught Patton Oswalt a valuable lesson: “There is no 'them.' Everyone is dealing with their own stuff, just go do what you want to do.”
The Grammy- and Emmy-winning comedian read the advice from Hope and felt it applied quite well. “He said, ‘When I was in my 20s, I was really worried about what people thought about me. When I was in my 40s, I didn’t care what people thought about me and when I hit my 60s, I realized no one was thinking about me.’”
That advice has helped the 49-year-old craft an eclectic career that covers a range of areas. In addition to narrating “The Goldbergs,” starring in films and enjoying on an ambitious standup career, he’s the principal in the new NBC comedy, “A.P. Bio.”
The latest gig is ideal – he gets a regular schedule, can volunteer at his daughter’s school and still be a part of the entertainment business.
“Right now, ensembles are more fun to do because it feels more true to life,” he says. “I love to have someone to play off. In standup, it’s the audience. If I’m going to act, it’s good to have someone to play off.”
In “A.P. Bio,” he’s constantly reining in the substitute teacher (played by Glen Howerton), who’s bitter about losing his dream job and forced to return to Toledo, Ohio, to work at a high school.
Oswalt’s Principal Durbin calls him on his misdeeds and, basically, keeps peace among the teachers.
“I remember my principal being kind of square, but nice,” Oswalt says. “I remember the vice principal being kind of the cool guy. I was an OK student. I was part of a tribe of class clowns in my school and I never was that focused on academics.”
A hint of his show business future? Nope, Oswalt says. “I was just a procrastinator and goof-off.”
Now, he’s one of the busiest people in Hollywood. In addition to “A.P. Bio,” he provides the voice of a perky blue horse in the new series “Happy,” handles the narration for “The Goldbergs” and has three films slated for 2018.
“The Goldbergs,” which takes about 45 minutes to do each week, is one of his favorite assignments. “It’s so well-written it’s easy to sound good,” he says. “Adam Goldberg (the producer) is really good at writing that voiceover and filling it with humanity. When you’re given stuff that’s good, you can relax.”
When the episodes end with actual video from Goldberg’s life, “I’m constantly amazed,” Oswalt says. “He’s able to get to some deep human stuff.”
Fans often recognize his voice – from “The Goldbergs” and “Ratatouille,” the hit Disney cartoon, in which he portrayed Remy, the rat. That usually sparks a conversation and leads to talk about his standup work.
“Talking for Clapping,” his sixth standup special, won the Emmy for writing and the Grammy for comedy album.
A frequent tweeter (guess who is often a target?), he gets fans who know him from “King of Queens” (“one of the most fun things I’ve done”) and a routine that included two words: “Be kind.”
He tossed that out and now “people send me pictures of the words tattooed on them. They’ve tagged buildings, too.”
A good philosophy, it also has helped Oswalt see the positive side to aging.
“Trying to be creative keeps you young for a very, very long time,” he says. “Trying to do creative stuff is a real youth serum.”
“A.P. Bio” has a sneak preview next week, then returns as a series after the Olympics.