Patton Oswalt: My Daughter Saved Me After Wife's Death

'I’m not saying I would be dead, but I would be a shut-in alcoholic'
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2017 12:49 AM CDT
Patton Oswalt: My Daughter Saved Me After Wife's Death
Patton Oswalt, left, and his daughter Alice Rigney Oswalt are seen at the Los Angeles premiere of "Inside Out" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, June 8, 2015.   (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)

Patton Oswalt's assessment of grief boils down to this: Cup O' Noodles. In an in-depth Playboy interview, the comedian describes the flavor packet that accompanies the fast food as his "avatar of despair" because it only mimics taste, the way life only mimics the “flavor of life” when you’re miserable. “You can’t live on it and it has a weird flavor,” he says. “All it does is make you hungrier, and that drives you crazy because it tastes like life, but it isn’t life.” Oswalt’s forthright musings on the personal struggles he’s endured since his wife suddenly died in 2016 have touched many. Playboy catches up with the comedian as he’s navigating career highs, parenting, and finding new love a year and a half later. Here are the highlights:

  • What saved him after his wife’s death: “If I hadn’t had a daughter and my wife died, we wouldn’t be talking right now. I’m not saying I would be dead, but I would be a shut-in alcoholic. Everything would have shut down. I wouldn’t have been about anything. But with Alice, it was and is 'You got to get up.'" He added: “If there were no reason to wake up, I would be morbidly obese. I’d be rewatching movies I’ve seen a million times, and I would have wallowed and sealed myself off in a falsely comforting bath of despair.”
  • What grief was like for him: "I would seriously have these existential moments—not to get too dramatic—when I was like, 'What if I’m the one who has died and my brain can’t deal with the body horror of it, so it has created this whole other life where Trump is president, where reality doesn’t make sense? What if I’m imagining my daughter here right now and I have to protect her but she’s not really here? All this could be something that I created.' It was freaking me out."
  • How he connected with fiancée Meredith Salenger: “My fiancée and I started talking February 28, through Facebook. We have friends in common and we were messaging, and it just turned into every night for three months—February through May. We would talk about everything, writing these short novels to each other every night. It wasn’t like I met this person and there was some thunderbolt. During that time, we never even spoke, never met face-to-face. We had conversations about books and philosophies and what love means and what loyalty and death are.”
  • What it was like when they met in person almost three months later: "It was as if I had known this person since we were teenagers and we both had unrequited crushes since we were 14 and now it was finally crashing together. Even though I’m at this level of joy I didn’t think I would ever feel again, I still wouldn’t recommend those extremes to anybody. I’d like people to have this joy without that despair."
  • His reaction to people who thought he moved on too quickly: "A friend of mine who went through this exact same thing and got married nine months afterward said, 'You are living with and dealing with this grief every second of your life and in therapy all the time. So you’re going to get over it quicker, because you have to.'"
Read the full interview, which also delves into his past, upcoming projects, and how he feels about President Trump, here. (More Patton Oswalt stories.)

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