1. Stage

Stage Planner: Patton Oswalt at the Straz, and Tampa Bay Theatre Festival

Comedian Patton Oswalt performs Saturday at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Comedian Patton Oswalt performs Saturday at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Published Aug. 26, 2015


Fans of comedy know Patton Oswalt as an original talent and one of the most influential comics working today. He will riff on obsessive-compulsive disorder in one moment and comic book heroes the next, drawing on literature or video games with equal ease.

Millions of children who don't know his name would probably recognize Oswalt's voice, at least when molded into that character of Remy the rat in Disney's Ratatouille, one of two dozen voiceover roles he has played for animated movies or television.

Many noticed Oswalt's recent and spirited 53-Tweet defense of incoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah, or his ongoing clashes with the website Salon, which published a piece last year urging readers to unfollow the comedian. Oswalt likes to bait people online, inventing a string of fake tweets and then issuing fake apologies, including to "seniors and sufferers of Lyme disease … I was out of bounds."

Oswalt appears Saturday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. We reached him recently via email.

As an English major at the College of William and Mary, did you ever think you might write science fiction or go to grad school?

Grad school, never. And I'd have to learn to grapple better with the real world before I could ever approach science fiction.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much were you influenced by Monty Python?


The word "obsessive" is sometimes associated with you. Do you think you have ever flirted with OCD?

I have not only flirted with OCD, but I've made out with it in the back seat of my immaculately clean car.

Can you talk about any OCD "rituals" you might have adopted?

A good OCD sufferer never reveals his rituals. It's part of our Bushido code.

I came across a great quote from your daughter: "Even the dark is afraid of the dark." How does bringing up kids affect your comedy?

The lack of sleep leads to hallucinatory revelations.

What is your biggest complaint with current critiques of comedy, as exemplified by some of your clashes with sites like Salon?

The people complaining about comedy aren't funny. I'm happy to take criticism from other funny people, but not from the dull and exasperated.

As long as we're on sensitive territory, are there any more deleted tweets for which you'd like to apologize?

There were some Catholic priest tweets that were a bit touchy, now that I think of it.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Straz Center's Carol Morsani Hall, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets are $30-$50. (813) 229-7827,


The Tampa Bay Theatre Festival made its entrance a year ago, a newcomer in a city that did not have anything to match comparable events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

The festival returns Sept. 4-6 at the Straz Center, Stageworks Theatre in Tampa and Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Workshop topics range from how to audition to acting to directing or starting your own theater company.

Other morsels for budding actors and playwrights include competitions for scenes, monologues and original plays. You'll also have a chance to enjoy six full-length plays spread out over the weekend.

The festival is the brainchild of Rory Lawrence, a former customer service rep who quit his job a decade ago to study acting. That led to a one-act Lawrence produced at Hillsborough Community College and other projects.

He realized that while major cities held theater festivals, Tampa did not. He decided to put one on himself and started lining up donations and sponsorships. The goal, he says on the festival's website, is to bring "an exciting, multicultural and innovative theatre festival to Tampa Bay."

Getting the 2014 festival going wasn't easy.

"You realize right away that people don't know who you are, and it hasn't been done in Tampa," Lawrence told the Times in 2014.

The festival has added speakers and workshop leaders this year, including Harry Lennix, who will lead a master acting workshop. Lennix has at least three dozen film credits, including memorable performances in The Five Heartbeats and sequels to The Matrix and Man of Steel. Other speakers include Winston-Salem State University drama professor Andrew Minkins; local improv and one-man specialist Patrick McInnis; Shakespearean actress Libya Pugh; and Tampa talent agent Darcy Britton-Kant.

The weekend wraps up with a party and awards presentation. The festival runs Sept. 4-6 in Tampa with events at the Straz Center, Stageworks Theatre and the Main Stage Theatre at HCC's Ybor City campus. Lennix's acting workshop costs $60, other workshops cost $10. A weekend workshop pass is $45 (includes $10 discount to the Lennix workshop). Plays cost $18 to $27.50. For a complete schedule and pricing, go to, (813) 786-1915.