Patton Oswalt is nowhere near as hard a thrower as his brother Roy (note: fact-check that before publishing), but he made a good pre-WGA Strike living for himself by rewriting tens of thousands of Hollywood films a year and doing stand-up comedy that’s actually funny. I don’t really like stand-up at all — I usually get the feeling that some not-that-funny party jock is gathering into a bundle a shabby lump of cigarette-smelling “observations” about how New York is a lot different from L.A. and then physically attacking me with them — but I think Oswalt’s stuff is funny.
I don’t remember if he did his famous bit about KFC’s infamous Famous Bowl (“a failure pile in a sadness bowl,” per Oswalt) the one time I saw him perform at a Yo La Tengo Hannukah show several years ago, but I’ve seen the bit. It’s funny. Whereas Oswalt’s description of actually eating his first KFC Famous Bowl — he ate it in LA last week, then wrote about it at The Onion’s AV Club blog yesterday, is more of a hyperarticulate howl of pain.
The franchise I visited, on Hollywood Boulevard near my old apartment, looked like it had withstood assault by bullets, flamethrowers, Baseball Furies, and a hundred hook-handed whores. Everything inside the store”including the employees and customers”looked like it had been rubbed with sad ham. And they were offering a new product for kids””fun meals” that came in colorful cardboard containers that opened like laptop computers. A generation of children are growing up associating computer use with fun, grease, and food. I will flee to the mountains before I see how porn gets folded into that equation.
The Famous Bowl has a black plastic bottom and a clear plastic top that fogs appealingly from the jungle heat of the beige glop inside. Here’s where, in a quirky indie-film moment, I’d eat a sporkfull and realize¦ “Hey, this is pretty good!” I had considered that reaction as I drove the Famous Bowl home. It sat on the passenger seat next to me like a sullen runaway I’d picked up on the interstate. I wanted us to bond somehow. I wanted to eat my words. I like when things work out unexpectedly.
The Famous Bowl hit my mouth like warm soda, slouched down my throat, and splayed itself across my stomach like a sun-stroked wino. It was that precise combination of things, and so many other sensations that did not go together. At all.
The gravy, which I remembered as being tangy and delicious in my youth, tasted like the idea of blandness, but burned and then salted to cover the horrid taste. The mashed potatoes defiantly stood their ground against the gravy, as if they’d read The Artist’s Way and said, “I’m going to be boring and forgetful in my own potato-y way!” The corn tasted like it had been dunked in fake-corn-flavored ointment, and the popcorn chicken, breaded to the point of parody, was like chewing a cotton sleeve that someone had used to wipe chicken grease off their chin.
The cheese had congealed. Even in the heat and steam of the covered Famous Bowl, it had congealed. I stabbed it with the tines of my spork and it all came up in one piece. I nibbled an edge, had a vision of a crying Dutch farmer, and put it down.
I managed three or four more spoonfuls, trying to be fair. I am not the healthiest eater, but this was a level of crap I hadn’t earned a belt in yet.