Patton Oswalt suffered a heavy loss when his wife, Michelle McNamara, died in April. But, as the comedian told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show Friday night, he found solace in sharing his grief with others, as with his stand-up special.
He explained to the host, “I think it’s a way for me to — when you said it feels contagious, it feels like you’ve summoned this virus and you’ve become this avatar of loss — to de-summon it the more you talk openly about what it is and put more light onto it, people can see all the angles and say, ‘Oh, okay. That is horrible, but there’s life on either side of it and it’s somehow manageable.'”
McNamara, 46, died in her sleep at their home in Los Angeles. By sharing his own experience, Oswalt has been able to hear from others going through similar and more “unbelievable” tragedies.
“There are these really long messages that I’ll get, and you realize the length of the message is them beginning to talk about it and write about it and then it just comes pouring out,” he said. “If you don’t talk about it, then grief really gets to set up and fortify its position inside of you and begin to immobilize you. But the more you talk, the more you expose it to the air and to the light. Grief doesn’t get a chance to organize itself, and then you can maybe move on a little better, a little easier. That’s been my experience is these six months.”
Oswalt starred in his first stand-up special since his wife’s death on Thursday night at The Beacon Theatre for the New York Comedy Festival. “In a really weird way, it takes you out of your own head and your own ego,” he said, explaining that he and the audience “all meet together at that one thing, where you’re all denying whatever is bad for just an hour up in the light of telling jokes, of being ridiculous…it’s weird how both me and the audiences that I’ve been performing for, we all just kind of rise to the occasion. It’s a way to make the darkness feel uncomfortable with itself for a little bit.”
Watch Oswalt in the clip from his Late Show appearance above.