Following the unexpected death of his wife, Michelle McNamara, earlier this year, comedian and actor Patton Oswalt opened up about her impact on his life, career, and his recent Emmy win during Monday night’s episode of Conan.
While he’s appreciative of the Television Academy honoring him with an award, Oswalt told show host Conan O’Brien he credits his late wife, a true-crime writer who died suddenly in April at age 46, for molding his talents and pushing him to be a better performer.
“Of all the people I’ve ever known — romantically, personally, or professionally — I was a different, better person having met her and spent a life with her,” he said of McNamara. “She was the reason my comedy got better, to the point where someone would consider me for an Emmy. It was hard to encapsulate that in a very quick speech.”
Accepting the Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Emmy during the Sept. 18 award ceremony, the Talking For Clapping scribe paid tribute to his late spouse, saying: “I want to share this with two people. My daughter, Alice, who is waiting at home. And the other one is waiting somewhere else, I hope.”
Oswalt explained that, while he’s happy to have won a prestigious award for excellence in television, it’s a fleeting feeling that pales in comparison to the life he shared with McNamara.
“It’s very abstract, because it’s the flavor of happiness, but there are no calories or nutrition there,” the 47-year-old said. “It’s like, it tastes like it, but there’s nothing. I’m not putting down winning an Emmy, but watching a bad movie with [Michelle] or fussing over what we’re going to pack [for our daughter] if we’re going to go on a trip on a plane, that was happiness. That’s what it actually felt like for real.”
He added: “I’ll take any silver lining I can from this swamp full of poison. And I think the one is that I will actually know real happiness if I run into it again based on what I experienced with her. I have this real, living memory of that.”
The interview also touched on how Oswalt’s daughter has handled her mother’s death. “She’s handling it way better than I am,” the comedian said. “Having to tell her that her mom had passed away is the worst thing I will… I can’t imagine going through anything. When Death comes for me, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, whatever, I’ve had the worse. Bring your stupid scythe and whatever.'”
On a lighter note, O’Brien asked Oswalt about a hilarious photo he tweeted following the Emmys telecast, in which he can be seen posing with his new trophy outside a Los Angeles Arby’s.
“We did it as a joke, but it was like 3 a.m., and we had a bottle of scotch in the car, so that’s the pose I did, thinking this would be funny,” Oswalt said of the photo, which he noted was actually his brother’s idea. “I got so many emails, Twitter messages, Facebook [messages] like ‘Hey, are you ok, man?’ Like, they were seriously worried. I realzied it wasn’t the fact that it was 3 a.m. or even my facial expression or the bottle of scotch, it’s that I’m at Arby’s.”