This article originally appeared on Lit To Lens on Apr. 13, 2016.
Title: Silver Screen Fiend
Author: Patton Oswalt
Year Of Publication: 2015
Long before The Break is The Struggle. The hustle. And people eat that shit up, which is why there exists a market for established actors and comedians to tell these stories. The novel reading public is hungry for the hard times of famous people, being that we’re too much of cowards to experience creative failure like that ourselves.
In Silver Screen Fiend we get a sense of comedian Patton Oswalt’s struggle. The stand-up sets at the Largo and other less established clubs. The memoir is a remembrance of four years in the entertainer’s life (from 1995 to 1999) when he supplemented his comedy with extracurricular movie watching – we’re talking hundreds of films, sometimes four or five a night.
He recalls these films from the dutiful records and reviews he kept during these years, all of it done as an ur-film school, his training to become a haughty Director of Film. He spent his nights on stand up stages, sped to the theater for early morning movies, and emerge from the dark screening room in time to get to his writing gig on MADtv. “I’m amazed I didn’t kill anyone,” he says of this time when his focus was stretched to the point of fissure.
Silver Screen Fiend is hilarious and benefits greatly from Oswalt’s powerful memory and oddly specific “Night Cafe’s” (a van Gogh reference) that influenced him and abetted his addiction – for a time. Delivering one line in “Down Periscope,” for example.
It’s a fascinating read that really pulls the reader into the mind of Oswalt, clearly the guy who dominates playing Trivial Pursuit: Movie Edition, and let’s us see the insecurity and personal discomfort that young Hollywood hopefuls must deal with.
He’s written a previous memoir, Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland that I haven’t read but most certainly will, and performed a number of comedy specials and film roles. I find him hilarious and sharply funny. Silver Screen Fiend is, too.