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Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt brings the funny home

Comedian Patton Oswalt, a graduate of Broad Run High School, participates in a Q and A session in front of a sold-out crowd with ABC 7’s Arch Campbell at the Alamo Cinema Drafthouse in Ashburn on Dec 4. The night began with a pre-screening of Oswalt’s new movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” —Times-Mirror Photo/Jonathan Taylor
From 1983 to 1987, Patton Oswalt was one of hundreds of D.C. suburbanite teenagers, attending Broad Run High School, prepping for college and hanging out with friends in what he describes as a less than exciting area.

He's not an average suburbanite anymore.

With dozens of film, television and comedy credits to his name, Oswalt returned to Northern Virginia Dec. 4 to promote his newest film, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” answer questions and reflect on the town that made him.

After moving around with his military family, Oswalt and his family settled in the Sugarland Run area of Sterling. As a child, he was enamored by movies and continued to gravitate toward them – in part because his ability to get to the city was limited.

“Growing up here in the 70s and 80s, I think we can all agree I wasn't cultured,” Oswalt told the crowd during his Q and A at the Alamo Drafthouse at One Loudoun. “There were no buses into the city. I couldn't go see Black Flag and Bad Brains.”

After graduating from Broad Run in 1987, he headed off to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Though he majored in English, he says he got his first start in comedy while in college, performing at clubs not only around Virginia, but in Kentucky, West Virginia and other neighboring states, something he said was a bit of a sore topic with his parents.

“Yeah my parents loved it,” Oswalt said. “'We just took out a second mortgage and you're talking about your penis at the Chuckle Bucket.'”

After college, Oswalt moved to Los Angeles, where he said a bunch of little things went right for a decade. He credits Paul Thomas Anderson's casting of him in “Magnolia” (in an admittedly small role) in 1999 as helping to launch his film career. His most popular roles include his voice performance of the kitchen-savvy rat Remy in the Disney Pixar film “Ratatouille” and his critically acclaimed supporting role in “Young Adult.”

His role in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” he said, just fell into his lap.

“I've been friends with [star and director] Ben Stiller for a long time,” Oswalt said. “He just thought of me for this.”

The film centers around Walter Mitty, a daydreaming negatives acquisition manager for Life magazine, who takes his life from boring to adventurous searching for a missing photograph. Oswalt offers a comedic break by playing a customer service representative for eHarmony.

Upon hearing that his hometown now had an Alamo Drafthouse, Oswalt eagerly volunteered to host a special showing of the film, though he admitted he's jealous that the theater was built a decade after he moved.

His stay this go-around was brief, just 24 hours, though he plans on returning in the spring to bring his 4-year-old daughter.

“We were here in the fall. I have to say, as far as seasons go, Northern Virginia owns the fall and spring.”

And though he remarked his hometown looks more like a giant strip mall than it did 30 years ago, he still remembers the small town naivete.

He just might make fun of it in his shows a little bit, too.


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