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Happy Birthday, Patton Oswalt!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Gage Skidmore

You may know him as the voice of Remy, the amazing rat chef in Ratatouille, for his stand-up routines featured on Comedy Central, or for his role as Spence Olchin in King of Queens. But here are some things you might not know about Patton Oswalt, who happens to be turning 43 today.

1. The comedian’s father, who was a Marine, named him after General Patton. ”He gave me the first name Patton, I'm assuming with very high hopes. When he saw me at age 15, rolling up my eighth Dungeons and Dragons character, he was like, ‘boy, I named this one wrong.’”

2. While most actors either seek artistic integrity or a big paycheck, Patton chooses his roles a little differently. According to Oswalt, "I'm in this business for two reasons: the money and the anecdotes. So I either want to be in the best films possible, and if I can't be in those then I want to be in the absolute worst films, because I want the stories. To me doing Ratatouille was just as valuable as doing Blade Trinity."

3. Despite having a famous rant about KFC’s Famous Bowl on his 2004 comedy album Feelin’ Kinda Patton, the comedian never actually tried the dish until the A.V. Club asked him to taste-test it four years later. His verdict? “It's goddamn horrible, this Famous Bowl.” Well, at least he gave it a shot.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Morton Fox

4. Just because he’s worked on something doesn’t mean you’ll see his name in the credits. That’s because Patton has a few aliases, including Schecky Chucklestein (which he’s used on a number of Adult Swim shows) and Ain’t It Cool News reviewer Neill Cumpston. There is also a bit of a debate as to whether or not he voiced the character of Randy on the game Dead Rising 2, which was credited to a John Murphy. Oswalt denies he worked on the game, but he also denied being Neill Cumpston for a long while.

5. He really does love Ratatouille—and not just the movie. Unfortunately, in an interview in 2010, he revealed that while he orders the dish on occasion, he’s been a little disappointed no chef has ever opted to bring him ratatouille on his or her own accord.

6. For most people, getting to star in a sex scene with one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood would be a dream. But for Patton Oswalt, his love scene with Charlize Theron was terrifying. “Why do I have to be in my underwear next to the most physically perfect person on the planet? Why couldn’t I have been next to John Goodman or Michael Moore in their underwear?”

7. He's written for Batman and JLA (Justice League of America). He also moderated a panel for the reunion of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast at the 2008 Comic Con. Last year, he even released a hilarious semi-autobiography titled Zombie Spaceship Wasteland where he talks about growing up a nerd.

Anyway, if you happen to read this Mr. Oswalt, Happy Birthday from everyone here at mental_floss.

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entertainment
How to Craft the Perfect Gag, According to Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton seen with Donald O'Connor on the set of a film in 1957
Buster Keaton seen with Donald O'Connor on the set of a film in 1957
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Dubbed “The Great Stone Face” for his ability to hold a deadpan expression even as the world (quite literally) crashed down around him, Buster Keaton was “one of the three great silent comedians” in film history, according to filmmaker Tony Zhou.

A video by Zhou, spotted by The Kid Should See This, explains just how Keaton managed to pull off such memorable stunts, and why his scenes continue to influence modern actors and filmmakers. First, Keaton shunned title cards and subtitles, instead opting to advance the story through action. He disliked repetition and thought each movement should be unique, while also insisting on authenticity and proclaiming that a filmmaker should “never fake a gag.” If a gag couldn’t be captured all in one shot, he wouldn’t do it.

The angle and positioning of the camera was also paramount. Many of Keaton’s vaudeville-esque gags were visual in nature, toying with the viewer’s perspective to create illusions that led to hilarious reveals. But for that to be successful, the camera had to remain stationary, and the joke had to play out entirely onscreen.

A low-speed chase scene in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, where Ralph Fiennes's Gustave H. runs up a long staircase in the background to escape cops, is a modern example of this. “Like Wes Anderson, Buster Keaton found humor in geometry,” Zhou says.

Check out Zhou’s video below.

[h/t The Kids Should See This]

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History
15 Funny Quips from Great American Humorists
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The art of social satire is a tough one, but a great humorist's keen observations, witticisms, and turns of phrase continue to ring true even decades later. "Humor is something that thrives between man's aspirations and his limitations," the musical comedian Victor Borge once noted. "There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth." (In other words, it's funny 'cause it's true.) Here are 15 more quips from some of America's most astute commentators.

1. MARK TWAIN (1835-1910)

Mark Twain
Rischgitz, Getty Images

"Familiarity breeds contempt—and children."

2. DOROTHY PARKER (1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker looks at the camera. There is a man in a tuxedo and wine bottles in the background.
Evening Standard, Getty Images

"That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment."

3. JAMES THURBER (1894-1961)

James Thurber smokes a cigarette sitting in an armchair.
Fred Palumbo, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Last night I dreamed of a small consolation enjoyed only by the blind: Nobody knows the trouble I've not seen!"

4. NORA EPHRON (1941-2012)

Nora Ephron smiles for press at an event.
Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

"Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be."

5. GORE VIDAL (1925-2012)

Gore Vidal
Central Press, Getty Images

"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."

6. ARTEMUS WARD (1834-1867)

A sepia-toned cabinet card of Artemus Ward
TCS 1.3788, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"They drink with impunity, or anybody who invites them."

7. GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946)

Gertrude Stein sits at a desk with a pen in her hand.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

"The thing that differentiates man from animals is money."

8. FRANKLIN PIERCE ADAMS (1881-1960)

Franklin Pierce Adams sits at a desk that's covered in papers.
Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

9. ETHEL WATERS (1896-1977)

Ethel Waters leans in a doorway.
William P. Gottlieb, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"All the men in my life have been two things: an epic and an epidemic."

10. ROBERT BENCHLEY (1889-1945)

Robert Benchley sits at a desk in a scene from 'Foreign Correspondent.'
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with that it's compounding a felony."

11. AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1914)

A seated portrait of Ambrose Bierce
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited."

12. MAE WEST (1893-1980)

A portrait of Mae West
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

"When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before."

13. GEORGE S. KAUFMAN (1889-1961)

A seated portrait of George S. Kaufman
The Theatre Magazine Company, photograph by Vandamm, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"At dramatic rehearsals, the only author that's better than an absent one is a dead one."

14. VICTOR BORGE (1909-2000)

Victor Borge plays the piano.
Keystone, Getty Images

"Santa Claus has the right idea—visit people only once a year."

15. GEORGE CARLIN (1937-2008)

George Carlin doing a stand-up set
Ken Howard, Getty Images

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."

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