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April 24, 2016

Patton Oswalt's Comedy Made Us Feel Like We Knew His Late Wife, Michelle McNamara
by WomenInComedy - 0

Michelle McNamara and Patton Oswalt

By Michelle Barbera, WICF Co-Producer

Like everyone else familiar with Patton Oswalt, I was shocked and saddened when I read that his wife of eleven years, Michelle McNamara passed away suddenly in her sleep on Thursday, April 21st. She was forty-six years old, and had a seven-year old daughter with Oswalt.   McNamara was a writer who studied at Notre Dame as an undergraduate and received her master's degree in creative writing from University of Minnesota. She founded the true crime website,, dedicated to both current and cold cases that have stayed for the most part off of the public's radar. What really caused a visceral shock for me was that I felt I was reading about the death of someone I knew — through her husband's comedy.

Oswalt is one of the few comedians whose albums I can listen to over and over again. His jokes and stories still make me laugh upon repetition and the rhythm and musicality of his delivery draw me in like an old sardonic friend with a comfy seat by the fire.

I've been a fan of Oswalt's for many years, listening as his stand up spanned his years as a single person, the joy of his new-found romance with Michelle McNamara, his early days of marriage, and his journey as a husband and parent. His stories are packed with laughs, but highly relatable for me as someone who has been going through the same phases of life around the same time, including having a daughter the same age as his. His comedy made me feel like I knew McNamara. From the story of how they met after one of his shows, to their absurd encounter with the morning-after of an apparent orgy at a house they went to look at with their real estate agent, to his worries about fatherhood and the ensuing joy and mystification at the little creature they'd made together, I felt invested in their lives and enjoyed each new chapter in their life together as a family. I met Patton Oswalt very briefly once after one of his shows. He was so pleasant upon our meeting I submit that the famous saying should go "one should only sometimes meet their idols", and from everything I've heard he is one of the kindest comedians out there.

It's been a gift  get to know Michelle McNamara through her husband's eyes, and she is beautiful. I cannot imagine the sorrow that he, their young daughter, and their family and close friends must now endure. When someone is gone so suddenly in the middle of so much life, it's tragic and senseless and so difficult to process, and the strangeness of someone who is one moment so central to one's life slowly fading in detail and resolution seems impossible and then all too real. Oswalt's storytelling skills will help keep those small details alive for not only those who knew her, but for those of us who felt like we did.

Our deepest condolences go out to Patton Oswalt, their daughter Alice, and everyone who loves Michelle McNamara. I'll leave you with two of his stories about their relationship, "Rats and Orgy" (NSFW):


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