Patton Oswalt on His New Role as a Single Parent After His Wife’s Death: ‘I’m Like Every Bad ’80s Sitcom’

09/27/2016 at 03:15 PM ET

Patton Oswalt conan

Patton Oswalt continues to cope with the loss of his wife, while also adjusting to being a single parent.

In an interview with Conan O’Brien, the funnyman got sentimental and candid about life in the wake of wife Michelle McNamara‘s unexpected death. The late crime writer died in her sleep in April.

“It feels weird to say it, ‘I’m a widower,’ ” Oswalt, 47, says. “And if I put it in really basic terms, I’m like every bad ’80s sitcom, where there’s a dad raising a kid by himself … except my ’80s sitcom sucks.”

He continues, “There’s no punchline. There’s a lot of insomnia, there’s a lot of me eating Cheetos for dinner. I’m waiting for my daughter to turn to the camera and go, ‘No wonder I’m in therapy’ but … that moment’s not going to come.”

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Oswalt also talks about his 7-year-old daughter Alice Rigney and how she’s been doing.

“She’s handling it way better than I am,” he says. “But having to tell her that her mom had passed away is the worst thing I will [ever do] — I can’t imagine going through anything [worse]. When death comes for me, I’m gonna go, ‘Yeah, whatever — I’ve had the worst.’ ”

Oswalt says Alice was ready to get back into her normal routine after her mom’s tragic death.

“She wanted to go back to school immediately,” he says. “And her school and Michelle’s family and my family basically saved my life those first three months.”

But the family’s return to “normal” came with some challenging moments, especially when Oswalt found himself questioned by Alice’s curious peers.

“She has this great little circle of friends,” he says. “But 6- and 7-year-olds, they don’t have a filter … Literally three days after Michelle died, one of her friends was like, ‘When Alice’s mom died, were you sad?’ I was like ‘Yes, I was. Thank you.’ ”

Holidays have also been difficult: Two weeks after McNamara died, it was Mother’s Day. In the hopes he would distract his daughter, Oswalt took her to see McNamara’s relatives in Chicago.

“I filled the week with action and adventure and fun and cousins and sleepovers,” he says. “I got through the week and then on Mother’s Day, that Sunday, we were gonna travel all day.”

And just as Oswalt was celebrating the trip’s success, boarding the plane with his daughter in tow took a difficult turn.

“I did it. I kept it out of her head,” he remembers thinking. “The woman that was tearing our tickets at O’Hare, she was this older Polish woman. Totally sweet, but as we gave her our tickets, [she] leaned down and said, ‘I heard about what happened to your wife. Your mother. My mother died when I was your age. I never got over it. And it broke my father — he never get over it. It was horrible, you’ll be sad for so long. I’m sad every day.’ ”

Though they are mourning, the comedian found some humor in even the most challenging moments — especially with the gate attendant.

“We got through Fourth of July, but I’m terrified that the Polish woman of doom is just going to loom up,” he jokes. “Like, we’re gonna go out trick-or-treating at Halloween and she’ll be there … I’m haunted. Like I’m gonna sit her on Santa’s lap at the mall and, ‘It is me. It was me the whole time.’ ”

— Blake Bakkila

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting , Patton Oswalt

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Showing 14 comments

Kelly122 on

Awww, so very sad. He seems like a nice, and very funny man. He also seems to love his little girl very much. I hope he someday finds someone to love him and share his life again. As for his daughter, she is a lucky little girl to have a dad who is working so hard to get her through this awful time in her life. May they find joy again soon.

Yes on

I’m 40 and can’t imagine my life without my mom. Couldn’t fathom a child dealing with this.

Edie on

Life without mom at that tender age …there are no words. I just lost my mom this year at age 96 and I still weep. God Bless her and her dad.

thefestivechick on

So sad. He sounds like such a sweet dad though.😦

reh1259 on

While I’m sorry he lost his wife, I don’t like him. He is the biggest liberal jerk Twitter has ever had the misfortune to see.

facelessbandit on

I can’t imagine waking up and suddenly your life partner is gone. It would break me. I’m sure it broke him. I’m glad he is healing as best he can.

Elle on

@reh1259…Couldn’t you just have stopped at “I’m sorry he lost his wife”? No need to bring your negative comments about him into the conversation. Just not necessary.

Agreed on

You’re right, Reh. He’s downright nasty to anyone who doesn’t share his political views. (And I say this as a fellow Hillary supporter!)

I’m glad that he is surrounding Alice with friends and family from both sides. I’m even happier to hear she’s doing well since losing her mom and I hope she continues to do well.

Hellowendy on

What did she die from?

Saralalalala on

This is incredibly sad, but he has such a great sense of humor.. He has an amazing spirit dealing with all he has gone through.

Sara on

This makes me sad in so many ways. My prayers are going out to him.

Sara on


I’m very sorry for your loss.

Betty Rubble on

My mom died unexpectedly when I was 18. It has shaped who I have become as an adult. 27 years later and some times I can’t even breathe knowing I don’t have her to call or hug or anything.

I hope he continues to fill her life with important memories that will of course, include her mom.

Jen thurston on

I Just Laughed Out Loud!!! Patton, you are a Blessing! Peace will Always find you & your Wonderful Daughter!! Stay Snugly!