How Old Are You Under Patton Oswalt's Wild Birthday Theory?

Comedians always have the best advice.

There is a very reasonable possibility – one in 52, as it happens – that you have a birthday this week. And if you’re beyond a certain number of years you are probably dreading it more than anticipating it.

And sure, you might call for birthdays to be outlawed altogether so that you can better ignore your ceaseless march to the grave.

No more birthdays. SHUT IT DOWN.

Fortunately US comedian, actor and genius Patton Oswalt solved this question for us back in 2007, when he released his album Werewolves and Lollipops.

It is on track 6: “You Are Allowed 20 Birthday Parties”, and it is the most clearheaded solution to the issue of what birthdays are worth acknowledging.

“There are about 20 birthdays that you should celebrate,” he argues. “The rest of them, you’re wasting cake and paper.”

Here’s his argument in a nutshell:

From one to nine, you get obviously get a birthday. It’s a big deal when you’re a kid. Actually, let’s be honest: birthday one, that’s for the parents. But two onwards, it’s important. No argument.

Ten, you get a birthday: you’ve hit a milestone! Double digits! Tens are always birthdays.


Eleven and twelve: no birthday. “I’m twelve!” “Great, go to school.”

Thirteen: you get a birthday. You’re a teenager! Something’s changed! Then no birthday until 16, because you can drive. This one seems arbitrary, to be honest.

Eighteen, you get a birthday because the big legal changes. Nineteen, you get a birthday for your last year as a teenager. Twenty, you get a birthday (see ten). Twenty one, you get an birthday (Oswalt is American so 21 isn’t just a cultural thing as it is in Australia).

And then NOTHING. Until you’re thirty, that is. “I’m twenty six!” “Great, go to work.”

And sure, he’s specifically talking about parties rather than birthdays themselves, but I say we apply it that way. Not least because then I’d be 28 instead of… um, more than that.

It should be added, lest this seems somewhat grim, that Patton offers a back-end bonus incentive for everyone that reaches 90: that from that point, and every year thereafter, one law no longer applies to you.

Ninety year olds can litter. Ninety five, you can legally steal “anything you can pick up with your bare hands and get into your house. And if you own something and a ninety-five year old can get it away from you, it really didn’t belong to you, did it?”

At one hundred, “you can legally commit murder. You cannot shoot them, stab them or poison them, but anyone you can strangle or pummel to death with your bare hands, no jury can convict you. And let’s be honest: would any of you get up and run outside if you heard ‘help me, a one hundred year old woman is punching me to death!’?”

Look, he makes a strong case.

In other good ideas from Patton Oswalt, here’s his one unbroken improvised filibuster from Parks and Recreation, calling for a Star Wars/Marvel Cinematic Universe crossover.

Dude has good ideas, is what we’re saying.

I Think The Good Place Has Accidentally Ruined My Life Forever

Stupid smart show, ruining everything with its wisdom and terrible puns.

Spoilers for The Good Place ahead, obviously.

Damn you, stupid perfect show.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think The Good Place is the towering pinnacle of the television and comedic arts, and people who are wrong.

At least, that’s how I felt until living in the aftermath of season three. And yes, we’re pulling gently into Spoilertown so opt out now if you haven’t watched this show yet despite it having existed for years and which is about to finish with the forthcoming fourth series.


The big reveal of this series – sorry, one of the many big reveals of the most big reveal-heavy show on television – was that no-one has gotten into the Good Place in over 500 years and that even the best person on the planet (according to the Good Place’s point system) didn’t have a hope in the bad place of getting in.

And this wasn’t because of a glitch in the system or because the Bad Place demons had corrupted the afterlife’s bureaucracy, but because life on Earth had gotten increasingly interconnected and complicated, making it impossible to do anything which is unambiguously good.

You and me both, Chidi m’boy. You and me both.

A call to your mum on her birthday uses a phone whose components are mined by slave labour. A visit to friends burns fossil fuels in a machine whose entire creation was an environmental nightmare. Everything has consequences which are not only unforeseeable, but unavoidable without making impractical sacrifices.

And it’s a great and complex idea – especially for a network sitcom – but also… oh god, they’re right. They’re so, so right.

Fair point, demon.

I mean, I could go vegan, walk and cycle everywhere and spend all my spare time researching cancer vaccines – things which I have not even come close to achieving, to be clear – and I’d still be falling massively short, not least because simply by working a job and buying things I am contributing to an economic system which devours the planet to fuel endless growth.

And recognising it does nothing bar make me ruin things which might otherwise perk me up. “Oh, South Australia’s entire electrical grid was fuelled by wind and solar yesterday, huh? Great! That’s a whole lot of greenhouse gas not pumped into the atmosphere… thanks to rare earth metals open cut forcibly mined under dictatorships.”

So thanks a bunch, The Good Place. I can’t even curl up with a television comedy without being made painfully aware that even the act of doing increases the heat on Earth by a tiny by measurable amount.

Say what you will about The Big Bang Theory, it didn’t make its viewers think about that. Or literally anything else.

Pop-up Channel

Follow Us