Patton Oswalt's funny, brutally honest description of being a dad after losing his wife.

Patton Oswalt lost his wife of 11 years, Michelle McNamara, to unknown causes in April.

Photo by John Schearer/Getty Images.

In addition to leaving the comedian with a mountain of grief and unanswered questions, McNamara's sudden death left Oswalt the sole parent of their 7-year-old daughter, Alice.


In an interview with Conan O'Brien on Monday night, Oswalt described his unwilling transition to life as a single dad using a familiar analogy: television.

"I'm like every bad '80s sitcom where there's a dad raising a kid by himself, and the mom is somehow... Except my '80s sitcom sucks. There's no punchlines. It's just, there's a lot of insomnia. There's a lot of me eating Cheetos for dinner, and I'm waiting for my daughter to turn to the camera and go, 'No wonder I'm in therapy!'"

In an unflinching Facebook post in August, Oswalt described the intense pain and sense of paralysis he had been living with since losing his wife — and the overwhelming gratitude he felt toward the friends and family who have helped lift him up.  

The post ended with a promise.

"I'll start being funny again soon. What other choice do I have?"

In following through on that promise, Oswalt demonstrates that there's no one right way to process grief.

Using comedy as a lifeline out of tragedy — like comedian Tig Notaro, who performed a legendary, 30-minute stand-up set after learning she had breast cancer; or "Saturday Night Live's" Pete Davidson, who lost his father on 9/11 and claims that overcoming the loss gave him the courage to tell more fearless jokes — isn't just a tradition among comedians. It's intensely human.

It's also an acknowledgement that even in the face of great loss, the awkwardness and irony of life doesn't go away — as illustrated by a story Oswalt told O'Brien about an interaction with one of his daughter's playmates:

"One of her friends came up and was like — this was at a playdate weeks later — 'Is Alice gonna have a stepmom?' And I was like, 'I'm not really thinking about any of that right now.' And then she said, 'When my mom and dad stopped living together, I had a stepmom right way.' And I was like, 'I bet you did!'"

But perhaps the most important answer Oswalt gave in the interview was the first, in response to a question about how he's holding up:

GIF by Team Coco/YouTube.

Watch Oswalt's funny, poignant, heartbreaking account of helping his daughter navigate the most difficult time of their lives — including an epic, unforgettable story of an encounter with an elderly ticket-taker at the airport:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.