David Cross talks about finally coming to Florida, Donald Trump, his next special and more
It’s not lost on David Cross just how much his first major tour through Florida means to his longtime fans.
“I don’t have to make an effort to go to any of the places that you see on my tour — they naturally fall between point A and point D,” the comic and actor said by phone recently from his home in Brooklyn. “But Florida, you have to make an effort to go to, just like you do Hawaii and Alaska. I’ve never not done Florida for any reason, and I would certainly never not do a place because it’s a red state. I embrace that. I’m looking forward to it.”
Especially given the name of his new stand-up tour, which hits Tampa’s Straz Center on Friday: “Making America Great Again!”
“All the more reason to go to rich, white Republicans’ back yards and do this set,” he said.
Conservatives have always been some of Cross’ favorite stand-up targets. But it’s the rest of his background in comedy that has fans so excited for his most extensive tour ever.
Along with Bob Odenkirk, Cross, 52, helped define the sensibilities of modern alternative comedy with Mr. Show with Bob and David, a gleefully satirical sketch show that ran for four seasons on HBO. He later co-starred on one of the most acclaimed sitcoms of all time, Arrested Development, as the Bluths’ sexually confused in-law Dr. Tobias Funke. Practically every project he’s touched over the past 25 years — from The Ben Stiller Show to IFC’s Todd Margaret to last fall’s Netflix Mr. Show revival, W/Bob & David — has stirred the pot of modern comedy in some way.
His tour coincides with a book tour by his wife, actress Amber Tamblyn, who will appear at Inkwood Books on Friday, prior to Cross’ show at the Straz. Beforehand, he talked about returning to stand-up, political outrage and more.
I’m glad you’re talking to me, because you’ve never struck me as a person who loves doing a ton of press.
(laughs) Is there anybody who does? No, I don’t like it. I mean, I’m not Grumpy McGrumperpants about it. But it’s not a pleasant thing to answer the same questions over and over and over and over and over again. The first hour of press is great: “Yeah, I’m enthusiastic about this project and I want you all to know about it. Here it is.” But by the end of Day 2, you’re kind of beaten.
I can imagine that for 20 years, people would ask you about Mr. Show, and you answered every possible question you could answer. But last fall, you had to dive back into a full press cycle for W/Bob & David. Did you have to steel yourself for that?
That was more fun, because I got to do it with Bob. That was something we said early on; we were like, “Listen, man, we gotta keep the solo press stuff to a minimum, and try to do as much as we can together.” Because it just makes it more fun. You’re making each other laugh, whether you’re physically sitting next to them or you’re just on the phone. That’s way more fun, because then there’s spontaneity to it.
When you’re working on time-consuming project like that, how far is stand-up from your mind?
It’s very far from my mind, and that is on purpose, really. I always do stand-up here and there. I don’t think too much time elapses without doing a set somewhere. And I also am not the kind of person who can sit down and write material. It all kind of occurs to me and then I write it on stage. So I can’t work on this set and do work on scripts at the same time. I’m in the middle of a project; I owe a bunch of scripts for this TV show. And I said, “As soon as the stand-up starts, I’m shutting everything down, and I’m not opening everything up until I’m done.” So I just can’t, I wish I could, believe me. I’d get more done.
You have this history of being a big part of so many beloved comedy projects that I think maybe there’s a sense that (A) you don’t need to tour, or (B) you don’t need to tour in the cities where you are touring. Like Tampa, for example: Medium-sized markets, red states in the South and midwest, places you haven’t toured before. Why does your tour itinerary look the way it does?
That is something that I was very, very specific about, and it’s been a kind of thorn in my side. When Bob and I would go out and do these Mr. Show things, and we did a tour for the book with Brian Posehn, he (Odenkirk) doesn’t like to go out extensively. He has a family, and he just doesn’t like to do it. We wouldn’t argue, but I would always pitch, “Let’s not just do Boston, New York, Philly, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle. Let’s do more than just the obvious places.” But he’s not interested in that.
So this was the first opportunity. I had plenty of time off, and I carved out this kind of tour. I’m going to air a special when this is over, and it’s the only opportunity I can have to do that. Nine times out of 10, it’s really great. The audiences are so appreciative when you go to Sioux City and Boise and Lincon, Neb. and Oklahoma City — places where normally, bigger acts wouldn’t go. This tour, when it’s all said and done, I’ll have done about 100 shows, maybe more. It’s tough, and psychologically, it takes its toll, but I had this opportunity, and it’s really my only opportunity. Unless it happens again in another three, four, five years.
Amber’s touring with you, right? You guys are just making a day of it wherever you go in the country.
Yeah, that’s been a huge part of this. I don’t think I would be doing this, and I wouldn’t do it again, without her. And it was her idea. We roll into town, she goes somewhere and does a reading and signs some books. And I’ve been to them; they’re very personal. And then I do my show, and we get on the bus and we go to the next place.
This is going to be one of your last performances before you tape your special on the 22nd. At this point in the life of the hour, what are you trying to fine-tune or get just right? Does it feel done?
It’s done. And the way I’m going to approach it — and I’ve gone back and forth on this — is I’m just going to do a long set. I won’t edit within the pieces, but I’ll just decide which pieces to drop. I do anywhere between an hour-fifteen and an hour and a half, and I’ll just tighten that to an hour. That’ll allow me to continue to do those pieces after the special airs.
Given the title of the special, do you talk much about Trump?
Barely. I barely talk about it. Maybe seven minutes of Trump, total. It’s under the umbrella of talking about Republicans and the primary, which obviously he’s a part of. But the actual Trump stuff is probably less than 10 percent of the act.
Have you mellowed with age? If Trump had come along when you were in your 20s, do you think your comedy about him would be different than it is today?
Perhaps it might be a little less refined. There’d still be the anger behind it, I would imagine. But I’ve been politically tuned in since I was a teenager, so this kind of thing is not unique. Trump is very specific, but the idea of a guy who represents everything I think is wrong with America — a boorish demagogue; a guy who appeals to people who don’t really consider things and appeals to their emotion; is rather thoughtless; and as he said himself, does well with the poorly educated — that is nothing new. There’s always somebody who can appeal to that.
I guess it just solidifies the cynicism that I had when I was younger. Now I know I was right to be cynical, that these people don’t change. It’s less about mellowing, and more like, “Well, that’s inevitable, that’s who we are, that’s nothing new.” To watch it now, you’re resigned to it, whereas when I was younger, you’re running around going, “Can’t you see?! Don’t you understand?!” That’s how it always is.
-- Jay Cridlin