Comic David Cross
David Cross is a little prickly. When informed that there is some precedent in Santa Fe for hecklers to throw fruit at stand-up comedians, he told Pasatiempo that he would be canceling his Santa Fe gig “forthwith.” He was kidding about standing up the City Different, just as he was kidding when he described his show as “an hour and change about the life of Fatty Arbuckle.” But when he heard the details — that an audience member threw a banana peel at Dave Chappelle at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in March 2015 — he exhaled angrily.
“That’s racist,” he said. “I wonder what people could throw at me in a racist way. Even though I’m an atheist, I’m seen as a Jew, so maybe people will throw money. I mean, I hope that doesn’t happen.” He gave it more thought before adding, “I don’t think there’s anything worse than throwing a banana peel at Dave Chappelle. I don’t know why anyone would pay money to see someone who is inarguably one of the best stand-ups in America just so you can throw a banana peel at him. Not sure what the statement is. Maybe it’s a way to show the audience that the person throwing the banana peel is an idiot. It’s a way for them to go, ‘Hey, I’m an idiot. Check this out! This will prove that I’m an idiot.’ ”
On his Making America Great Again tour, Cross is hitting smaller cities he’s never been to before, and Santa Fe gets its turn on Wednesday, May 4, at the Lensic. Anyone who hasn’t seen Cross’ standup should be forewarned: His act is socially liberal and laced with profanity, as evidenced on his three comedy albums: Shut Up You … Baby! (2002), It’s Not
Funny (2004), and Bigger and Blackerer (2010). His topics encompass far more than politics, and though he doesn’t purposely try to ruffle feathers, he’s not gentle in his delivery and no one should presume his progressive worldview won’t offend more delicate sensibilities. Of his tour title, an obvious play on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan, Cross said, “America just needs to be great again. It hasn’t been great in over three months, and I’d like to get it back to its greatness of where it was in, like, mid-February. No, really, I’d say the greatness of mid-January. It’s my own personal thing. My ego is so massive that I consider what’s good for me to be good for America, and vice versa. It’s a long story, but I stubbed my toe and I’m trying to get that back on track.”
Cross grew up poor in Georgia and moved to New York City after high school. He did stand-up and sketch comedy there and in Boston in the 1980s and early 1990s, coming of age with such comedians as Louis C.K. and Janeane Garofalo. His first television job was writing for The Ben Stiller Show, for which he and the show’s other writers won an Emmy in 1993. Soon after, he co-created, wrote, and starred in
Mr. Show on HBO (1995-1998) with Bob Odenkirk, which cemented his fame among the kind of people who gravitate to subversive sketch comedy. He is perhaps best known for his role as Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development, a former analyst/therapist pursuing an acting career amid family chaos. Since 2010 he’s starred in The Increasingly Poor Decisions
of Todd Margaret on the Independent Film Channel, and he also appears in the Netflix original shows
W/ Bob & David and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt .Heis married to the actress and poet Amber Tamblyn ( Joan of Arcadia, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Until the Santa Fe leg of his tour, Tamblyn was traveling with Cross, appearing at independent bookstores to read from her third book, Dark Sparkler (Harper Perennial, 2015).
Cross is particularly adept at physical comedy and playing awkward, repressed characters incapable of self-reflection, a persona that, to the uninitiated, can seem at odds with his stand-up act. He doesn’t temper his opinions in interor views on stage, and hecklers are heckled back. Sometimes people walk out. “It’s a handful of people and it doesn’t happen every time, but occasionally they walk out and occasionally they’re vocal about it,” he said. “Sometimes they’re not, but if they are, it becomes part of the show. I’m ready to roll with it if it happens, but it’s not like I desire that or do anything to try to make it happen. People are very sensitive to jokes.”
He insisted that Making America Great Again “kind of mingles the idea of A Christmas Carol with Fatty Arbuckle’s life story.” Cross does this, he said, while riding a unicycle and juggling three unicycles, a skill it took him five years to master, which is why he hasn’t toured in so long. As for why people would walk out on something like this, he said, “They don’t like what I’m saying or they don’t appreciate having to be reminded of the things I’m talking about.”
Sometimes, after a gig, disgruntled audience memCross bers tell what they think of him on Facebook, when he posts a photo of the crowd clapping at the end of the show and names an “MVP” (code for his favorite outspoken heckler). Once in a while, Cross confronts the criticism directly by commenting back, a move he admitted might make him look like an oversensitive crank. But he has his reasons. “Usually I’m drunk. I wake up in the morning full of regret and wish I hadn’t done it. If it’s just an opinion, I’ll ignore it. If someone says I suck and I’m not funny, I just let that go. That doesn’t mean anything to me. But if someone is wrong about something or spreading misinformation, that’s when I start addressing people. I got into it with some lady after a show who said 200 people had walked out. That’s when I get upset, because you can go on Facebook or Instagram and see the pictures with the audience 90 percent full, taken after an encore. So she was lying through her teeth and trying to cause me ill will or harm. I don’t care about opinions — but don’t lie.”