A rapid series of comical noises: A conversation with comedy genius David Cross
If there was a single voice of reason amid the bombardment of deafening noise in the digital age — of mass media, of used car salesman politicians, of everyday informed/misinformed folks rambling on (and on) — David Cross might be that single voice.
Whether through his iconic stand-up routines, his groundbreaking sketch comedy series “Mr. Show” or his immortal role as Tobias Funke in the sitcom “Arrested Development,” Cross is a bonafide comedy legend. For him, it isn’t about taking cheap shots or reaching for the low-hanging fruit of material. Cross comes from a more cerebral approach, an analytical mind that knows no bounds, and uses his intelligence to reach the masses with his wit and wisdom through the wide-open channels of entertainment.
And in the era of Trump and buzzwords like “fake news,” Cross once again feels the urgency to get back up onstage and speak his hard truths. He truly has his finger on the pulse of what is wrong and what is right in society. Instead of refusing to get out of bed in the morning, Cross sees an opportunity to get people up from the sidelines and into the game of this modern reality as a participant for progressive change and positive growth.
A self-proclaimed atheist, he’s consistently been able to take an honest bird’s-eye-view of humanity, distilling it these jokes and bits that resemble a Trojan horse into the often-oblivious psyche of John and Jane Q. Public, which is the fundamental foundation of brilliant satire — come for the laughs, leave with the knowledge.
Smoky Mountain News: How do you approach the idea of what’s going on from the White House from the perspective of a comedian?
David Cross: Well, it’s definitely different. As you might imagine, some of my set I talk about Trump. And I say what’s already been said by so numerous people, but it’s true, you can’t really make fun of Trump, I don’t make fun of Trump necessarily as much as I do his fans and the culture that brought him here. He’s so extremely egregious and everything he does is immediately replaced by something else. He’s so inept and corrupt, blatantly corrupt. There’s nothing to say that kind of hasn’t been said or isn’t obvious to those of us who see it, and saw it a long time ago. He’s such a blatant conman. There’s no jokes or arguments being made by anybody — you either get it or you don’t. Again, the bulk of my stuff that has to do with that is more about his fans and the culture that brought him here and less “Can you believe he said this?” I had a little bit about when he made the “shithole countries” comment. I had a whole five-minute bit on that, that I liked. But, the shelf life on that was three weeks. After awhile you start doing it, and people start looking at you like, “Yeah, that thing happened like six years ago. We’ve moved on 92 other awful things he’s said and done.” You might as well do a bit about the moon landing. Nobody gives a shit.
SMN: Are you optimistic about the future?
DC: It really vacillates depending on what day it is, what my mood is, and what information I have access to. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. From first-hand experience, these kind of anecdotal stories that people are more depressed and kids are sadder. I mean, I definitely see that and get it. But, it’s two-fold. Like when you have information on what ICE is doing, when you see what they’re doing, there’s two sides of how depressing to me it is. One, I find it criminal and inhuman, not something that is part of what I understood America to be and the ideals America stood for. So, that’s depressing on its own, that they’re literally taking children who are breastfeeding, in the act of breastfeeding, from their mothers and separating them and putting the parents in jail. That’s just horrific to me. And then the other side to how depressing that is, is that there are a lot of people applauding that, a lot of my fellow countrymen, who are like, “Yeah, about time. Fuck them.” I was just raised with different values, clearly. It’s depressing on two levels.
SMN: How do you keep from not letting the frustration get to you?
DC: Well, sometimes I don’t. And it’s difficult. I have a new baby now. She’s completely innocent. She has no concept of hate and selfishness. She doesn’t know tribalism, she doesn’t know “you’re a ‘this’ and you’re none of ‘that,’ and ‘these’ are good and what you are is great and ‘those’ are bad.” We’re trying to keep those concepts away from her as long as possible. We’re raising her in Brooklyn, which is a very diverse, progressive community. And her mother [and I] will be there to counteract some of this shit that’s out there. I want to leave her a better country than the one she was born into.
Editor’s Note: To listen to the full audio stream of this conversation for free, go to YouTube and search “David Cross Garret K. Woodward.”
Want to go?
Comedian David Cross will perform as part of his ‘Oh Come On’ tour at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at The Orange Peel in Asheville. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, visit www.theorangepeel.net.