It’s been 36 years since David Cross first stepped on-stage at an open mike in Atlanta and gave standup comedy the old college try. A year later, he moved to Boston and started really developing his comedic voice and chops.
He made a splash nationally in the ’90s, and he’s been everywhere since, from the cult sketch show Mr. Show With Bob & David to playing Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development. Now he’s a grizzled veteran, but over the phone from a taxicab in Brooklyn, he sounds as young as ever. Granted, I’m not staring at his crazy-old-man beard as he talks. The facial hair is a reminder that he, like all of us, ain’t as young as he used to be. When he started out as a touring comic, things were different.
“The first couple of tours I did, a band would do 45 minutes or an hour and then I would do two hours of standup,” he says. “And it was all music clubs. We would get in a van and we’d crash at friends’ houses and just party all night and then get on the road and go to the next place. It was very kinda old-school rock ’n’ roll. It was a lot more fun, but it’s a young man’s game for sure. I couldn’t do that again. I’m not Robert Pollard [of Guided by Voices]; I don’t have that resiliency.”
These days, Cross travels in style, on a tour bus, and plays theatres. He’ll be at the Vogue Theatre on Wednesday (July 4). A gutsy move to play in a country that’s the sworn enemy of the USA on his nation’s most sacred holiday.
“Who knew?” he says, playing along. “When I booked the show, we were still friends. But then, of course, later I learned that you burned down the White House.”
We are referencing his dear leader, Donald Trump, whose motto to Make America Great Again was shared by Cross’s standup tour two years ago. This year’s show name is less overtly political, but can certainly be read that way: Oh Come On.
Don’t expect a 75-ish–minute partisan screed, though. Cross’s recipe for a good night of comedy breaks down into thirds: what he calls “silly, stupid jokes that anybody can like”, anecdotal material, and “topical, political, cultural, religious-type stuff”.
He says it would be odd not to talk about Trump, but it’s not the bulk of the show. “It’s a foolish endeavour to try and make a bit out of something he’s said or done, because there’s no permanence to it,” he says. “That outrageous thing is replaced within the hour by something more outrageous and egregious. And outrageous almost seems like a tame word to use. Some of these things are horrific. My perspective is he never fooled me. He might have, obviously, fooled a bunch of people. I mean, he’s a con man. He’s not very bright. He’s got blatant issues.”
Cross has become well enough known through the years that walkouts at his decidedly opinionated takes are less frequent than they used to be. Haters don’t lap up tickets to his performances. But on occasion, there is the odd dissatisfied customer.
“When you consider my material and the topics it covers and that people both on the extreme left and extreme right can be very sensitive, people leave. It’s fine,” he says. “To quote Benjamin Franklin, ‘It is what it is.’ ”
David Cross’s Oh Come On plays the Vogue Theatre on Wednesday (July 4).