Blink and you’ll miss the peculiar dedication that plays during the end credits of Hits.
“The director would like to thank all the good people of Sullivan County who graciously welcomed us,” it reads, “with the exception of that one racist guy who yelled at Traci.”
“Yeah,” remarks comedian David Cross, calling the Georgia Straight from New York, “we had to lock down the street, and there’s this guy, with a big fuckin’, like, F-150 truck. He didn’t care so much about not being able to drive straight through, he just cared about a bunch of Hollywood faggots trying to tell him what to do.”
As he barrelled past in his Canyonero, the guy threw the worst insult he could muster at Cross and his “crew of hipster kids”.
“He said, ‘I bet you voted for Obama,’ ” says Cross, chuckling. “Like, that was his capper. That was his gotcha. That was his zinger. He nailed us with a ‘Bet you voted for Obama.’ ”
Significantly enough, small-town meatheads and vintage freedom-or-die nuts take some of the collateral damage in Cross’s feature-filmmaking debut. Hits is a vicious film that would sit very comfortably in a double bill with 2011’s God Bless America, the thrillingly pissed-off screed from fellow comic turned director Bobcat Goldthwait. As an equal-opportunity crank, however, Cross reserves his harshest (and funniest) barbs for the kind of people most likely to make up the film’s audience.
“That’s the only time when I was behind the camera that I got a little frustrated and jealous because they’re such great fucking actors and I wanted to jump in and play around with them,” he says, referring to the work of James Adomian, Wyatt Cenac, and Derek Waters as three hopeless Brooklyn Net activists who call themselves Think Tank. “I held on till the very last minute, but I had to cut some really great, funny stuff with those guys. They were quite literally too funny, and it fucked up the balance of the movie.”
Hits skewers America’s current fame-obsessed zeitgeist with its tale of Katelyn, a talent-free teen in Liberty, New York, who’s hell-bent on making it onto The Voice. Meanwhile, much to her dismay, everyone else in her vicinity is seemingly stumbling into web-based celebrity, including her own dad, Dave Stuben (Matt Walsh), a divorced, angry white guy whose endless rants about potholes at town-council meetings start lighting up YouTube. Arriving by Zipcar, Think Tank descends on Liberty to turbo-market Dave’s war on his “so-called elected government”.
For all of its animus toward postmillennial, web-based culture—“There’s no such thing as selling out anymore. As soon as you can conceive of the idea, it’s all about monetizing it,” laments Cross—Hits is also the first feature film to offer pay-what-you-want distribution through BitTorrent (for two weeks as of Friday [February 13]). The irony isn’t lost on its director, but neither is the opportunity to find an audience. If it’s a choice between 150,000 people paying 15 bucks and a million paying whatever, Cross says he’ll “take the million—any day”.
“I mean, my whole career has that sort of ethos to it,” says the man who’s managed to flip between mainstream work in Hollywood, edgier fare like Arrested Development and Mr. Show, and an ever-provocative standup act. Hits screens at the Rio Theatre with a pay-what-you-want option as part of the Northwest Comedy Fest next Thursday (February 19). A Skype Q&A with David Cross follows.
Meanwhile, Vancity Theatre gets a cut of the custard pie with four comedy fest special events, including an evening of shorts (February 12), a tribute screening of Robin Williams’s Good Morning, Vietnam hosted by comedian Simon King (February 13), The Notebook in Hecklevision (February 14), and Richard Pryor Live in Concert presented by Dino Archie (February 16).