Interview: David Cross

Interview: David Cross

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

David Cross has been a busy person. It’s not enough that he helped birth “Alternative Comedy” to the world in the 90s, but he’s gone from indie darling to now starring in Oscar-winning movies. Still sticking to his comedy roots, he’s back on tour with a fresh hour of stand-up material and you can probably catch him at a date near you on his Oh Come On tour. Bring the kids. We caught up with David Cross on his Boston date at the Wilbur to ask him about things that have already happened to him.


You spent a lot of time in Boston when you first started doing stand-up and sketch comedy. When you tour, are shows in Boston a homecoming for you of sorts? Are there certain spots or people you try to visit when you play the area or has so much time now passed that a lot of connection to the city has been lost?

You know, it’s a mixture of all of it, realy. Today, I’ve got friends coming that I haven’t seen in a while. I walked around today. I walked around Beacon Hill, through the Longfellow Bridge, I walked through Cambridge, I went up to Davis Square. I passed by three places where I used to live. I didn’t really have to veer off too much. So it was a stroll down memory lane. It’s all changed so dramatically.

You’ve said Boston was a huge influence on you, but did you come to Boston with the intention of doing comedy or it something you did on the side that then became your main focus?

A side thing. I went to Emerson to study film which was stupid. I didn’t even know it at the time, that it was a ridiculous waste of money. But I also dropped out pretty quickly. I also knew that I wanted to go to Emerson because of the pedigree and history it had with stand-up and Boston itself. I didn’t think I was going to concentrate on stand-up as much but i knew it would be part of it. It’s what I had been doing in Atlanta, I’d been doing it well over a year and a half.

And you were able to hone it when you came to Boston.

Yeah all of a sudden there was a group of my peers and people I’m still very close to, who were all coming up together. It was a very creative community. It was amenable to stand-up and what eventually became, lazily termed, as alternative comedy.

Yeah, that was your gift to the world, right?

[Laughs] Yeah, our gift to the world. It was great. I was just here at the perfect time in history, in comedy history and the best city for it. And I really did develop here.

And what’s this I hear about an incident at Jimmy’s in Dedham back in the day?

Oh yeah. Where’d you hear that?

I asked around.

You did? You asked around?

Well, I’ve talked about it before. Jimmy’s was kind of a biker bar in Dedham and I was there with either DJ Hazard or Tony B. It helps to physicalize the setup. I’ll tell you verbally. You walk into a big rowdy open bar. On either side there were three small steps up and this other room. It’s all open and that’s where they put comedy. And there’s no stage. They could put a radio shack micon the floor with fold-out chairs and people were fucking hammered. And I went up and I’m just doing my stuff, killing time for the headliner.

They were paying comedians back then?

Oh yeah, $30 which was a lot. And then this guy’s in the front. And when I say incoherent drunk, I mean just about that kind of drunk. Making zero sense, not saying words. And everybody starts egging him on, they know who he is. I can’t remember I think his name was Sully. So it’s like “Sully wants to say something.” And he gets up and he walks towards me. I have my right arm like this [folded], mic is in my left arm. “Oh, Sully wants to say something.” he comes up in front of me. I have my right hand out to put the mic in his face. “What do you want to say?” and he gives me a bear hug, and he grabs me from the side and I can’t get away because he’s a big guy, and he starts licking my face and it was one of the most humiliating, embarrassing, awful things. And everybody’s laughing. It was pretty awful. And then I just got off and I had to wait because I drove the headliner, which was part of the Boston deal back then which was the opener drives the headliner, so you had to sit and wait.

Talking to you is such a thrill for me because I’m also a big Mr Show fan as well as With Bob and David. Are there any plans on doing some more episodes anytime soon?

No plans. We would love to. It’s really about scheduling. That’s literally 100% of it. Bob is extremely busy. He’s got Better Call Saul which takes up a lot of his time. I’m busy with other things, but they’re more amorphous. We were able to do it because we found a window. If we find that window again…

Did you approach Netflix?

We went to everybody. We went to HBO first, even though nobody there is the same. And it’s also HBOs property. That didn’t work out. We have a personal relationship with Ted Sarandos.

Speaking of With Bob and David, with the way it turned out, were all the sketches written exclusively for that show, were any ideas that were conceived during Mr Show, and I read somewhere that there were sketches leftover.

Yeah, we always overwrite. We write for several months. We didn’t tape anything and lose it. We have sketches that are in various stages of being ready. We have a number of them that are good and there’s this one where Mark Rivers who is an old Boston guy wrote that I’d really want to get into the show.

Since you wouldn’t start from scratch, would doing another season be an easier project than the first?

Technically, sure. We have a few extra ideas all ready to go.  But that doesn’t save you that much time.

I guess one of the main reasons I enjoyed With Bob and David so much is that there really isn’t any subversive sketch comedy currently being made. I mean, SNL, sure, but I see that more as being very watered down comedy. Maybe Key and Peele is the last sketch comedy I can think of that was actually doing something new?

Yeah, Key and Peele was great. I loved it. [Pauses] What is there now? Yeah, I don’t know…

And actually, since I have you here, I’ve always wanted to ask you if you and Bob were ever asked to host or write sketches on SNL. I think I read somewhere that the SNL cast or writers were fans of Mr Show.

No, we haven’t been. And Bob was on the show for a while, way before Mr Show. But no, neither of have been asked. Bob was in the 40th anniversary thing.

Would you be open to hosting?

I can’t speak for Bob, but I would.

I saw your interview on Colbert where you had a brief cameo on the Avengers. What I’m more interested in is the entire cast of Mr Show cameoing on Jack Frost. How did that come about?

[Laughs]. Yeah. The director of Mr Show directed Jack Frost. We weren’t on set, though. I absolutely don’t remember it. [Laughs]

And while we’re on the topic of cameos, seeing you and Bob in the Post, and I know those were more main roles, was such a treat. Do you think there’s anything Meryl Streep was able to learn anything from you about acting?

Oh, sure. Up until she met me, she would just, at lunch she would run to catering and just carbo load and get really tired. I had to pull her aside and say, “Meryl you gotta eat light. Like a salad. Then get your assistant to get what you want and put it in your dressing room.” She’d have three portions of spaghetti and clams. And you gotta eat light.

I think your latest comedy album america…great is the only one so far that hasn’t been released on vinyl. Are there plans for that?

Yeah! Go to my website. I think we have a bunch of copies. And that’s brand new, so it’s not like you’re not up on the latest news. [Ed. note: These are now available!]

It’s interesting to see how the vinyl explosion has affected comedy albums as well. Because it’s not like comedy albums sound better on vinyl. It’s purely a fun thing to do with a comedy record I think.

Yeah, why not? The audio isn’t enhanced, but it’s just fun.

Any bonus tracks on the vinyls?

I did it on the first CD Shut Up You Fucking Baby. If you back up from the first track if you back it from zero, there’s a hidden track. I don’t think many people know about it.

Finally, I always like to ask on interviews, what albums are you listening to right now that you’re really digging?

Honestly, I’ve been listening to mostly like toddler tunes. The music channel on our Fios. Like Toddler tunes and soul classics. No modern stuff, just 50s 60s and toddler tunes.

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