David Cross

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

BY James KeastPublished May 1, 2004

What are you up to?
I'm up to about 5'9", 145 pounds. I'm trying to get up to 6'1", 6'2" and about 184 pounds. Just bigger. I've got the stretching machine. It's not working. It hurts, if that's what it's supposed to do.

What are your current fixations?
I'm currently fixated on music. It's good – it's tuneful. It fills my heart with blood and love and bloodlust. I really like the new Modest Mouse, the Fiery Furnaces, All Night Radio – a bunch of crap. Movies, I haven't really seen – a lot of documentaries. The last movie I saw was Dawn of the Dead, which was pretty good. I like the original more, not because of the movie itself, but because I saw it already.

Where do you live and why?
Yes I do live in Y. NYC actually. I'm in New York. I guess because it's the most fun, interesting place that's open late where I can live and still have some sort of viable connection to work. Also, it's important for me to live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. It's a goal I've always had — to have less money because I live in a certain place. But I love New York. And this way I get both National League and American League teams coming through.

What's been your most memorable or inspirational gig?
One of the most memorable that I attended was I saw Laurie Anderson in 1982 or '83, in Atlanta. That show kinda opened up my mind to the possibilities of performance, and what a show or performance could be. I've got plenty where I was threatened — those are fairly memorable although they're starting to blend into each other now. Too many to count, really.

What have been your career highs and lows so far?
I'd say they were both last week. I was named by New York Press Magazine one of the 50 most loathsome New Yorkers. I was considered more loathsome than the Staten Island Ferry guy who did whatever he did and then killed people. I'm more loathsome.

What's the meanest thing anyone has ever said to you, before, during or after a gig?
I [taped] a special for HBO. I was in the middle of editing it, two or three days later. I was a little insecure about it, whether it was good. A friend of mine who was there said "It was ok. I wouldn't call it special." That was one of those little digs that I've never forgotten, right at a really critical time. I spent the next four months going "oh, this sucks, it's not special."

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like that I'm honest and don't suffer fools gladly. And I dislike that I'm dishonest and can be a hypocrite.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
This has happened a number of times, but the advice is: "Man, this stuff is really strong, so don't do too much, all right? Don't do that thing where you have half, and then you're like 'Hey, nothing's going on' so half an hour later you take the other half. Just take the half."

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I don't think I've ever kicked someone out of my bed. It just doesn't happen with men, as much as you'd like to think so. What would make me kick someone out of my band, which I don't have and never will have? If their hair got too long. I have a dress code for anyone who enters my apartment, especially the bedroom — no hair below the shoulder, shirt must be tucked in, must be wearing a belt, no facial hair especially women, and you must have recently waxed and have a certificate saying so.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Mostly I think of Montreal and Vancouver — I don't really think too much about the in-between part. Depending on what city I'm closer to, I either think of poutine, late nights and stumbling drunk down the street, or I think of super-healthy amazing sushi, Stanley Park and getting a blow job from a strange man.

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
I have mixed feelings. I get a little annoyed when I know people are just downloading my shit and burning and sharing it and not paying for it, but I've done that my entire life so I don't get that annoyed. But now that I have money, I will go out and by my friends' CDs. It would be hypocritical for me to complain because I've been doing it forever.

What's been your most memorable day job?
Because it was the worst one — I've had lots of shitty jobs — but doing medical experiments. They lock you up in a house with a bunch of other losers, get up at 5:30 in the morning and start giving blood, which you do throughout the day, and taking all these various medicines or placebos. It's depressing.

How do you spoil yourself?
I'll jerk off and just let it fly, I won't get a sock or a tissue. That's how I pamper myself.

If you weren't a comedian, what would you be doing?
I would be a critic — I would write critiques of other comedians.

What do you fear most?
Fear Factor.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Chocolates and Ann Coulter.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I was taking the red-eye to L.A., the airport was virtually empty. Three people in front of me was what I thought was an older Russian or Eastern European woman – very short hair, kind of severe looking. She was really getting hassled and I felt bad. I could see the red passport and everything. I thought "This security thing is getting out of hand, why are they giving her such a hard time?" I got up to the second part of security and realised it was Eddie Izzard in half-drag. They took him over and made him get undressed and everything. Then he was all pissy on the plane.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what you would serve them?
Hitler. And I'd serve him this big Jewish Passover meal – kreplach and gifilte fish and also his own brain.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Hanging out getting her a cup of coffee at her place in Florida.

Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
In service to this great country of ours. Canada. Not America.

Telling people someone is funny is the diciest of propositions. After all, comedy is perhaps an even more personal choice than music. But David Cross is one of the funniest people you will ever hear on CD, see at a club or on TV, or discover at the video store. Make the effort to seek out his four-year stint on his HBO show Mr. Show with Bob and David (Bob would be comedy partner Bob Odenkirk), the only sketch comedy program in recent memory to challenge the legacy of SCTV or Monty Python. You might have caught the feature film Run Ronnie Run, a spin-off from one of Mr. Show's recurring characters currently playing ad nauseum on cable.

You might be one of the few who is supporting fabulous sitcom Arrested Development, where he plays a supporting role as Tobias, a former doctor turned actor whose "never nude" neuroses provide just another layer of quirk to the dysfunctional family. Perhaps you noticed bit parts in Men In Black II, Scary Movie 2 or Doctor Doolittle 2.

But more than his acting gigs, David Cross is at his best on his own. On stage, doing his own material, is where his intelligent political bite really takes hold. Not political like Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but the biting social observation that fuelled people like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor or Chris Rock — more caustic than Jerry Seinfeld and less pandering than the average TV comic looking for a sitcom deal. The evidence is all over his first comedy album, 2002's two-CD set Shut Up You Fucking Baby, where his riffs on Southern life (he grew up in Atlanta), or terrorism provide both trenchant analysis and laughs. Last year's DVD Let America Laugh provided some behind-the-scenes verite to his catalogue, and this May, he returns with a Shut Up follow-up called It's Not Funny. Don't bet on that.
James Keast

Latest Coverage