Depending on who you ask, David Cross is a pioneer of awkward surrealist comedy, that one guy that you can't remember the name of who somehow made it onto Alvin and the Chipmunks (which Cross has described as “the most miserable professional experience I have ever had in my life”), or a total asshole. For a guy who makes a living out of surfing the fine line between the obscene and the outrageous, his life out of character is unsurprisingly more of the same.
Whether problematic or laugh-provoking, Cross's creative ventures and characters persist. From the amusingly absurd sketch scenarios of Mr. Show, to the obsessive antics of unwanted Blue Man Group understudy Tobias Fünke of Arrested Development, Cross delivers a consistent, cringe-worthy charm. Fünke even got blued-up to a whole other universe entirely, as he recently made it into the world of Avengers: Infinity War in an easter egg cameo, though it wasn't actually Cross portraying Fünke due to a scheduling conflict.
Cross recently made news alongside Arrested Development co-stars Jason Bateman and Tony Hale when, during a New York Times roundtable interview of the cast, they came to the defense of cast member Jeffrey Tambor regarding his treatment of Jessica Walter. (All three apologized following the backlash.) No stranger to controversy, he also found himself under fire last fall when Charlyne Yi took to Twitter to share racially insensitive comments Cross had allegedly made during their first meeting at a 2007 party.
With all of this, you’d think that Cross would be easier to remember, but plenty of people—even Stephen Colbert—seem to have a hard time recalling much of Cross's catalog, or what he’s been up to. I had a chance to find out when I got him on the phone for 15 minutes as he walked his dog (and was interrupted mid-way through by people yelling at him—which seems to be an oddly regular occurrence in his life). The interview has been edited for clarity and length:
How did you decide on the title, “Oh Come On,” for your stand-up tour?
Cross: It’s along the line that’s kind of like, ‘oh come on, are you really serious? Do you really believe this thing? Is this really how you feel? Is this really how you are going to react? Is this really where we are?... come on, guys.
The title came from the audience… I was doing a bunch of shows getting ready, putting the set together, and as I was getting to the latter stages of getting it ready, I was doing Q&A with the audience, going ‘what do you think of this bit? What do you think about that? How about these jokes?’ And I had a couple ideas for a title in mind, and I said it at one of the bigger shows — 350 people or something like that — so I was like, ‘hey, here’s what I’m thinking of calling the show, what do you think?’ And I said the title and immediately, en-masse, people were like ‘NO!’ And I was like, ‘well okay, Jesus, uhhh what about this one?’ ‘NO!’ And then two people at the same time in different parts of the venue came up with “Oh, Come On,” and everybody loved it.
You earlier said of your tour: “I am beyond aroused to get back out on the road and bring my very special, artisanal small batch handcrafted, 100% organic jokes and jibberings to a venue near you... These jokes are kid-tested and mother approved so bring the whole family!” So... how did it go with the kid testers?
Two kids—on two separate occasions—had to be air vac’d [evacuated] out of the venue… one was outdoors so it was easier to get him out, but one was indoors so we had to cut a hole through the roof. One didn’t make it, [and] one is out of [the] ICU, but still in the hospital—that’s successful to me. That’s two out of five, so more than half made it safely.”
How have audiences been responding to your show so far?
I did three festivals, Boston Calling, Chicago’s Onion [Comedy] Fest, [and] Cluster Fest [in San Francisco] — when I did the Chicago show, it was a huge relief, because who knows how that’s gonna go. That was the first one that was not an intimate setting, and doing a massive show in front of over 2500 people is a much, much different deal than a couple hundred people in Brooklyn.
But it all works. The sequencing of the set seems to work, I’m very confident in the material, [and] I’ve never worked on a set this extensively before… it feels right, it feels good. I’m looking forward to getting out there, I truly do enjoy it, and specifically Seattle — I really dig Seattle, I have a lot of friends there, [and have] done a lot of shows over the years starting at Bumbershoot, where nobody knew my name… I’ve been going back and forth there over the years and am really looking forward to it.
Is there anything that Seattle audiences should know before your appearance at the Moore Theatre?
“I love them very much, I look forward to seeing them, [and] I apologize in advance, but we are gonna make it through and have a fun time.”
See David Cross at The Moore this Friday, June 29. The new season of Arrested Development is currently airing on Netflix. And you can also hear his voice in Sorry to Bother You, a comedy that opens in theaters on July 6.