David Cross keeps writing his story the way he wants to

 By Michael Venutolo-Mantovani

June 24, 2018

“Yeah I was actually in Godfather Part II,” David Cross said when asked if he’d ever been an Easter egg in a major Hollywood blockbuster before. “It was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ part. I was very young and they had me in between two pieces of bacon.”

Of course, he was joking as he explained with a laugh the nexus of his subtle appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. “(Avengers directors) Joe and Anthony (Russo) I’ve worked with quite a bit,” he said. “They did the pilot of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and an episode of Community. But the real link is through Arrested Development, which they did the pilot and worked on the first season.

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It was a blustery day in Brooklyn and the wind rushing into Cross’s phone often overpowered his answers. He apologized despite the fact that he’s no doubt got an entire slate of phoners throughout the day answering, no doubt, the same set of questions with some variation of the same set of answers. He’s leaving for his first major tour in a few days, one which will hit Charlotte’s Knight Theater on August 6th. It’s his first time on the road in two-and-a-half years and I wonder what the process is like anticipating or settling into such an undertaking.

“This is the quickest I’ve gone out between tours,” Cross said, admitting that he has never been a road warrior comic. “Usually for me, there are five years in between tours and I’ve accrued all this material naturally. This is the first one that I kinda had to come up with material from scratch.”

In anticipation of this summer’s tour, Cross booked “a shit ton of shows” at small venues around Brooklyn, honing in on what worked, what didn’t and fine-tuning his set until he was ready for bigger venues. Eventually, he performed at a bunch of major festivals and headlined a night at the legendary Chicago Theater. “That was great,” he said. “I know the set is ready. It’s good. It works.”

That set is something of a formula for Cross, who told me that his audience can expect a similar approach to the brand new material. “I’m very careful, almost scientific about dividing up the kinds of material I have,” he said. “I try very hard to keep it roughly one-third silly dumb jokes that anyone can enjoy, one-third anecdotal stuff, and one-third of topical. Political, religious, cultural type stuff.”

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And while many of Cross’s fans might have an idea of what to expect, there is an entirely new cog in the comedian’s life. One which informs his work on a daily basis.

“The biggest change is that I have a kid, which I’ve never had before,” he continued. “Just dealing with these observations that I’ve never had before. I’ve never had to deal with an infant or change a diaper at five in the morning.”

Rest assured, his new set isn’t five a.m. diaper changes, sticky stroller wheels or play dates gone awry. In writing his new material, Cross made sure that his set wouldn’t be a myopic take on the joys and woes of early parenthood. “I wouldn’t say that (parenthood) is a thread people can expect when they come to the show but it certainly informs everything,” Cross said. “I do hope that the material is such that you don’t have to be a new parent to laugh at any of this.”

For a comedian who has made his career primarily on screen, I wonder what it is– other than the spontaneity of it all– that draws Cross to the stage, irregularly as it may be.

David Cross photo by Daniel Bergeron

“They’re my words,” he said, alluding to the endeavor of writing his own stand-up jokes, rather than working off of a script in his various television vehicles. “Even though stand up is a monologue, it’s still an interaction. “And I’m not one of those comics who has a carefully crafted sixty-five minutes with no divergence. I tend to riff and ramble. I know what I’m coming back to, but I do tend to riff.”

With a major tour underway, a “cameo” in one of history’s biggest films, comedy specials and television shows popping up seemingly every few months, David Cross is something of a perpetual motion machine. Asked what keeps him going, Cross goes right to who he is at his core: “I’m a writer. And the thing I’m always waiting for is ‘What’s the next story idea?’”

Noting that few things get him more excited than a fresh idea, he goes on to illustrate how the medium matters to him less than the story being told.

“Whether best told on stage or in film or via a television series or whatever that’s going to be,” he said, “the story is the thing that gets me most amped.”

Check out David Cross in Charlotte on Monday, August 6 at Knight Theater.

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