Mr. One-Man Show

This is the story of David Cross as told only by David Cross, since no one else contacted for this story, this oral history, would comment on the subject of David Cross. That is not entirely true, as no one else was actually contacted for this story; really, who has the time to make that extra phone call or two? Nobody, that's who. Besides, they would all say the same thing about David Cross: He's "bald," a "Jew," "from Georgia," very "funny," "very" creative, one "half" of HBO's "defunct" Mr. Show and a stand-"up" comedian who likes to talk about all that "flag-waving, rah-rah bullshit," how the Catholic Church "has gotten a whole lot sexier" in light of recent revelations about priests molesting little boys ("Hello, fresh meat") and how George W. Bush "may, may, may" be a "dangerously bad" president.

Such material can be found on Cross' new Shut Up, You Fucking Baby!, a two-disc comedy album released last week on Sub Pop Records, the first label to which Nirvana signed, which explains Cross' eight-year marriage to Courtney Love. He remains best known for Mr. Show, which lasted four seasons (or until the money ran out, which actually occurred midway during the first season) and was a tremendous success with stoners and community-college dropouts, who adored the brilliant way Cross and writing partner Bob Odenkirk managed to blend the unbridled lunacy of Monty Python's Flying Circus with the sexual irreverence of Sesame Street. Earlier this year, HBO released the first two seasons on DVD; the final collection is due next spring, as is a Sub Pop-distributed DVD taken from Cross' stand-up tour earlier this spring.

The 38-year-old Cross began doing stand-up at open-mike nights in Atlanta, when he was attending a high school for the performing arts. He then went to Emerson College in Boston, where, after time spent "studying," he started "Cross Comedy," a sort of sketch-filled precursor to Mr. Show. Early on, his comedy was observational, of the have-you-ever-noticed school, out of which he quickly flunked. When his comedy became more topical, Cross found himself uncomfortable with the tag of "self-righteous asshole."

David Cross: I still do a bunch of silly, goofy shit, and I make a lot of empty observations. I think they're funny, and I think they make for a funny routine about how people misuse the word "literally" and stuff like that. That's funny, and that's a true thing, but ultimately who gives a shit? I think that's where a lot of my comedy came from when I was starting, which was I would see the shitty, hacky comics and continue to work with them over the years as I developed, and I'd go, "That is garbage. I can't believe you're fucking laughing at this shit." So my comedy, while it would be political, would be different and a little confrontational.

On his new CD, Cross refers to the pope as an "incontinent, senile, fuckin' palsied motherfucker with Parkinson's disease...a good man." He refers to Catholic priests as God's representatives, which, he figures, must mean that "God fucks little boys." Granted, these comments are taken out of context for the purpose of shock value, and only a small portion of the two-disc collection deals with such topics, but even in context they still elicit gasps from the audience, which threatens to turn on Cross but comes just short of nailing him to a cross. He now refers to his comedy as being of the "oh-shit" variety, meaning when you hear it, all you can do is turn to the person sitting next to you and say, "Oh, shit, did he really just say that the pope likes to have sex with children?"

David Cross: Not that that's anything I ever strive for or care about, but I dunno, maybe it's a result, subconsciously, of just pushing as far as you can go because the other stuff has been talked about. There are comics who are talking about priests fucking kids, just not in a way that's interesting to me. But I do think there is some valid logic to the idea, like all these people who run around and quote God and have a selective memory when it comes to God and his history, his presumed history, and what he's done and what he does and that kind of ignorant, rainbow, pie-in-the-sky Jehovah's Witness bullshit about a forgiving God. I don't expect you to sit there and go, "Hey, you might be right"--ever. But, it's just something I wanna throw out there. You're thinking of it this way, but, you know, try this on for size.

In addition to his work on Mr. Show, Cross would also appear on such TV shows as Just Shoot Me, NewsRadio and The Drew Carey Show. Cross resists the theory that he appears on sitcoms to bring his edgy brand of comedy to the prime-time mainstream. Rather, he does it for the paycheck, and because he is not offered the kinds of roles he would prefer. He also took cameos in such films as Men in Black II, Scary Movie 2 and Dr. Dolittle 2, though he resists the theory that he will only appear in films with the number 2 in the title.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky