Cross To Bear
Respected alternative comedy mind struts in 92nd Street Y interview program
By Michael Shashoua / Jester Editor-In-Chief
Alternative comedy favorite David Cross ventured into the mainstream this past week as the subject of a March 20 live interview event at the 92nd Street Y, moderated by “Arrested Development” castmate Michael Cera.
The proceedings were a bit awkward for nearly the first 45 minutes, considering Cross and Cera must know each other fairly well, although that very awkwardness could simply have been an intentional part of the performance. The duo cycled through the obligatory career narrative for Cross, with just an occasional arch comment from Cera that winked at the pro forma nature of that conversation.
It was mainly once the program opened up to the audience for questions that things got interesting, with Cross taking the opportunity to mock different audience members who had inquiries. The highlight of this came when one young woman asked what Cross considered to be the perfect date, and he improvised a long, elaborate response that had something to do with ordering items from Seamless.com after riding on the F train and seeing the company’s advertisements all over the cars. Cross then turned that on its ear, devolving down to a crude comment or two, but all delivered with mischief and a glint in the eye, so this wasn’t some sort of rude misogynistic bullying that it might seem to be if you’re only reading this account on a page.
The give and take with the audience also ended up yielding the most interesting career history stories from Cross as well. That includes the making of the first few episodes of the HBO cult classic series “Mr. Show,” which had a studio audience bused in from the outer reaches of the San Fernando Valley, who had absolutely no idea what sort of material they would be seeing. And that also includes a juvenile memory Cross unearthed from high school, where he did the morning announcements and got in trouble for dedicating the lunch menu to Bobby Sands. This requires a bit of explanation – Sands was an IRA activist who at the time was in the middle of a hunger strike – but the joke is definitely emblematic of the attitude Cross would later bring to his stand up and sketch work.
For an evening that, as related here, took some time to heat up, and still could be uneven in the interest level generated by the conversation, Cross’ past “body of work” garnered a lot of goodwill from alternative comedy fans, and that could be felt in the theater. Cross was correct to respond, when asked what his favorite accomplishment is, that it’s “Mr. Show,” and perhaps secondly, some of his better stand-up inspired by criticizing President Bush around 2003 through 2005.
Being hosted and interviewed by Cera points to the upcoming revival of “Arrested Development,” certainly another career highlight for Cross – but that’s one that comes more from the strength of the conception and writing of that show than Cross working alone. Still – especially in the quickness of his responses on stage -- this program reminded that David Cross is a singular, distinctive comic mind.
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