David Cross on Mr. Show, Making America Great Again, and the Lure of Tobias Fünke
David Cross stops in Phoenix on his giant comedy tour
David Cross is a man of many characters. From Arrested Development’s quirky Tobias Fünke, who suffered from a “never nude” condition that spurred him to be clad in cut-offs 24/7, to the redneck Ronnie Dobbs, introduced to the world on the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show, Cross' knack for embracing and emphasizing the most unusual and often uncomfortable of human foibles makes him mesmerizing to watch. Stand-up comedy is a huge component of his prolific career, and it's another arena where he doesn’t hold back, tackling social and political issues with a hilarious and razor-sharp wit. On Friday, May 6, he’s performing in Chandler (following a show in Tucson the night before) as part of his multi-city Making America Great Again!! tour. He's ready to slice and dice, and if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care.
You are in the midst of a mammoth tour. How is it going so far?
It’s great. Even when, on occasion, it’s had a couple of not-so-great moments, it’s still a valuable experience to have. I don’t know that I’d ever do it again this extensively, though.
This is the longest tour of your career?
Yeah, I’ve never done anything remotely this extensive. It is something like 109 shows, internationally. When I’m done in America, it’ll have been something like 85 towns. It’s a half-year-long tour.
You seem to always have a slew of projects in the works. That’s had to affect your touring schedule.
You’re right, I don’t normally get to do things like this because I’ve got so many projects going on, but there was a point that one of my projects got postponed and simultaneously I found out that I had to have a major shoulder surgery. The operation made me physically unable to do a lot of work, and there was an extensive recovery period that had kept me in one place, so with those two things happening at once, I figured I might as well try to put this tour together and then get on the road as soon as possible ... Even when I’m not on the road, I still do stand-up at a few places, so I went through all the material I’d been collecting over the last five years and put this show together.
Your tour’s tagline is Making America Great Again!! — same as Donald Trump. You’re clearly doing the better job with that. What made you decide on that tour header?
The tagline came from being pressured by the booking agent to come up with a title for the show. As I understand, it’s much easier to market that way. I hated everything that I kept coming up with – it was either too pretentious or too silly. At one point the agent called and told me he needed the tagline by the end of that day. To the best of my memory, I think I was watching CNN and Trump was on so I said, “Let’s call it Making America Great Again!!”
Certainly, you do give some time to skewering, or discussing, the Donald in the show, yes?
I do, but it’s really only about eight minutes of the show, which runs about an hour and 15 minutes long.
Do you think using the tagline has brought any Trump supporters to your show who have no clue about who you are and what you do?
Well, I have had walkouts at every single show, except for maybe two, so far. I don’t think it’s just about Trump though, why people are walking out, he’s not the sole reason. It sort of starts there. I’m usually about 30 minutes into the set before I mention anything topical or political and then I easily stay in that arena for a good half hour. I suppose it’s pretty offensive to people who don’t want to hear me making fun of their beliefs.
Does it affect you at all when people get up and leave during the show?
Not at all. That’s been happening since I’ve been doing stand-up, or really since I found my voice. I have had people walk out on me all throughout my career. I’m pretty nonplussed by it. It’s not a point of pride, nor am I upset by it.
You’re not curled up in a ball crying at the end of the night over the tiny percentage of attendees who just couldn’t take it?
(Laughs) No. Not at all. Once I get into political and topical issues, there’s a chance it will offend someone’s personal beliefs, be it the gun control stuff, the Trump stuff, religion … If it does happen, I usually address it, especially if they’re vocal about it. Mostly, about 99.9 percent of the audiences are fans who are familiar with my work.
Your characters are legendary. Do people always want you to recreate those roles live?
Moreso people like to shout out characters I do that they’re a fan of — and it’s an odd thing. I’m not always sure how to respond to it. I don’t think anyone expects that I’ll do a 10-minute-monologue in that character’s voice.
Mr. Show and Arrested Development are so beloved; it seems like they have eternal life. What’s going on with both of those programs?
Bob [Odenkirk] and I definitely want to do more with Mr. Show, absolutely. And with Arrested, it’s the same thing it always is – everyone wants to do it and is psyched to do it. It’s just a matter of making it all happen with the back end stuff and with everyone’s schedules. It’s so much fun. The writing is strong and Tobias is such a fun character. It’s a treat.
Do you have one favorite character that you love to do over all others?
I love Tobias, and Todd Margaret, and Ronnie Dobbs. They’re all quite different but really fun to play.
Back in the mid-2000s, you and H. Jon Benjamin [who voices Archer's main character and Bob Belcher from Bob’s Burgers] created the animated series Freak Show which was really funny. It had a short-lived run on Comedy Central. Do you think you would do another cartoon in the future?
I would love to. I love working with Jon Benjamin. I think Freak Show had some inherent problems. I think because it was animated, we could have packed in even more jokes. Also, I didn’t like the way it was animated – it wasn’t always easy to look at. I think it was marketed wrong, which might have also turned a lot of people off. Had we been able to continue, I think we would have found our footing. I would definitely do an animated series again if an idea occurred to me. Right now, though, I don’t have any ideas for something like that.
What else, David Cross? What else do you want people to know? And what are you up to next?
Well, you might have heard, I’m on a massive stand-up comedy tour of America and Europe and I’d love people to check it out, particularly in the Phoenix region of the United States. We’ll see what I get up to when this is over. I’m doing this until August and then I’m gonna take a month off; my wife insists on it. We have a house upstate, so I’ll probably spend some time there. And then I’ll take on some new projects.
David Cross performs at Wild Horse Pass' Ovations Live Showroom in Chandler at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 6. Admission is $42 to $82. Call 800-946-4452 or visit www.wingilariver.com.
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