Tuesday, May 6, 2008

David Cross Interview

The Believer, May 2008

Quick note on the text: this was one part of a two-part interview. I interviewed Cross from the point of view of someone who hated him. Another writer interviewed him as a fan.

I have complicated and conflicting feelings about David Cross’s work, which is appropriate, as he’s a complicated, difficult performer. As I told him when we met, I think he’s talented. He has a nimble mind, great timing, and a knack for absurd humor. However, his performances often seem driven by an anger and smugness that overpower his appeal, particularly in his stand-up. I was managing editor of New York Press when he released his second CD, It’s Not Funny, which was the prime reason for his inclusion on the paper’s “50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers” list. We called him “meandering” and “not funny,” and wished that Andrew Dice Clay would inflict bodily harm upon him. Even though some on the staff, including me, were inclined to agree with his liberal anger, we thought Cross’s tone was alienating and shrill.

In addition, Cross has waged public crusades against seeming straw men like Creed’s Scott Stapp, Jim Belushi, and Larry the Cable Guy. I’ve always been confounded by the attention Cross paid them.

I chatted with Cross in late 2007 at his East Village apartment. He was extremely self-aware, willing to speak frankly about awkward subjects with admirable candor and introspection. Honestly, I came away liking him a lot. Also, he had embroidered towels in his bathroom. One read DAVID’S. The other read ALSO DAVID’S. I’m not sure what conclusions should be drawn from that, but it’s the kind of detail that as a reporter I would feel remiss if I kept to myself.

HATER: I understand that you were angry, and [your 2000-2001 stand-up act] was a free-flowing of expression. And, I feel like a dick for saying it, but did you forget to write punch lines?

What I’d say to that is that I’ve never written jokes. I mean, I’ll write things on a piece of paper and riff on them onstage. What I don’t think is fair, and what I think you’re implying, is that there’s nothing funny in it. That’s fine, that’s your opinion.

HTR: I’m not saying it’s not funny. I’m saying that it’s undernuanced at times. It could be more clever or well-constructed.

DC: Yeah, probably. You can continue to craft it and hone it. But that, for better or worse, is not what I do. It might read funnier, definitely, but it would feel false. I think I could have a funnier, more economic set. But that’s the comedy I do. And I understand if people aren’t interested in it and would rather listen to someone else. But I’ll never understand the anger people have toward me. And here is the rest of it.

For the rest of the interview, go buy the magazine. It's on sale at a bookstore near you!