David Cross Doesn’t Like You

imageEvery comic hears his biological career-clock ticking, and while comedian David Cross is only in his early 40s, he tells me that he’s past his prime for “these types of interviews.” Really, his prospects are only improving — devoted fans will surely line up for his first book, I Drink for a Reason, on shelves in August. And let’s not forget his upcoming role in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squekuel, which Cross is apparently less than enthusiastic about. “There is nothing in my contract that says I can’t show up to work stinking drunk every day though, so I’ll have the last laugh”, he told Gothamist. Fellow comic Artie Lange once said, “David Cross plays a gay guy and it just doesn’t work. And his stand-up is self-indulgent, awful, boring and he treats an audience like shit. … There’s moments of brilliance. Don’t get me wrong. … He comes off like an uptight prick.”

When I ask Lange about Cross now, he says, “I’m sorry you had to deal with that guy. He is a pretentious and boring guy, that’s all he’s got — his self-indulgent act, and expects everyone to pity him, but it’s ridiculous — he is making money! He’s a fucking loser, fag, and a fake intellectual. Bob Odenkirk was funny, never Cross, on Mr. Show.”

Before Cross was offered his rebound stint in the Chipmunk series, he had been unemployed for nearly six months, and this recent, reliable “chunk” reportedly went towards a down payment on a house he purchased in upstate New York. I first met Cross three years ago at a barbecue hosted by former Vice magazine editor Gavin McInnes . At the time, Cross was writing a column for the magazine titled “My America” (which I loved), while also still doing stand-up comedy. He had a following, and thus was not fazed when my aspiring-actress friend, who I invited to the party, had (gasp) no idea who he was. She had just moved to New York from a small hillbilly town in Tennessee, hoping that by moving to the big city, she’d get her big break. She visibly lit up when one of the attendees leaned in and said of Cross, “He’s a well-known actor.” With her southern belle charm, she introduced herself to Cross and used the line, “Have I seen you at an audition before?”

She was referring to an audition for a hair product commercial, her first “real” gig, the week prior to the party. Since at the time Cross wouldn’t stoop to wait in line for a commercial — or the chance to join the Chipmunk legacy — he walked away, immediately. My friend couldn’t bear to stay at the party; she later got depressed, became an alcoholic stripper, and finally gave up on her acting career and moved back to Tennessee a few months later.

Cross has emerged from indie fame, and he should be proud. Kiddie movie aside, he’ll soon be a published author — no small feat, these days. He started writing I Drink for a Reason three years ago, originally as a collection of short fiction. But after about a year of struggling, Cross “scrapped all but two pieces and re-approached it to make it more ‘essayish.’” His lenient publisher gave him an extension, and he was able to finish the manuscript in a year’s time. Cross says he relates to one of his characters’ penchant for being dismissive and sarcastic — in other words, “Never giving a straight answer.” Cross’ publisher wisely didn’t push for his book to become a memoir.

Writing a book is a lot different for Cross than writing stand-up, though. “I don’t write any of my stand-up. I’ll think of an idea and then talk about it on stage riffing as I go (at first). Then I’ll tape the set and pick out the parts that are funny, or at least not redundant, and then try to hone it over several sets, then voila — I’ve got a new ‘chunk’.” Given the book’s title, what are the author’s drinking habits like? Are comedians really as prone to ending up as drunks and/or junkies as the popular conception seems to indicate? “That’s kind of an old stereotype. Unless, wait, are you talking about Garrison Keillor? Otherwise it’s all an act. The last bar I visited in New York was 2A (one of the only dive bars left), and for the record, here’s the Cross cocktail recipe: one part shot of tequila, two parts pint of beer.”

Though Cross still lives in New York, he advises young comedians to avoid the city until disaster strikes. “Don’t move to New York until at least three months after 9/11. You’ll get a much better deal on rent then.” If you happen to catch him on stage, he’s got a fair policy for audience members offended by his politics. “I usually thank them and give them five bucks. It’s the least I can do, since I’ve earned way more money than I should have due to the huge tax cut someone in my bracket gets now at the expense of their much smaller tax cut that was the reason they voted for (if they disagree with my views) Republicans in the first place. It’s my way of saying, ‘thanks, idiot.'” What’s funny about Barack Obama? “He’s black!” How about recession jokes? “Only if they [comedians] are rich Jews. Otherwise it appears unseemly.” Cross isn’t offering any refunds for moviegoers disappointed with the Chipmunks sequel, but you might have better luck if his book fails to live up to expectations. Here’s hoping.
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