You’ve seen David Cross on Arrested Development and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you’ve heard him voice Crane on Kung Fu Panda, and you’ve probably come across one of his comedy albums. Now, the standup comic, actor, director, and writer is coming to Ottawa on July 26 at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. He is currently on his “Oh Come On” 2018 World Tour and was nice enough to take some time to talk to Apt613.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: You’re currently in the middle of your “Oh Come On” world tour. How is it so far and do you find any time to see the sights when in town?
David Cross: It totally depends on the schedule and the distance between cities, but there have been a handful of places. I was in Calgary (Alberta, Canada) for two days, I was in Fargo (North Dakota, US) for two days… so it’s really about the travel schedule. But any place where I’ve got time, the first thing I try to do is tour the town. Now I have a kid with me so I always look for the park and find out where the swimming pool is. We try to have leisurely time.
How is it touring with your kid?
Ah well, it’s “thank you very much”… (my daughter) just handed me a rock. “Thank you. That’s a real Minnesota rock, I’ll take it!” My wife is also here for most of the run so between us, she’s taken care of.
Do you find it’s not as lonely being on tour with your family?
Well, it staves off depression. You never know when it’s gonna come, but when you do this type of tour, there’s days where it just gets depressing and lonely and, you know, you come out of it eventually. But it does happen two or three times on tour. But having these guys completely staves that off.
What about your own childhood? What was it like growing up in Roswell, Georgia?
I lived in so many different places, but I settled down there. It was a small town, like it was a big deal to go into Atlanta (Georgia). I remember in one of my yearbooks, the senior (students) were quoted (when) asked what was your most memorable time. And one of the guys wrote: “that time we went into Atlanta to see Lynyrd Skynyrd.” You just realize, wow you’ve only really been to the city like six times since you were born and it’s not too far down. It’s such a strange concept.
What was it like performing standup for the first time, when you were 17?
It was a place called The Punch Line, in Sandy Springs, which is in between Roswell and Atlanta, in a suburb of Atlanta. And it was the week before my 18th birthday. I then went to Boston and did comedy at the Comedy Spot. And for like a year and a half I would travel between the two (places). Eventually I started getting work for like 300 bucks to be the opener for someone in Charleston (North Carolina) or Augusta (Georgia) and I would go do that. Then I moved to Boston when I was 19 and really dove in head first into standup.
What made you want to start doing standup in the first place?
It was a combination of always liking comedy and liking standup comedy. I don’t remember being a kid and (thinking): “ I want to be a standup comic.” But eventually you end up being friends with people with similar ideas and tastes and I remember going with a couple of older people to open mic nights. I went a few times, like three or four times before I went up and having a distinct feeling of watching people go up and get laughs and going: “well, I think I could do better than that.” But I never had an ephiany of wanting to be a standup comic.
You’ve done so many other things like sketch comedy, voice overs, and acting. How did you get involved in all of those things?
Standup was the first thing I was doing and got paid to do, but even early on in my standup, there was always a little performance or character work. I was 18 and didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but there was an element of it at the beginning. My standup led into a sketch group in Boston, that work led into me writing for the Ben Stiller Show, so in that sense it was kind of organic.
Many people know you as a comedic actor through shows like Arrested Development and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, yet you have been doing stand up for far longer. What drives you to continually do your politically charged material, especially at a time when the American president seems to be so at odds with any public criticism and online backlash seems to be just a tweet or online post away?
Well, I’ll answer that in two parts. I am a comic that talks about politics, but I’m not a political comic by any stretch. If you go back and look at any of my sets, like this current set, it has the same kind of content. It has a third of jokes that I try to do with anything, they’re just jokes irregardless of what your politics are, just enjoy them. Then (another) third of the (comedy) set is anecdotal: “I saw this guy, he said this thing… and so on.” And a third of (the set) is kind of political, topical, or religious, or something like that. So I don’t consider myself a political comic.
The second part is… of all the thing I do, it requires other people in some capacity. Like I can’t create a TV show out of nowhere, I can’t make a movie on my own. It needs financing, it has to be distributed. (As for) standup, I put a set together, I go to you, I go to your town, I get myself there, I get myself on my stage, I just do the standup, and it’s just me. All it requires is me. That and combined with the fact that I truly love it. I mean, it’s the most irreplaceable of all those things. I mean I can live happily if I never created another TV show, but if somebody said you can never do standup again, that would be a life I don’t necessarily wanna lead, you know?! I love it. I truly enjoy it. I enjoy doing the shows. I enjoy going all around the (US) and North America and just doing my set. It’s fun.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your show in Ottawa.
Thanks, me too man. I had a really fun set there last time. Toronto and Ottawa were amazing on my last tour.
You can catch David Cross in Ottawa on July 26 at Algonquin Commons Theatre. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm. Tickets are available from $40 and can be purchased online.