Taking Aim with David Cross (Relix Revisited)
With the return of David Cross’s series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (airing on Friday nights at 10:30 on IFC), we revisit this Parting Shots feature from August 2007.
Photo by Ali Smith
Oh, to be David Cross. As a stand-up he eviscerates politicians, musicians and life’s common tribulations with equal acuity. As an actor—his most recent television role being that of inimitable and bumbling Tobias Fükke on the now-canceled Arrested Development —he captures a certain embarrassing humanity to his characters while also slaying with ruthless sarcasm (see his work with cohort Bob Odenkirk on Mr. Show and early Tenacious D episodes). And he’s got cool musician friends like Tool and Modest Mouse. We caught up with Cross at a dog park in New York City shortly before he ventured off to Bonnaroo.
In 2004 you expressed some interest in running for public office of some sort.
It would be an interesting thing to do; I wouldn’t do it out of a sense of obligation to the people, but I think I would be fairly effective. Who knows? I’m just saying it’s an entertaining idea to entertain. And by entertain I mean like formally with four other couples at dinner, with some nice wine and something light, like grilled asparagus.
Has there ever been material that you’ve worked up for your show and said “Maybe too much or too soon.”
Sometimes I do stuff that is really insensitive and mean to a specific person I know and that’s not cool I guess. But right after Lady Di died, I did this TV taping in San Francisco, I don’t even know what the rest of the bit was, but I said something like, “Lady Di’s death affected me in exactly the same way her life did: in no way whatsoever.” It was probably like five days after her death, and I was very cynical, like with Anna Nicole Smith, but that was obviously an extreme, of the outpouring of emotion. Like “Whatever, who gives a shit. Why?” The people who should give a shit are the people who had some sort of direct correlation with her or were touched by her.
You went to 11 Grateful Dead shows.
I have no real specific interesting memories of the shows themselves, it’s all the stuff that surrounded it and the people you meet and the places you’d find yourself in as you’re coming down from acid or whatever. It was never about the show, ever. I didn’t even sit around and listen that much. I would go exploring and you meet people after the shows and you get high with a guy named Wolf and whatever.
And sell stuff, right?
I was working at a very small jewelry factory where they made their own jewelry and they had all these crystals—back when crystals were big. This was in Venice, California. I would go to shows and sell these crystals or just trade them, because I didn’t give a shit about them. It was all stuff that over the weeks and months I had just sort of pocketed and taken home and got a glue gun and made them. I was just having a good time and living hand-to-mouth from wherever I could get my next beer, joint or acid. It was fun. I did that for a couple of years, really.
You described the String Cheese Incident as possibly the shittiest band on earth from a performance years ago in Austin.
Did I? (laughs) And you know, I’ve never heard them. I have honestly never heard. I’m sure they’re okay.
String Cheese is actually breaking up.
I actually know that. They’re breaking up because of what I said in Austin. And I feel bad about it, but I also feel like maybe my work here is done. I’m sure they’re very nice guys and from what I understand, they have a really good sense of humor about it, so that’s good.
You did some musical skits earlier on in your career. At some point did you ever have the “I want to be a musician” vision?
No, it would just be embarrassing. I’d love to know how to play music, which I don’t, but I’m afraid it would just be a little corny.
You dropped out of Emerson. Did you ever go back to school?
No. I dropped out because of money, financial reasons. I went part time, then I went full time, failed a class, and then I went part time again and got an incomplete. I was just like “This is ridiculous.”
No honorary degrees?
No, no honorary degrees. I may get an honorary GED from the Tuskegee Institute, but that’s about it.
Do you really have a tattoo of a “Max Fleisher-esque smiling pig standing upright and serving his own ribs straight from his open chest with a pool of blood and entrails by his feet with a kosher K in a yellow star on his shoulder.”
Yeah, it’s right here [lifts up right-sleeve]. He’s kosher. It doesn’t make any sense.
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