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Thursday, August 13, 2009

David Cross

I told you there'd be additions and subtractions to the comedy festival. Turns out the two Matts (Besser and Walsh) won't be able to make it afterall, which is a shame because they're great. And old friend David Cross will be making a return visit.

David Cross and I go way back. I've never interviewed him either over the phone or in person. And I've never met him (except once even before I was writing about comedy regularly I saw him at a Nashville Pussy show at Richard's on Richards and said hi). But I've been a fan ever since I saw him at Bumbershoot years and years ago. I think Patton Oswalt, Laura Kightlinger and Tenacious D were also on the bill. Can't remember who else.

So I've been a big fan. Then two years ago I had to do a festival round-up for the Straight. I took in tons of shows but I didn't have tons of space to go into much depth. But I gave a less-than-stellar review to Cross's stand-up. I wrote:
Probably the most famous name at the fest was David Cross, who gained mass appeal with his role as Tobias on Arrested Development, but his was a mixed bag. Doing standup, he's just an angry know-it-all who appears to hate his time on-stage almost as much as he hates his fans. Appearing last in the almost-three-hour Comedy Death Ray show, Cross insulted First Nations people and drug addicts before going on a seemingly endless–and humourless–rant about Mormonism, hemming and hawing his way through an ill-prepared set. But what a pleasure it was to watch him the next night in Match Game, where he smiled, laughed, and enjoyed himself, and in the SKETCH Show on September 22, also at the Cultch, where he was reunited with former Mr. Show partner Bob Odenkirk.
The thing about reviewing is you can only review the show you've seen, not the body of work. Re-reading my review above, I see that I shouldn't have used the present tense, because I don't think he's always an angry know-it-all. But I definitely thought he was for the two shows I saw him that year. That was my impression, at least, and I spoke to other comedy nerds who loved the guy but didn't at all like his festival sets. And, to be fair, I also spoke to others who did like his stand-up there. But I can only give my opinion when I review. I just try not to give cheap shots, say my piece, and move on. I also mentioned how much I enjoyed him during the Match Game and in his sketch show.

Well, Dave read my review and commented on it in his blog. Fair enough. Critics have to be able to take it just like they dish it out. I have no problem with that. To rebut my criticism, he wrote:
Hmmm, well, I don’t hate my fans, nor do I hate doing stand-up. I’m sorry if I gave (or give) that impression, but as I said, I genuinely like doing it. That’s why I flew to Vancouver for the shows. And I actually like it when people like my act. Not too surprising really. I certainly don’t do it for the money. 7 shows for a thousand bucks total is not very lucrative. I made more money middling at “The Laugher’s Den” in Made-Up-Town, New Hampshire. It’s true though; I did insult drug-users, specifically heroin addicts. So, sorry junkies. Also I did insult a “First Nationer”, or “drunk Indian” as I called her. It was after she stood up in her chair, and yelled out that she didn’t have a TV to a rhetorical question I asked. Then, I guessed that she was a drunk Indian, which it turns out was correct. She wasn’t insulted (at least not then – she waited for me after the show to drunkenly apologize in a drunk Indian way). I then talked about drunk Indians for a minute. I am not angry about drunk Indians at all by the way, I find them adorable.
That was his take and it's good he clarified that he does, indeed, like doing stand-up (or at least doesn't hate it) and likes (or at least doesn't hate) his fans, and he's sorry if he gave that impression. Good to know. Seriously. Who knows, he could have been having a shitty week or whatever. Hopefully if I get to review him this year, I'll be able to give him a better review. Because, as I said, I really do like him.

As for his recollection of the drunk Indian bit, I think his memory is selective. He did the same bit twice. There were two different shows. One at the Comedians of Comedy at the Cultch and the second one at the show where someone yelled out at the Commodore. So he wasn't just reacting to someone in the crowd.

Anyway, here's what I didn't like about his rebuttal:
Here, from the same article is an example of the kind of humor Guy enjoys:

"Former locals Irwin Barker and Darryl Lenox got me all nostalgic about the good old days when we could see these two pros just about any day of the week. Lenox talked about his girlfriend's hippie parents, who served him porridge for breakfast: "I didn't even know that shit was real." And Barker, who's suffering from cancer, is still writing gems: "I bought the book France for Dummies because I've always wanted to see Buckingham Palace."

Well, there you go.

I didn't like it for a couple of reasons. No doubt he's never seen Irwin Barker or Darryl Lenox, who are great comics and well-respected by their peers, so he doesn't need to slag them by way of me. Now, I know he didn't overtly slag them; he just said I enjoy that kind of humour and his is different and he didn't offer any opinion. But we can all read between the lines. He probably just thought they were lame examples of jokes I gave but he should know jokes don't always translate well to the page. Sure, I could have done a better job summing them up in one sentence each, but... uh... deadlines. That's my excuse.

But the other reason I didn't like it is because he's doing some nifty editing. In that same review, I led by saying Paul F. Tompkins (who Cross certainly does know and like) was the highlight of the festival for me, and that Jimmy Pardo (another Cross crony) was another highlight. So they were also examples of the kind of humour I enjoy. And I even mentioned enjoying Cross as Cross in Match Game and as characters in sketch. So to slough me off as a guy who just doesn't get his style of stand-up isn't really accurate.

Still with Cross, I was reading an interview with one of my favourites, Doug Stanhope, the other day. It seems Stanhope might have the same impression of Cross that I had back in 2007:
With Bill Maher, I agree with the majority of things he says, and I hate him. He just comes across as so cunty, and smarmy, that curled up sarcasm … and too many guys on that side of the fence do that. That David Cross kind of delivery of, “I’m smarter than you,” not “We’re smarter than them.”
I agree with that notion completely and have been saying it for years, that just because I agree with a comic politically or socially doesn't make me like their comedy. As I said, I do like David Cross, although I get what Doug's saying here. But I feel exactly that way about Bill Maher. Yes, I agree with almost all he says, but I don't find him funny. I used to, back when he was a young comic on The Tonight Show.

It's funny because for ever I've been saying that Doug Stanhope is a guy I disagree with 90 percent of the time, yet find him hilarious.


Little Jackie Showers said...

That's interesting, because I disagree with most of what you say and I find you most amusing. In fact when I do agree with you on things, you ain't funny at all.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that David thinks he's better than other people. To me the issue is that David Cross doesn't ever seem to like anything.

If Patton Oswalt put out a book you know there'd be 10 page long rants about how much he loves chicken strips or something random. I'm halfway through Cross' book and it comes off way more negative than it would if he were narrating it himself. And to me it really does stem so much from the fact that there's no open door to him and that he's really only talking about what drives him nuts.

I know a lot of people have that seem feeling about Seth Macfarlane apparently, that he's just angry and ragging on people that he hates on Family Guy, but Seth does actually show a lot of the time through his show(s) so much of the things that he does appreciate and enjoy.

I dont know if being "Nicer" would help David's comedy. I like him, but I don't feel I need to. It seems other people need to feel that David would respect you and like you in order to listen to him.

So all this psychoanalysis is a two way street. There are valid reasons to be disconnected to someone like Cross, but not everything you list off is necessarily a problem with his comedy.