you know him from the yo la tengo vid for “sugarcube,” mr. show, ghost world, men in blacks I & II, pootie tang, and tons of other junk. he’s out there doing the standup thing, representing for the tribe. he’s fuckin’ funny, all right? gail interviewed him at ‘the edge’ on a muggy september night in 2002.
chickfactor: here we are at the edge, waiting for bono.
david cross: yeah, oddly enough, though, we’re not waiting for the edge. that’s the surprising part.
cf: has a girl ever dumped you because of a joke?
david: uh, no, but I did say one thing to a girl that she took so much offense at it, and I really do think that was the beginning of the end though I think the end was inevitable. this was a long time ago, it was in my early 20s. it was here actually…
cf: at “the edge”?
david: no, I was staying at a friend’s apartment, and she was getting into bed, and just as a joke, clearly a joke, and you’d have to find the attitude behind it as you read this, but I looked at her and I went “nice bush.” she really didn’t think it was funny; she thought it was offensive, and it totally ruined the mood. I was kidding! I mean, I would never say that. other than that, no.
cf: you’ve never told a joke onstage, and used someone in your routine?
david: yes, I have, but not to the point where they dump me.
cf: did they yell at you?
david: hopefully they don’t know that it’s them, but sometimes they do. one girl in particular I said this joke that was inspired by her: you know it’s a really bad sign when you go out on a date and the girl goes, “wow, you are really opinionated. wow, you certainly have views on things.”
cf: like that’s a bad thing!
david: I know, but I felt inspired by her and used it.
cf: have you been threatened or beaten up after telling a joke?
david: never beaten up but threatened numerous times.
cf: james lipton?
david: no, I think that guy’s probably secretly so excited that somebody talked about him. that guy seems to have quite a fucking ego, but in that elitist new yorker reader type way, you know? yeah, I’ve been threatened a lot. I had somebody stand up in baton rouge, and do this [makes macho gestures].
cf: why? what did you say?
david: I don’t remember. this was a long time ago. again, I’ve had numerous…I had somebody throw a glass ashtray at me when I was onstage at stitches in boston.
cf: comedy clubs have such great names, don’t they?
david: they’re all so clever, and there’s no puns about them at all. mostly people get upset about the religious stuff and I will talk to them after the show. no, I really try to have a rational, intelligent discussion with them about what the joke is about, how I feel. I’ve had jews upset with me, calling me a self-loathing jew, that’s happened more than once. used to do a joke about eating the retarded–that was the logical conclusion I came to within the other joke…this is years ago when dolphin-safe tuna was around, and how lame that is: the only reason we don’t eat dolphins is because they’re cute. what did a tuna ever do, and what a weird double standard that is. oh no dolphins were harmed when we slaughtered this tuna, and somebody stood up–again, at some bad comedy club in boston–“we don’t not eat em cause they’re cute, we don’t not eat them cause they’re stupid, they’re not intelligent.” I was like, by that reasoning, we should be able to eat the retarded, and then people get all upset. nothing has ever resulted in somebody hitting me.
cf: have your parents ever given you a hard time about any material?
david: nah. I’m estranged from my dad, so that’s 50% out of the picture. my mom is I think just delighted that I’m doing this kind of thing.
cf: that you’re mr. hollywood guy?
david: not hollywood so much, I’m doing my own thing and successful at it on a relative scale, and I think she’s happy about that.
cf: do you really have a sister?
david: I have two sisters.
cf: the one you make jokes about…
david: absolutely. I brought her to see me…
cf: does she hate you for it?
david: gail, she, again, it’s like james lipton where she’s just like so excited, she loves the little spotlight. to be honest, though, I did take the edge off the jokes when she was there. there was some language I didn’t use, and some of the intonation of my…when I’m making fun of their television habits, I didn’t make it as forceful.
cf: it wasn’t as ugly.
david: it wasn’t as pointing at them like, “man, you’re fucked up.” she loved it. I brought her onstage at the chapel hill show. she and her husband drove in to see it. she couldn’t be more excited.
cf: you don’t seem the slightest bit southern to me. are you really from canada?
david: I’m from southern canada.
cf: why are so many comedians from canada?
david: have you been there? I think it’s conducive to making light of the situation. there are parts of canada I love, but there are also parts where I’m like, whoa, gosh, that is some backwoods stuff.
cf: you said you grew up in atlanta, but did you only live there for like a month or two?
david: well, gail, here’s the story. born in atlanta, moved 6 months later, lived 2 places in florida, couple places in connecticut, couple places in new york, and then moved back to georgia when I was 9, then lived there till I was 19.
cf: who is the ugliest person in rock?
david: man, I would say it’s the entirety of the rolling stones, like if you shmushed them all up and took a little bit of ron wood, a little bit of keith richards…the rolling stones are the ugliest person in rock. but I don’t know, there’s a lot.
cf: mick was quite a hottie in his day though.
david: he was. that’s the day. now we’re talking about right now. it’s getting a little silly.
cf: they could be fat, though, and they’re not…
david: that’s true. that’s the beauty of heroin.
cf: I didn’t watch axl on the video music awards, but…
david: I heard he was bloated, yeah. who else?
cf: what magazines do you read?
david: um, I mostly read online, I’m online a lot. I read articles that are compiled by buzzflash and alternet and places like that. I read adbusters, harper’s, the nation, I read these regularly.
cf: you get a lot of joke material from the nation?
david: I just read that to raise my blood pressure.
cf: did you peruse the redesigned rolling stone?
david: no, I never wanna read that fucking magazine. I don’t read that, I don’t read spin, I don’t read any of that shit.
cf: no matter how laddy it gets?
david: is the retooling noticeable?
cf: the vines are on the cover.
david: yeah, but the vines are a half step behind britney spears.
cf: are there any magazines you really hate?
david: um, yeah, most of them are really. every women’s magazine I’ve seen that is commercial or mainstream, but those are infuriating. most music magazines. I like Q.
cf: there’s no reason to read magazines anymore.
david: there isn’t. they’re all ads anyway. even the articles are advertisements, thinly veiled. I like a lot of the shit that I can pick up, like chickfactor, stay free, it’s a kin to a lot of stuff I read on the internet. tv guide is good.
cf: which member of yo la tengo is the sexiest?
david: gotta be james. if for no other reason than that georgia and ira are a couple. but even if it wasn’t, it’s just james. his quiet, strong stoicism. his all-knowing wise-old-sage quality. the twinkling smiling eyes.
cf: who was the most difficult on the set when you made a video with them (for “sugarcube”)?
david: yeah, well, georgia pulled a real star trip. it was embarrassing for a lot of people. she demanded that everything be an inch bigger of hers than everybody else’s, and it was difficult because she even wanted inches to be bigger and that was almost impossible cause we had to go out, get new yardsticks, new measuring tapes, and it was called “the hubley method.” she was very demanding. she had to have special creams flown in from south africa that she uses on her face. she had to be attended to–she has a huge fucking posse. she has like 10 huge black guys that are surrounding her, and it’s really difficult to talk to her cause you have to go through the posse. it’s weird, cause ira is so the opposite. he humors her, but yeah, she’s on a huge star trip. she had winston diamonds that she had to wear all the time.
cf: what’s the meanest heckle someone has yelled at you?
david: it took place in the country or the city where I had one of the worst and one of the best shows of my life, within 24 hours of each other. in camdentown in england, I was doing this little tiny weird open-mike night in the basement below a bakery. I wasn’t doing very well, and there were two girls who were laughing hysterically, we’re in a very–the ceiling was like 7 feet tall, it was like a cement bunker, damp and dark and strange and I loved having that experience. nobody liked me but the two girls laughing, who I later became friends with. I said, “I guess I better get going, but before I do I have one more joke.” and the woman who was hosting was sitting in front of me with her arms folded, and she said “no no no no, get off please!” I’m used to people saying “get off!” as a jokey, anonymous thing that you can yell from a table, you don’t take it that personally. but she was right in front of me, and her tone was not like “hey, I’m going to make my friends laugh by yelling at this guy.” she was looking right at me, and was very disturbed and upset by the fact that I was going to tell one more joke. it really hurt her. it was really…not something she wanted to deal with. she introduced me by–you know me well enough to know I would never introduce myself this way: she asked me what I wanted her to say, and I said “I’m here from america, just doing a show, something like that.” she introed me with: “the next comedian is from the states and assures me that he’s a big superstar over there.” I was like, “what? I never said that! I never said that!”
cf: what heckle have you yelled at someone you are most proud of?
david: I don’t know about heckling so much but there was one guy–it’s so mean but it was funny. there’s a guy who was a comic in boston who was not good at all. one of those people we refer to as a career open-miker, where they never got any work and they really sweated it out for years and years and years and never got the hint. it’s fine that they enjoy doing it but they would eat it every time. they’d have a couple chuckles in the beginning, and people would get tired of them and they’d get one spot every 6 weeks and do that and never get work. so there was this guy, and there was a bunch of us at the bar, and we kept yelling out the punchlines of his jokes before he’d get to them. he got really upset and started to cry onstage. then we felt shitty about it but still… it was bad. it was very effective and fun for us until he started crying.
cf: are you gonna be in men in black 3 or what?
david: um. you know what? that guy, the director, likes me so…there won’t be a men in black 3. please, god, don’t let there be a men in black 3.
cf: come on, the paycheck must be pretty sweet.
david: I got $20 grand for two days work.
cf: you’re my idol.
david: I’m also my agent, manager, business manager, and lawyer’s idol too. they’re all very excited I got that too. that’s the big unknown is how little you take home.
cf: what is most irksome about east village life?
david: well, I don’t intend hubris with this answer, but it’s a reality which is: the place that I always love coming to in new york, the east village, is now my home, which I’m very happy about. I’ve been here for a year and a half now. it’s something I never thought about, but if I’m walking home from the grocery store and I’ve got my shit, it tends to get a little touristy sometimes, and I’m going home, but I have to deal with “dude! you’re the fucking dude from the thing! dude! hey, cindy! get over here! what’s his name?” but instead of dealing with that away from my home, now I’m like, I guess that’s annoying. it’s really nothing to do with the east village itself, but just the fact that I live here, and I love it here, but it’s not really yours in a way.
cf: when people get who you are wrong, who do they think you are?
david: invariably most of the time. here’s the best one, ready? two weeks ago, I was flying and going through security, they have those new security guard factions out there, and waiting in line to put my bag on the belt. this guy goes “how ya doing? whassup? how’s your career?” I’m like, good, thanks. then he asked me a couple more vague questions like that, and I guess I wasn’t answering his questions satisfactorily, and he said “you’re billy bob thornton, right?” I laughed out loud. I was like, “no, no, I’m not billy bob thornton.” he’s like, ‘come on, yeah you are. how’s angelina?” I was like, yeah, all right, I’m billy bob thornton. I let him think I was. I went to this party last week, and this girl goes “oh my god, tell me every movie you’ve been in!” I quote. I’m like, “you want me to sit here, you’re a stranger, there’s a billion people here, and I’m supposed to tell you every movie I’ve been in?” the lack of sensitivity people have is really astounding sometimes. people grab me, “who are you?!” the worst question, which I just dealt with in a column for vice magazine is: “are you famous?” that is the most infuriating question I’ve gotten, and I’ve gotten it quite a bit. “am I famous?” and if I answer, think about it, gail.
cf: what comedian should retire?
david: heh. so many, so very many. let’s confine it to people who are actively doing stand-up, I would say, it’s an obvious choice but it’s time for gallagher….
cf: that is too easy. next you’ll say carrot top.
david: oh! nobody will know who he is but bobby collins. I’m trying to think of these vegasy comics who are floundering and getting sadder and not really doing anything getting pathetic.
cf: who is funnier: amy sedaris or sarah silverman?
david: oh, that’s, you can’t qualify like that. one is a comic actress who writes in prose and the other is a….
cf: apples and oranges?
david: yeah, but trust me, I do not have an opinion that one is funnier than the other. I think they’re both–it’s like saying, “who’s funnier: albert brooks or stephen wright?” they’re both hilarious and clever. they’re both phenomenally talented. can’t do it.
cf: what is the dorkiest thing about comedy club circuit?
david: I think you hit on it. it’s the names of the clubs, the names of the drinks, the snack food.
cf: why does it have to be such a cheesefest?
david: they think they’re funny! a lot of people who aren’t funny think they’re clever and funny.
cf: I haven’t been to that many mainstream comedy clubs, but do they always shove you in with too many people so you can’t get out and you have to eat fried mozzarella and other smelly snacks?
david: yes! yes! that’s everything.
cf: what is so bad about your movie run ronnie run that you don’t want your fans to see it?
david: wait, gail, that’s not fair. we don’t have anything to do with the release of that. we don’t own it, we have no say in it. we’re so exhausted about it at this point about the fight we’ve had with new line and the relegation of our status from creative…in a nut shell, I don’t know. I don’t know what they’re doing with it. they don’t answer my phone calls, never did. not interested in the movie, clearly. we screened it at a few festivals, but they’re not interested in marketing it. I’m just an actor, to them.
cf: who is more satanic: rosie or oprah?
david: god, they’re both so satanic!
cf: who would you rather guest host for?
david: well, if it came down to guest hosting, the bigger disaster would be oprah cause I would insult those people more than I would insult rosie o’donnell audience who are predisposed to having a loud, dumb, self-interested, self-promoting, obnoxious woman with a terrible sense of humor…her fucking magazine, jesus christ. everything she’s done is in oprah’s shadow and it’s kind of gross and sad in a way; everything is a step behind and a step later than oprah’s career. I don’t watch either show. I don’t care about dr. phil or any of that. I have no connection at all. I don’t care.
cf: can you give us some gossip about lance bangs?
david: huge cock. dirty dirty dirty dirty! I don’t have any stories but…you know what that motherfucker did though? I had this great videotape that andy richter had given me…
cf: there you go namedropping again…
david: …of this guy who taught this self-defense class, he made this little tape of himself, really funny. lance was staying at my house and taped over it with fucking bands on the run. I will say that lance is not the best smelling person. it’s a well-known fact, I’ve discussed it with his wife, I’ve been in the online chat rooms dedicated to that subject. he was touring with us, he documented the last tour I did, so he was with us quite a bit, and he has the only shoes I’ve ever seen that actually fart. they’re the only shoes that have a gastrointestinal system and fart, it’s pretty amazing.
cf: what are you addicted to?
david: a combination of peanuts, online porn, and crystal meth. that’s the cocktail I usually have going. I guess now that I’ve been in new york, it’s socializing. getting out of my hibernation period I had in l.a., I enjoy going out. in a really corny way I’m addicted to new york. I really miss it when I go somewhere else–even a great place. in a way, it sounds silly, but I’m kind of addicted to the city.
cf: do you miss l.a.?
david: not at all. I miss my friends. I miss driving. other than that, I miss absolutely nothing. zip. there’s nothing I miss. the bars are shittier, the food is shittier, the people are shittier, the weather is shittier, the scenery is shittier, everything.
cf: who is your comedy nemesis?
david: she doesn’t know it but it’s kathy griffin. it’s really fun to do shows with kathy because she’ll go up and I can go there with nothing prepared and take notes based on her stuff, in a friendly way. I don’t mean to imply we’re actually adversaries. I can contradict her stuff, and vice versa.
cf: who is the biggest ass in hollywood?
david: jim belushi. he’s just an arrogant, mean, marginally talented person. shortly behind him is whoopi goldberg. I’m also floored by her phenomenally obvious lack of talent. again, it’s one of those things where I’m amazed at how clearly unfunny she is.
cf: have you ever noticed another comic copping your shtick?
david: no, especially with what my standup has evolved into in the past few years, personal anecdotes, storytelling, opinions, as opposed to jokes. it’s copy-proof.
cf: what are you gonna do on sept 11?
david: fucking ignore all that shit. it will just make me angry.
cf: have you heard any jokes about sept 11?
david: you know what? I haven’t. I have never thought about it until you just said it. that must be the first time in my life there’s been a tragedy…even with the challenger there were jokes within 72 hours, and lady di, not that I give a fuck about her. yeah, this is the first one. I have not heard one joke.
cf: if there were a drink called “the david cross,” what would be in it?
david: beer, more beer, shot of tequila, a little bit of speed. then you’d know what a typical night is, what it’s like to be in my company: drunk, hyper.
cf: who do you love: moby or eminem?
david: [laughs] I love imagining their offspring.
cf: they are so in love.
david: I can’t wait till they put down the gloves and start fucking, you guys. enough’s enough. I wanna see the baby.
cf: eew. imagine the music out of that child. who’d you have to sleep with to be in ghost world?
david: um, my mom, obviously. it was uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why it was necessary. I didn’t understand why it needed to be videotaped, but that’s what they said. and she’s been dead for two years, so it was even worse. they called me up. I’d known dan clowes, I’m a huge fan of his work. no one was particularly friendly on the set. it was one of those things where I just came in, I had a very early call, I got there, did a scene, they broke for lunch, I went to sleep, woke up, did another angle, then they were like “thanks a lot.” went home, went to sleep, woke up and it was like the whole thing had never happened.
cf: are you an enid or a rebecca kinda guy?
david: enid. absolutely. without a doubt. without any hesitation. I was stunned when I first saw thora birch in her outfit, she looked like a cross between…it was like janeane garofalo and mary lynn rajskub had a baby, I was like holy fuck! those are two of my favorite people, and I was like that’s wild.
cf: what’s your sign?
david: aries. why?
cf: I don’t know. I thought you might have something to say about astrology.
david: I’m a deep believer in astrology, very deep. it’s odd cause I don’t believe in god, I don’t believe in organized religion, obviously at all, I don’t believe in anything new agey, but the one thing I do believe in is astrology.
cf: now that you are on dvd, what is there left to hope for? what can you aspire to?
david: palm pilots. I haven’t been on a palm pilot yet. how bout that? dick tracy watches where you get to see the other person.
cf: what do your fans look like?
david: you and me.
cf: do you get any good fan gifts?
david: yeah, a lot of drugs, I got a buncha dilaudid in washington, d.c. I’ve gotten very flattering yet disturbing pictures of myself from people, but mostly the coolest stuff is when people give me hard-to-find videos, compilation tapes, demo tapes.
cf: do you have any particularly creepy fans?
david: yes, yes I do! I’ve had a couple of those that are, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they do make me self-conscious. there are a couple people I’ve run into that know way too much, and have access to way too much information.
cf: who’s your favorite kid in the hall?
david: as a person, dave foley. I like scott as a person too. when he gets angry, he gets very acerbic.
cf: absolutely fabulous or french & saunders?
david: oh, french & saunders. I hate absolutely fabulous, I hate that over-the-top campy shit. I hate camp and obviousness.
cf: who do you have a crush on?
david: mostly girl singer-songwriters or musicians.
cf: lisa loeb?
david: and jewel and michelle branch.
cf: what is the biggest flop joke you’ve ever told?
david: heh heh. I’ve had a number of experiences where–not so much onstage–I’ve said something that was supposed to be funny, not only did it not go over but it was embarrassing and shocking and I felt ridiculous. I could give you so many examples of making myself the center of attention, and getting everyone’s attention and then saying the dumb thing.
cf: doesn’t everyone do that?
david: well, yeah. things that were taken the wrong way. the worst is when you unintentionally hurt a friends’ feelings. I’ve done that a couple times. I feel like a total asshole, I have to leave a party and go home.
cf: what do you wish was going on in new york that isn’t?
david: the impeachment of george w. bush.
cf: what should we do? go stand in union square with placards?
david: I honestly do not believe he will be in for a second term. the people who voted against him, which were the majority of americans, didn’t evaporate overnight. they still don’t like him. I don’t believe in those polls anyway.
cf: what embarrasses you about being an american?
david: man, I could talk all night about that. here’s a good example that allows me to answer your question without going into a myriad of things that embarrass me: after sept 11, the nation, media, individuals, everyone was asking why? more in a self-pitying way: “how could they do this to us? why? what did we do?” then, when the answers came, they refused to listen. if they didn’t like what they heard, they altered it, they skewed it. they had the presumption and gall to believe that god had anything to do with this. “god bless the usa.” that phrase makes my fucking skin crawl. that’s what embarrasses me most about being an american is to watch that kind of behavior, that “why me? what did we do?” cloaking yourself in ignorance, and that combined with jingoism is really scary and pathetic and it makes me angry and upset and sad. CF