Being David Cross should mean never having to say he’s sorry. His black-comedy stand-up albums such as 2016’s Making America Great Again are keen, weird observations of a world at war with itself. His inventive work as HBO’s Mr. Show sketch comedy team with Bob Odenkirk is audacious. And his acting job as the repressed Tobias Fünke in Arrested Development is a minor miracle. Yet, in anticipation of his Saturday date at the Fillmore for his Oh Come On tour, the caustic stand-up comedian, actor, and author knows there are issues he’s had to answer for: Last year, actress Charlyne Yi called Cross out via Twitter for mocking her with a faux-Asian accent, or his siding with Arrested Development costar Jeffrey Tambor, who was accused of sexual misconduct. But Cross says he and his comedy are evolving, and he’s not the same guy who got hammered before shows, and he knows when it’s time to apologize.
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How, within the culture of all things Trump, do you make the newer material inventive?
In a professional capacity – and I address this onstage – you can’t make fun of Trump because every outrageous, incompetent statement, gesture, and lie is replaced within an hour by something else ridiculous and awful. There isn’t any permanence.
Any joke is out of date before day’s end.
Yeah. It is so short-term that it’s best left to the nightly talk or news shows. For me, it’s more about his fans and what got us here. On a personal level, I don’t find anything funny about him or what he does. It is upsetting at best, and scary and disturbing at worse.
Considering what we just said about finding your way through Trump – and you need no permission to do what you do…
See, actually I do need that permission, but luckily I consult the Elders of Zion on a weekly basis. I have the secret code. There is a two-hour window in order to get such permission, because they control the media, the banking system and the weather. They do, however, get right back to me, and don’t say ‘no’ very often. Just wanted to put that out there.
I was wondering how you make, or consider making, cutting comedy in a culture of apology. You’ve experienced a few roadblocks as of late. How do you navigate the world of political correctness?
I haven’t gotten to that point yet where I just throw my hands in the air and say, “F— it. I’m going to become a dairy farmer.” But, it is different now, palpable, even. Then again, I have dealt with these things for a long time, albeit in a much smaller scale, way before the current culture got to be so PC. I have had numerous negative reactions in very liberal places to some of my jokes, and I just feel as if … there is not a lot you can do. I am not going to alter my set.
Nor should you.
Yet since the advent of social media, the jokes go way beyond the immediate audience members. You are now expected to answer to strangers, avatars yelling at you. Intellectually, I don’t have a lot of patience or time. … But let me say this. My test for my material, now, is if I can’t defend it or stand behind it – tell you why it is funny, and why it is not hurtful — then, I should apologize.
So maybe there is material you think you should be sorry you did?
Yeah. Maybe I was just being provocative, or I was just riffing and it wound up sounding s—, and only said it for shock value. Maybe, it just wasn’t a good joke. It happens.
Is that about personal growth or about dealing with a woke public? You are married [to actress/activist Amber Tamblyn] and have a kid.
It’s both. I was a different person back then – very irresponsible, getting drunk, playing three-hour shows with rock bands opening for me in little clubs. I’m a vastly different human being now, and my comedy has evolved. The new set is different from the set before that. Plus, my ulcer has grown.
You mentioned your wife, and I was curious if being married to an intellectual equal…
She will be thrilled to hear you say that.
Well, you guys are equally matched in terms of smart, witty things to say. She is an ardent activist. She is as free on Twitter as you are. Is there any conversation between you when it comes to the effect of your work?
No, and that is what attracted me to her initially. She is proud of what I do — and me her — and very helpful with me crafting what I do. There is constructive criticism between us, but it is not a source of contention
You have played in Philly, at big rooms and small. Does anything about us stand out for you?
Plenty, But the one thing that comes immediately to mind is that comedians always come into a town and eat a lot of junk. In starting to eat better, I asked some of my comic friends what to try when I go to Philly again. Everyone said that Israeli place … Zahav. And you know what? It was awesome.
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David Cross: Oh Come On
8 p.m. Saturday, Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen St, $45, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com