David Cross’s comedy pits extremist right against left

DAVID CROSS: MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! at Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), Sunday and Monday (July 24 and 25), doors.

DAVID CROSS: MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! at Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), Sunday and Monday (July 24 and 25), doors 6:30 pm. $49.50. ticketmaster.ca.

David Cross is the embittered and bespectacled voice of a generation.

He’s forever enshrined in comedy royalty for Mr. Show With Bob And David, and cracked the mainstream in Arrested Development and countless (well, around 117) scene-stealing roles in other TV and film projects. His presence lends them an air of alternative comedy credibility, and his cult of sarcasm-loving fans continues to grow.

But some fans will always love Cross best as a stand-up, particularly for the trio of comedy albums released between 2002 and 2010 that made him a spokesman for comedic outrage in the Bush era. Though he hasn’t toured in the six years since his last album, he’s finally on the road again.

“There’s a misconception that I stopped doing stand-up on the last day of my last tour and then started doing it again on the first day of this tour, which is not the case,” Cross tells NOW over the phone during a brief break in the longest tour of his career. Cross sounds more relaxed these days. On the phone, the tone of his voice remains high, but his cadence is quietly contemplative, with only hints of the manic energy that once defined his act.

“I’ve always done stand-up and I think I always will. The gap [in touring] was just a result of being busy.”

You might think from the tour title, Making America Great Again!, that he’s back at his old shtick. His stand-up served as a vehicle for one of the louder voices speaking out against a political climate of warmongering and inequality. Cross claims to have mellowed, but not necessarily for the reasons you might expect.

“At the time, the stuff that was happening with Bush and the war in Iraq and all that was unprecedented in my life. I hadn’t seen that kind of jingoism and furor and dangerous xenophobia, or watched the media get away with things that I just didn’t think were possible,” he says. “Now that I’m in my 50s, there’s a precedent for every outrage I see. You’re inured to it at a certain point. The shock you might have felt 16 years ago you live with daily now.”

Which is not to say that the current tour is devoid of the brand of political satire that’s defined his act for years. The title is somewhat misleading (“A rookie mistake,” he jokes), and Cross promises “at least 30 minutes of just goofy anecdotal silly jokes, mild and inoffensive. I don’t jump in with the hard shit.”

However, it’s certainly there, and due to a combination of shifting cultural sensitivities and audiences only familiar with his work as an actor in more benign projects, he’s definitely felt a surprising wave of hostility from the crowd when he gets to said hard shit.

“I’ve had walkouts before – that’s nothing new. But I’ve never had it on the level that I’ve had on this tour,” Cross reveals. “You know, I don’t come out wearing an American flag as a diaper, saying, ‘Fuck you, America!’

“But it definitely starts at a certain point, and I don’t let up for a while. One of the worst examples of that was in Northampton, Massachusetts, which is supposedly a very liberal college town. People were yelling and leaving. I mean really yelling, like, ‘Fuck you, you fucking asshole!’ and that sort of thing. One woman threw a drink. There is a point where the extremist right meets the extremist left, and I certainly found it.”

It’s a story comics tell frequently these days, and Cross isn’t surprised by these audience reactions.

“That’s not some anomaly that only two or three well-known comedians have faced. Everybody faces it. The intolerance level is growing pretty consistently,” he claims.

Stereotypically polite Canadians shouldn’t react quite so aggressively. But we’ll find out this weekend.

David Cross On His Downer Tour Documentary Let America Laugh

David Cross On The Unexpected Third Season Of The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret

David Cross On How Todd Margaret Expanded His Audience In Britain

David Cross On The Tricky Indie Release Of His Directorial Debut Hits

David Cross On The Stand Up Show He Briefly Performed About His Experience Making The Alvin And The Chipmunks Squeakels.

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