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David Cross on books and stand-up

By Staff | Sep 29, 2009

David Cross first started doing stand-up as a teenager. After honing his stand-up skills for the next several years, he broke in with a new comedy scene in 1990 that featured Janeane Garofalo, Louis C.K., and others.

A few years later he joined the writing staff on the short-lived The Ben Stiller Show, and won an Emmy for his work there in 1993. Since then, Cross has become much more well-known for his role with Bob Odernkirk on the HBO sketch comedy show the two created, Mr. Show, and as Tobias Funke in “Arrested Development.”

He’s also released several comedy albums, co-starred in various TV and film vehicles, one of which, “Alvin and The Chipmunks,” brought some controversy to the often sarcastic, acerbic comedian, best known for his own brutal lambasting of pop culture figures like James Lipton and Larry the Cable Guy.

Cross took a few minutes out of his travel routine recently to talk to us about his new book, “I Drink for a Reason,” and to promote his upcoming tour, which will bring him to the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center Oct. 10.

But we still have no more word on an “Arrested Development” movie, try as we might to wring it out of him.

Graffiti: What was the impetus behind your book?

Cross: I was approached by, originally, Warner Books, then they sold it and it’s now Grand Central — I was approached by somebody asking me if I’d be interested (in writing a book) and then they flashed me some sweet, sweet money and I said, “Yea, I’d write a book.”

Graffiti: So you didn’t have any literary aspirations? Had you thought of writing a book before that?

Cross: I’ve had a couple of friends who had written stuff and it was one of those out of sight out of mind stuff. But I would be talking to a friend who had written a book or I’d read what they wrote and I thought about it.

But because I had taken so many drugs over the years I had just forgotten about it. It was nice to get a phone call and legal contract and things were signed and then I had to do it, so it worked out well for me.

Graffiti: Did the contract help you in finishing the work, too? I always thought I’d hate working for a daily newspaper because of the deadline, but I found it actually made me a much more motivated person.

Cross: I’m the worst procrastinator and I talk about it in the book especially because I had a year to deliver the first manuscript. I had spent the first three months dicking around and didn’t have any discipline. I’d just, think of something and, “oh that’s funny, I’ll write about that.” And as time was narrowing down I started to panic. When I started looking back at the stuff I was dicking around with, I started to freak out.

But I work fairly well under pressure.

Graffiti: So, you just you’d just think of something and write it down. Did you have much of an outline when you started, like did you know a general direction you wanted to go, or general things you wanted to include?

Cross: I just knew I wanted it to not be a memoir. That was like the one thing I didn’t want, was to do that.

And then after eliminating that I knew I wanted to do some shorter pieces. (The book’s) all over the place. There are some fictional some essays and some stupid, funny stuff. It’s just all over the place in a good way.

Graffiti: I must say I’m a little interested in how your appearance in Morgantown goes. Morgantown’s a fairly liberal college town, but it’s also in West Virginia, a state that’s comedic tastes often fall more in line with Larry the Cable Guy, than your own.

Cross: That would be awesome if a bunch of people who thought the opposite things I did show up. But pretty much at this point the people who are going to go out of their way to come see me have a good idea what I’m about.

But if there are crazy, rabid Christian Republicans that will be a fun memorable set.

Graffiti: Have you outlined the set yet?

Cross: Well, yea I’m on tour.

Graffiti: I know, but I mean does that change at all from venue to venue?

Cross: It’s not like I’m going to change, like, “oh, I’m in West Virginia, I’m going to do this piece.”

Graffiti: I guess I meant more for your own interest. Like how bands will change up songs from venue to venue to keep things from getting too stale.

Cross: By the time I get there I might. There’s a chance that as some of the pieces evolve or grow I might drop something or highlight something else, but nothing that I consciously do.

This is it. Once I do this tour, and if I choose to record it or release, then it’s done. So I might as well do it and have fun with it.

Graffiti: Has some of your material changed with the political climate? (President) Bush gave you some material. But now that a Democrat’s in the White House, has that drained the well, so to speak?

Cross: Obviously, I’m not doing Bush material, but there’s still plenty of fodder there.

I was never really a political comic. There was just so much egregiousness in the Bush administration, and he served for 8 years, and 9/11 happened under his watch so there was a lot to talk about.

This administration is still pretty young … there’s not a whole lot (to talk about). I will definitely be talking about the health care debate and the polarization between the left and the right, but that’s about as political as this stuff gets.

It’s really not that political. It’s, if anything, probably the religious (I take aim at), but I’m very conscious about not going on too long about that stuff.

There’s a fair amount of just silly un-PC humor.

Graffiti: Finally, I know I’d be tar and feathered if I didn’t ask, but …

Cross: I think everybody’s waiting on a deal to be made between the studio and the producer/writer end of it. But everybody wants to do (the “Arrested Development” movie).

Graffiti: I imagine you get asked that a lot.

Cross: Five or six times a day.

Graffiti: Does it get tiring  having to answer that question all the time or is it nice in a sense that people like the show so much they want to see more from the Bluth family?

Cross: Both. Everybody’s appreciative that it’s so loved and people want to see a movie but every day five or 10 times a day, it gets a bit much. It gets so that the best thing that can happen is you get the flu and have to stay home or something like that.

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com