Interview date: 04/24/2009
Run date: 05/01/2009
He’s the man who put the “David” in “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” and, by our statistics, he’s still the only person in the world who’s ever been able to get a laugh with the words “anal rapist.” He’s David Cross, and in addition to his multiple film roles, he’s also appearing as part of the cast of the online series “Pilot Season,” which can be viewed over at MyDamnChannel.com. Bullz-Eye had a chance to talk to Cross about his history with series creator Sam Seder, his own experiences on the pilot front (including the aborted HBO reunion with Bob Odenkirk), how unexpectedly trying it is to work on the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films, and why he probably won’t be tackling another episode of “Law & Order” anytime soon
Bullz-Eye: Hey, David, this is Will Harris with Bullz-Eye.com. We’re supposed to do an interview today…?
David Cross: (Hesitates for a moment) Oh, is this the one for Sam Seder?
BE: Right, for “Pilot Season.”
DC: Sure, okay!
BE: Is now an okay time?
DC: Oh, yeah, yeah. I just forgot, that’s all.
BE: Fair enough, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t interrupting anything. Well, I’ve seen the first couple of episodes of “Pilot Season,” and although you’re not really in them, it’s still very funny. How did you get approached to reprise your role from the TV series for the web series?
DC: Um…was it a reprisal? I guess. No, wait, it is. I’m sorry, it was just so long ago. Well, y’know, I was friendly with Sam going way back to the Boston comedy scene, and he had made the original thing, and it was just one of those things where you and your friends get together and do something. It was all his production and stuff, and I was out in L.A., and I was, like, “Sure, I’ll work for a day.” I mean, there’s nothing really exciting about it. It was just a friend calling up and going, “Hey, man, I’m doing this thing, y’wanna do it?” “Sure, I’ve got a free Thursday.”
BE: You seem to enjoy doing the occasional online thing. For instance, I’ve seen this very interesting drink recipe…
DC: (Laughs) Oh, yeah. My friend Gavin had come back from Paris with those ridiculous cups.
BE: But the question is, do you really utilize that particular cocktail? Because I think nine out of ten comments after the clip asked the question, “Has anyone ever actually tried this?”
DC: Uh, no. It’s pretty nasty. And, also, I’m very racist when it comes to drinking.
BE: (Laughs) So you do enjoy doing online stuff, then? I guess it’s a way to do something creative that doesn’t take very long.
DC: Well, I don’t care if it’s online or wherever it gets shown. You’re just having fun with your friends, really. So, sure, if it’s that kind of thing, absolutely.
BE: Do you have a favorite thing that you’ve done?
DC: Um…no. Until this interview, I’ve never really thought about it. I’m not trying to be funny, I’ve just never really categorized anything like that. I mean, God, I don’t even know what’s online and what’s not. So I guess I don’t have an answer for your question. (Laughs) I’m sorry!
BE: No worries. Well, in your scenes of “Pilot Season,” who did you work with? Or was it predominantly just you by yourself?
DC: Just Sam, actually.
BE: So how did you first encounter him? I know you said it was when you were part of the Boston comedy scene, but…
DC: This would be going back to…the early ‘90s. No, no, I’m sorry, it was before that. It would’ve been in the late ‘80s, because I was doing stand-up, and he was trying to do stand-up, but he wasn’t very good. But I had this sketch group or comedy-show thing that I used to do, and I kind of recruited Sam and his friend and partner, Jon Benjamin, to do stuff for that. It was really back in the day when you just had a shitty job that paid the rent, and you spent the bulk of your time just drinking, getting high, playing softball, and putting on these dumb shows. But in a good way. It was fun.
BE: I know you’ve also worked with a couple of other people from the cast in the past, including Andy Dick and, like you said, Jon Benjamin.
DC: Yeah, it’s kind of people you know because you’re all in the same circle of friends.
BE: Well, my daughter will be pleased that I’m talking to you. She’s a big “Alvin and the Chipmunks” fan, and she’s pumped for the sequel.
DC: Right, yeah, “The Chipettes.”
BE: Exactly. So how weird is it for you to be doing kids stuff while keeping one foot in what’s decidedly more adult comedy?
DC: You know, it’s nothing I really think about too much, although it is definitely…as time goes on, I certainly have amassed a lot of kids projects. It’s something I never kinda would’ve expected. But, y’know, things just work out that way. As you know, I just shot the sequel to “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and then there’s going to be a sequel to “Kung Fu Panda,” and I did “Curious George,” and various things like that. Work is work. The distinction is between what’s fun and what feels like work. I’d be lying if I said I really enjoyed the process of making “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” because I didn’t, only because of how I make it. On this last one, I had three days with human beings, and all the rest were with chipmunks…and there’s nothing there! It felt very much like work, and at the end of shooting, I was kinda exhausted, just in a strange mental way. It’s sort of bizarre. It’s not hard like physical labor is hard, but it’s just very trying and boring and…it’s just not pleasant. You’re literally shooting twelve or thirteen hours, and you’re shooting a page of script in a day, and…it gets to you. There’s other work that’s just more enjoyable. But it’s all work, you know? It’s all for the better good of humanity.
BE: Absolutely. That’s how I view it. Are you glad the “Arrested Development” movie is finally on track, just so people will stop asking you if the “Arrested Development” movie is on track?
DC: Yeah, actually, that’s a point well taken. I mean, as much as I’m looking forward to shooting it and seeing the script and getting together with all those guys, it will be nice to not have that as a topic of conversation anymore. (Laughs)
BE: Yeah, virtually everyone I know wanted me to ask you about it, but I’m guessing there’s not much to tell, anyway.
DC: Well, you know, I just don’t have much to say! The script’s due in June, I think, and we’ll see from there how it goes.
BE: Out of curiosity, were you ever asked to participate in “Sit Down, Shut Up”?
BE: Fair enough. Well, since we’re here to talk about “Pilot Season,” I guess it’s only appropriate that I ask you what happened with the pilot that you and Bob (Odenkirk) did for HBO.
DC: Well, we’re basically the ones who kind of spearheaded the idea of, “Let’s not do this.” When we sat down to edit the thing we shot, which we all enjoyed the process of making and felt really good about, we went to cut it together and it just didn’t feel right. The feeling that we had in the room when we were shooting it did not translate onto the screen. We tried it many different ways, completely retooling it, favoring one format over the other and trying different music, trying different things, but it just never felt great to us. It felt like, “Oh, yeah, that’s kind of funny. That has its moments.” And, so, we talked to them about scrapping that idea and going back to doing kind of a sketch show that would be sort of “Mr. Show 2.0.” It wouldn’t be “Mr. Show,” but it would be Bob and I anchoring a show that had sketches in it. And they said, “Okay, well, we don’t have any money left for this year, so maybe next year.” And then we went back to them… (Laughs) …and we’re still waiting, obviously, with that.
BE: And as long as we’re talking about pilots, you were in one a couple of years ago called “I’m In Hell.” At the time, did you think it was going to go to series, or do you just not even get optimistic about those things?
DC: Um…to be brutally honest, I was hoping it wouldn’t go to series. And it didn’t. So I win.
BE: How often do you go through the pilot process? Is that something you actively seek out?
DC: I think that might’ve been the only one I’ve ever done. Well, that didn’t go. I did “Arrested Development,” and…if I’m not mistaken, then that “I’m In Hell” thing was literally only the second pilot I’ve ever done.
BE: So when you first came out to Hollywood, were you predominantly focusing on writing?
DC: Well, I came out with a job to go to, so I didn’t come out and kinda flounder, looking for stuff. I came out a little reluctantly, actually, to my discredit. I was very naïve and idealistic. But I made a lot of lasting and important friendships on “The Ben Stiller Show,” and I went from there to various other little assignments here and there. And, then, the next big thing was “Mr. Show.”
BE: As far as those “little assignments,” you still managed to make an impression with gigs like “The Drew Carey Show” and “Just Shoot Me.”
DC: Yeah, I was picking up work here and there, and I was doing stand-up. Stuff like that.
BE: On that note, will there be another stand-up album in the semi-near future?
DC: I don’t know. I’ve got a book coming out at the end of August, and I’m going to kinda do stuff for an audio book for that, and that kind of ate up some of my stand-up stuff. It’s not routines you’ve ever heard before, but it’s stuff I definitely did on stage, so I’ll probably need a little bit of time before I’m able to get a brand new tight hour together.
BE: Are you going to be doing a book tour?
DC: Yeah, I hope so! I mean, we’re talking with the publisher right now about their plans for that kind of thing, but we’ll see. It would basically be…I think the book’s supposed to come out on Labor Day Weekend, or something like that, and I’m going to do something at Bumbershoot, in Seattle, and I’m doing All Tomorrow’s Parties out here and in New York. So I’ll do a couple of things here and there. I don’t know how big a scale it’ll be. It’ll kind of depend on what the publishing company will fund, y’know? They’re the ones who get on the phone and talk to Barnes & Noble or wherever about coming in and doing readings and stuff.
BE: What’s the title of the book?
DC: “I Drink for a Reason.”
BE: Nice. Well, I’ve just got a couple more questions, then I’ll let you go, but…what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
DC: I would have to say “Freak Show.” I mean, I can see where the problems are with that show when I watch it, but I really had a good time doing it. I think it had a bunch of potential to continue to do funny stuff, and it was just a very enjoyable thing, writing and recording with my friends.
BE: With that cast, I’d think it would be fun to do.
DC: Oh, yeah, it was. It was a blast. I really enjoyed it.
BE: What did you think when they handed you the script for the episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”?
DC: Well, you know, not much. I got the offer for it, and I was, like, “Boy, I’ve never done anything like that, ever.” And it’s a reputable show. I hadn’t really seen it before, but it’s pretty much what you’d think it’s going to be. And it was…I don’t know, it was an interesting experience. I don’t think I’d want to repeat it. I don’t mean to say that it was dour or a sour set, but it was joyless in the sense that there was just the absence of joy. It wasn’t like people were shitty. It was just, like, this boring machine to work on, and it wasn’t fun or interesting. It really felt like everybody’s coming in, punching a clock, and leaving, which is nothing I’d really want to be a part of again. But, yeah, I figured, “What the fuck? I’ll see what that’s like.”
BE: And, lastly, a friend of mine wanted me to tell you that, whether it’s meant to be ironic or not, “Fartin’ Gary” remains his favorite “Mr. Show” sketch of all time.
BE: Does it haunt you that some people think it’s funny for the wrong reasons?
DC: Nope. If they think it’s funny, then there are no wrong reasons.