David Cross On ‘Too Soon?’ Jokes, Couples Colonics, And That Messy ‘Arrested Development’ Cast Interview

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David Cross’ endless stream of comedic and tragicomic TV characters frequently endure beyond his expectations, and that’s a reflection on his career as a whole. From revived turns on Arrested Development and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret to recent stints on Goliath and Archer, the comedian rarely takes a break. He’s now capping off his latest stand-up tour with a special, Oh, Come On, that he filmed during stops in Asheville, North Carolina and Birmingham, Alabama. Comedy Dynamics Network will launch the special on May 10 across the iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Xbox platforms and through cable providers.

As always, the acerbic, opinionated comedian views our crazy world though an unfiltered lens and lends insight to moments to which many would prefer to cast a blind eye. From frank discussions on couples colonics to political correctness to twists on humor and tragedy and everything in between, his new special shines light on why his sharp brand of wit remains superior. Cross was gracious enough to sit down with Uproxx to discuss this special, along with a certain Arrested Development cast dust-up and so much more.

We find out at the end of this special why it earned the “Oh, Come On” title. Is there any spoiler-free clue you can offer to our readers?

Well, not spoiler free, that would give it away. I just thought I like that virtually everybody assumes it means, “Oh, Come On!” with this ridiculous thing called life, you know the times we live in. But it actually has a specific reason to be the title that has nothing to do with that, although I do like the sentiment. As you said, you find out at the end.

Even though you cover a wide range of material here, what sticks out the most is describing your couples colonic. You go into sweaty, graphic detail. Did you expect that to be material while you were enduring the experience?

Oooh, that’s a good question. It happened a while ago, so actually the couples colonic story and the encore bit (which gives the show its title) were things that I only did during part of my last tour, and it was nice to have. It didn’t fit in with the flow of everything, so I kept it in the encore, and I’d do one of those at the end. Obviously, the colonics story, I fleshed out, and it grew as I started doing it specifically for the set. Well, I don’t know if I [realized it was material]. I’m sure I did. That’s just sort of one of the unfortunate byproducts of being a standup is, you know, even if you’re experiencing tremendous physical or emotional pain, there’s this little, nagging voice like, “Oh, how can I turn this into a bit?”

Speaking of potentially freaking out people, Chris Rock recently argued (in the context of Kevin Hart stepping down from the Oscars) that no one can tell “offensive and funny” jokes anymore. Is that true?

Well, that has everything to do with what the offensive remark is. I think something that is kind of homophobic and hurtful and the kind of generalization that some people consider offensive and others don’t, well, I just wouldn’t do that because it’s not my personal taste. I’ve got plenty of jokes that require the understanding that there are gay people around to get the punchline, and it’s about your intent, the way you frame it, what your attitude is. There are some comics who suffer from the “Oh, that’s kind of a funny joke, but you said that really angrily.” Like they’re angry at gay people. And I’m just using gay people because you mentioned the Kevin Hart thing. But there are all kinds of ways to be offensive. I don’t sit down and think, “I need an offensive joke!” I rarely cut or edit anything, but occasionally, somebody will edify me as to why this thing that I don’t think is offensive is actually quite offensive to a lot of people. And if I can’t really defend it or justify it, then I’ll cut it. Again, I’ve only really had to do that in my lifetime maybe three or four times, but that’s the long answer. The short answer is that there are numerous ways to be offensive, and I’m self-conscious of trying to offend (if I’m going to offend) to not have it be like … rape victims. That, to me, is offensive.

You’ve talked to us before about how Twitter can be a scary place. Are you conscious of how, since then, more public figures have lost gigs over tweets, or do you just do your thing?

Both. I am conscious of it, and I definitely regret some tweets, which is a new thing. If I’m doing a set, I’ve had multiple experiences where I deliver a joke, and I can see the audience’s reaction, and then I can gauge it from there. But with a tweet, especially when you’re drunk, as I am in the latter part of the day — [to] tweet something I’ll think is really funny, and I’ll wake up to a number of people who are upset. And then I’d say a third of them time, I’m like, “Oh god, they’re right, that’s a terrible joke, and I can see why.” It’s such a different platform, and I really don’t utilize it to its fullest, that’s for sure. But if you can’t defend that thing, and also, there’s no such thing as a conversation on Twitter, so if you say that dumb, offensive thing, then the backpeddling just gets called out for backpeddling. It’s really tough to discern genuineness and contrition, and it’s just a terrible place to think you’re gonna have a dialogue about something important.

You’ve done “too soon?” jokes during stand-up before, but you kick this special off with a big one.

Oh, that’s the best. I’ve been doing that since before the London Olympics, to tell you how long I’ve been doing that kind of joke. You can only do it for about a year and a half or so while it’s kind of fresh, and then it goes away again, but I love that joke, it’s clever. And one thing that you really can’t tell in the special is that I’m usually taking for about seven or eight minutes before I get to that joke, and I try to make it as subtle or seamless a transition into the set as possible, so [over about 75 shows] I come out and talk about something that happened that day, something that I saw, wherever I am. Just shooting the shit, saying hi, and then kind of ease into that, so I couldn’t afford that time in the special, to see me dicking around about Asheville for about seven minutes, but I’m particularly happy with the way that I get to that joke because I think that the way I approach it, people think that I’m serious, so the joke has more impact. Especially when I’ve been talking to people in the audience, and we’re having a good time.

Was the live response to those jokes what you expected?

Oh yeah, almost always.

You don’t get as political as you did with your last tour, but do you really stand by your endorsed Democratic candidate, uh, Ron Perlman?

(Laughs) Always. If that’s the one thing results from this, then absolutely.

Do you have a preference on him dressing as Hellboy vs. Clay from Sons of Anarchy?

He can do whatever he wants. That’s totally up to him.

I’m not gonna ask if Arrested Development is getting a 6th season, but do you have a favorite and least favorite running joke from the series?

Ohhhh, I think that one of my favorites is no one remember Ann’s name. George Michael’s girlfriend, and the various ways that they don’t remember her name is one of my favorite running jokes. Least favorite? I don’t know if it even exists.

So let’s hit on that NY Times interview with the AD cast — the one where Jessica Walter got emotional while talking about Jeffrey Tambor’s behavior. Jason Bateman later apologized for “mansplaining,” and you made amends as well. Are you surprised that the interview went off the rails and sparked the reaction that it did?

I’m not, really, and the reason I say that it is because it’s really quite a different experience being there and being in it, and then reading a transcript or, even later, reading the audio. And it’s pretty stark when you read the transcript, you’re like, “Oh wow, that is shitty.” The behavior and where that came from was part of, for better or worse (and obviously, a lot of people think it’s for the worst), but that’s just how we all talked. There were, what, seven of us, eight of us? And we’ve been doing press stuff forever, and we talked over each other, and we interrupt each other, and we add on to things, and that situation was obviously [involving] a woman whose feelings were very hurt, and holding a lot of stuff in, and it all came out then. And we, uh, didn’t give her the space to kind of own that thing, and we were trying to contextualize things. And nobody cares about your context. That’s a lesson I’ve learned. Nobody cares about your “yeah, buts,” and so yeah, looking at the transcript, it’s a much different experience, but so it doesn’t surprise me because that’s how, for better or worse, how we all engage (and I mean that in a universal way) in conversations of making things better culturally and socially is to be aware of that and kind of shut up.

You launched this tour as a new dad. Did this throw any wrenches into the process?

Well, it didn’t throw a wrench so much as that has been my world, and there are some observations. I think about things not like, “I’m a daddy, and I was so irresponsible 10 minutes ago,” but more of like really becoming much more conscious of the world and the country and the state and the city that I’m in. And what it’s like to grow up and walking that very thin line in telling her how things work and shielding her. Keeping her innocent, to a degree, as long as I can, to the horrors of how awful people can be to each other. So that wasn’t really part of my consciousness before. It was in a general way but not a specific way, and she was one when I started doing that stuff, and I tape the special, and she’s a little over two, and she’s really starting to communicate more, and I can see how quickly that’s gonna become an issue.

I’m now going to borrow the Zombieland question posed to Bill Murray as he died. Do you have any career regrets?

Hmm yeaaaahh. I guess?

I was kinda hoping you would talk about Chipwrecked?

I’ll clarify something. I was contractually obligated to do that, and I would not have [otherwise]. I was in London, about to start [another] production after nine months [of waiting], and I remember exactly where I was. I was with my wife, and we were at this Christmas display with a food hall, and [I got a call]. I knew it was either going to be really good news or really bad news. It’s never anything in between. And they’re like, so you are in it now, and this is literally weeks before, and you have to go to Hawaii in a for rehearsals. And it was really fucked up because you know I’m all over this thing. I’m literally spread throughout the whole movie. It was, by far and away, and I don’t imagine I’ll have anything that will supplant this, but it was the worst professional experience I’ve had in my life.

You had to wear that pelican costume for so long.

They were just so awful, terrible, and rude, and disrespectful. It was fucked. I’d been nothing but professional for those two prior movies, and again, I was contractually obligated, and I had no recourse. And there were, like, 50 or 60 people who were counting on me for employment, it was just awful.

Well, I’m glad you never have to wear that costume again, along with the rest of that misery.

Yeahhh. And thank you so much!

Comedy Dynamics will release ‘Oh, Come On’ on multiple platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Xbox, along with most cable providers on May 10. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.