It's been too long since David Cross was on stage. During the six years he's been away from stand-up, the comedian has revisited his role as the never-nude Tobias Funke on the cult favorite TV series Arrested Development, joined back up with his Mr. Show partner Bob Odenkirk for another series of absurd sketch comedy, and created the IFC series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret in which he stars as the titular character.
While Cross has definitely kept busy, his absence from the world of stand-up has not gone unnoticed. Fortunately, he's back behind the microphone for a 51-date nationwide tour. Before he arrives for a performance at Charleston's Gaillard Center, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his new material, the race for the White House, and spending time in the South.
City Paper: After plenty of film and TV projects, what made you decide it was time to go back on tour?
David Cross: It was the convergence of two things: The project I was going to be working on got pushed, and I found out I had to have major shoulder surgery, which would take me out of anything on camera for several months. And I needed to be in one place for several months of physical therapy, so I thought, perfect! I'll get a set together, and when I'm deep enough into PT so that I can do it on my own, I'll hit the road.
CP: This is your Making America Great Again! tour, and the Republican presidential candidates are currently campaigning here in South Carolina. Will your new material focus on the current presidential race and political climate in America? What other issues do you discuss?
DC: No, not really. There's a couple of minutes in which I talk about Republicans and Trump, but no more than that. It's my usual mixed bag of silly jokes, topical zeitgeist stuff, religious stuff, and anecdotal stories. All over the place really.
CP: From your past work and interviews, you've shown an appreciation of absurdist humor. As a comedian, how do you handle the current presidential race that seems to have become somewhat of a farce? Is it difficult to satirize something that is already completely absurd, or do you think our modern political system has always been this way? I write this question shortly following Donald Trump's comments that the pope is being used as a pawn by a mysterious group.
DC: No, we have entered a new level of absurdist political theater heretofore unknown to us. And I love it! More please! And yes, it is hard to satirize. But there are so many that are doing a great job of it already — Colbert, Daily Show, Samantha Bee, and so many others.
CP: You are originally from Stone Mountain, GA., I believe, and grew up in the South. What is it like returning to the Deep South while on tour, and what things stick out to you about the current culture in the South?
DC: Close enough, Roswell, but Roswell was never the seat of the KKK.
I'm home every year at least once or twice, so it's not that it's a distant memory or anything. And granted it's Atlanta, which is a small lake of blue in a deep sea of red, but around day three or four I will always have that moment of walking around and thinking, "People are just generally nicer down here, and that's a very important trait to have." I miss that. It makes me nicer and more social as well, which God knows, I could use.
CP: In your 2005 interview with Rolling Stone when you discussed Larry the Cable Guy, you're quoted as saying, "It's a lot of anti-gay, racist humor — which people like in America — all couched in 'I'm telling it like it is.'" This mentality of "telling it like it is" has now become a point of pride for the presidential candidates campaigning in South Carolina. Do you think it's just a way to rally or tap into the racism and fear of many voters?
DC: That's exactly what it is. I have a joke about that in the set. Can't give it away here though. Looking forward to watching people walk out of the show though. Should be fun.