"It's distracting not just because it's a person on a phone, but you're thinking, 'Oh, I'm fucked. They're going to send this out and now I can't do this joke anymore and now I've got all these shows to do and I want to do this stuff.' It gets really infuriating and frustrating. Because it's a simple thing. You don't have to do it. Just put your fucking phone down for an hour."
– David Cross
Guy MacPherson: Hey David.
David Cross: Hi, how are you?
GM: Great. Are you on the east coast still?
DC: Yeah. Yeah, I've had three flights so far cancelled. Hopefully I can get out tonight.
GM: Yeah, because your tour starts tomorrow, right?
GM: Well, welcome back to standup anyway.
DC: Well, thank you.
GM: Have you done any secret shows to get this thing going?
DC: Yeah, I mean I've been doing sets for a long time, just little drop-ins at friends' shows and stuff like that. But as far as putting the whole set together, I started really working on it, like, two months ago and I did do kinda secret one-hour shows at a theatre here in New York last week and the week before that. So I feel good. Ready to go.
GM: I always hear comics say, 'Oh man, if I take two days off, I'm rusty.' So in the past six years, you were still performing here and there, just not a big tour? Is that correct?
DC: Yeah. I just haven't had time to do a proper tour. I found myself with an opportunity, because I had shoulder surgery and it's a pretty extensive recovery period so I couldn't take any acting work and it also required me to be in the same place for the physical therapy sessions. And I was like, 'Well, I might as well put together a tour and get that going.' It was a good thing.
GM: Because you love standup but just situationally, for whatever reason, other things came up that you couldn't do it, right?
DC: Yeah. I mean, I've been working pretty consistently. To tour, it takes a good three months to really craft the set together – I mean I'm speaking for myself – and then just another couple months just to book the tour. Between meeting the first time with the booking agent and describing the kind of places I wanted to play, etc. etc., and then actually getting the tour lined up, that was months. So with the logistics, you can't just go, 'Alright, I'm ready to tour. I'll go out tomorrow.' You really have to have a bunch of time blocked out. I'm always working on something. In fact, I had to put another show I'm developing on hold so that I could do this because the other writers I'm working with are writing on other products, so I was like, 'Alright, fuck it. Let's just do standup.'
GM: Was the writing different this time while recovering from your shoulder surgery? Normally I know you like to get up on stage and work things out that way. Did you actually sit down and write this more so than you have in the past?
DC: I tried. I really tried a couple times. I've never been able to do it and unfortunately I'm still not able to do it. I was just trying to write, even like bits that I had, places where, 'Oh, this is a good place for a joke.' And it just doesn't work like that. I tried. I mean I really did, several times, and I'm coming up with either lame stuff or just not coming up with anything at all. But it wasn't like I had a gun to my head. I was still going up and doing sets. So almost 95 percent of the writing is done there. It's kind of more of a pain in the ass extended process because I tape my sets and I listen to them and I go, 'Oh, I like what I did there. That's different than what I did the other night. Let's do it this way.' I have to listen to them and kinda transcribe them. That's always sort of the nature of how, for better or worse, I've [approached] comedy.
GM: You write scripts and you wrote a book – you don't go up on stage and work those out. What is the difference, do you think?
DC: It's a good question. I suppose one is prose and I feel like I'm talking to the person, and then when I get up on stage if it feels written, I don't like it. Just intuitively, naturally I shy away from it. And look, you can't get away from the fact that it is written whether you sit down at a computer or you're on stage and you go home and go, 'Oh, I like this' and then that's what you're going to say. It technically is writing. I don't know. And I can't be working on other projects. That's another unfortunate kind of speed bump I have when I'm doing this is that I need to just focus on standup and sort of see things through a standup eye.
GM: People think it's easier than it is to come up with a whole new set.
DC: Well, those people are fools.
GM: It requires so much work and the key is for you guys to make it seem like it requires next to nothing.
DC: Yeah. And experience tells me that there are going to be, I don't know when or where, but there are going to be a handful of sets that are off, that just aren't good, and there are going to be a handful that are just amazing. And I can't even tell you what the difference is. It's all kinds of tiny little elements that come together to create that kind of set. That's part of what makes it difficult is you gotta fight through some of those, 'Oh, I know that worked before; what was it that didn't work? I've gotta make sure I don't do it that way again or figure something out.' So you're kind of constantly intuitively working as well. I'm going to be doing, like, 60-some-odd shows and I'll be learning from each and every one of them.
GM: The Vancouver show is near the beginning, isn't it?
DC: Yeah. I actually went back to the booking agent because a bunch of these early shows sold out fairly quickly and we added second shows. I was like, I'm doing six shows a week, six nights a week. I don't know if I want to do too many extra shows. I'll be wiped out. And so I went back to him and was like, 'You know, I know that because of the nature of what I do and how I do it that by the time I'm done with this run as we have it planned, which is the end of April, let's go back to some of those west coast shows. Instead of doing second shows, let's just go back and do another show at the end of April, beginning of May because a big chunk of the act will be different by then.' ... I don't even know what that was in reference to, I'm sorry.
GM: So are you coming back to Vancouver at the end of the tour?
DC: I might, yeah. [I start with] five dates in California, then Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Spokane, someplace else. That run, those cities, I was exploring going back again at the end of the tour. So hopefully. This would be done in places where I sold out. If there were still tickets available, I wouldn't go back there.
GM: Never again.
DC: No, no, no. Not that. Just for a second show. But a place where they're saying, 'Hey, man, your first show sold out. You want to add a second show?' I'm trying to keep those to a minimum. But I know that the earlier shows, the first ten probably, will be, I wouldn't say substantially but definitely different by the end of the run. As I'm winding it up I imagine there'll be new jokes, new riffs within the bits, and that just comes from doing an hour-long set. And it'll get tighter and all that.
GM: I know your tour name (Making America Great Again!) is ironic. But you kind of do address things like that. You talk about stupid things that need to be changed.
DC: Yeah, I mean part of it. I've never gone into building a set going, 'Okay, I need to do 33 percent religious stuff and 33 percent this kind of stuff, and then topical stuff.' It just sort of is what it is. It's similar to my last set, I think, on the last tour where I had just some dumb jokes that are just jokes, and then I have some anecdotal stuff. And I talk about the gun issue and I dabble in religion just because I love it so much and I love talking about it in that way over a public address system to thousands of people. So it really is kind of all over the place in a good way, hopefully. I certainly don't want to hear an hour of political comedy or an hour of anecdotal stuff. I think it's a pretty good mix I got going. Even the first 20 minutes is just sort of goofy observational stuff.
GM: I love religious stuff, too. I just finished reading Under the Banner of Heaven, which I'm sure you've read.
DC: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
GM: So what would you do to make Canada great again?
DC: You guys are heading in the right direction. You got rid of Harper. That's huge. That's a big deal. The pendulum has swung back. I think you guys have made a start.
GM: And then you guys might go to Trump.
DC: That's not going to happen. I think it's still very iffy whether he's going to be the Republican nominee. I don't see the establishment getting behind him. It shows you the dearth of meaningful candidates in the Republican side.
GM: Your pendulum is swinging the other way.
DC: Yeah. Certainly the last four years of Obama has been more progressive and liberal, and that's with a Republican congress and Republican Supreme Court, at least a majority. So we'll see what happens. Personally I like Bernie Sanders. I agree with him on more issues than anyone else and I also don't buy into that bullshit of, 'He can't be elected; he's unelectable.' I just don't believe that.
GM: He is very old, though. Isn't he older than Reagan was?
DC: Uh, yeah, I think he's in his 70s, right? I'm not sure. [note: Sanders is 74 at time of interview; Ronald Reagan was 69 when first elected president.]
GM: I love Todd Margaret.
DC: Oh, thanks.
GM: Great show. Nowadays I never watch anything in real time, so I don't know where it is in the run. Did you just do the third season?
DC: Yeah. I had a movie that I was doing the post on, then had to write for With Bob & David for Netflix, so we broke the story – I would go back and forth over to London. We broke the story and I went back to work, then a few months later I went and wrote the script with two other writers then I came back to America and did Bob & David and then I left from L.A., I didn't even get to go home and change all my clothes. I just was on a plane after we wrapped headed to London in the production office in May and finished the show through August.
GM: He's a great anti-hero, or whatever you'd call somebody like him.
DC: He's just a goofball, not even lovable.
GM: 'Goofball' is a little too nice, I think.
DC: It is. He's just the dumbest guy. This last iteration he's not dumb but the original series, which we never planned on going past, he's just the dumbest guy possible.
GM: Is it over now? Could there be another season?
DC: No. I know I've said that before but no.
GM: It's kind of the British way, too, isn't it? In and out.
DC: Yeah, they do six-episode series there, which I like. Especially because you can write everything before you shoot it, and shoot everything before you post it.
GM: With Bob & David show really maintains the original series flavour, don't you think?
DC: Yeah, I mean it's similar. The biggest similarity, of course, is Bob and I's minds. We had most of the writing staff back. A little over half of them were back and we had a couple new guys. Yeah, it was great.
GM: Your minds are the same, but they're 16 years older. Have they changed significantly comedically at all?
DC: No, I don't think so. For neither of us. I think the only real change, one was just out practicality we couldn't play younger guys, really. So that somewhat affected things. You just can't write a character for you to play that's 22 years old. It just doesn't feel right or look right. I guess we're writing for older people now. And then the other thing is that we have 16 years worth of production maturity so we know what it takes to make a show and we know when we're in the writers room, 15-17 years ago we're like, 'All right, I want a helicopter in this shot' and you can't afford a helicopter and then you just tell the director to figure it out. And now you can go, 'I want a helicopter in this... Nah. Fuck that. We don't need to spend our limited budget on a helicopter; we'll come up with another joke. Something we'll be able to get 10 jokes out of instead of one.' You kind of think in those terms a little bit.
GM: What's the status of that show?
DC: We would love to do some more. It's a matter of timing, which is in part why I'm going on this tour because we would have been doing more writing and stuff while Bob is on a break from Better Call Saul but he's doing a movie in this time for Netflix. So it's yet another reason to do a tour.
GM: Dave Chappelle came out with a sock or something. Have you heard about this?
GM: People have to put their cell phones in it when they go to a show.
DC: Oh, I have heard about that! And I'm going to use that whenever I can. Absolutely. I was at his show in Burlington. I happened to be up there for a little trip with my wife in Vermont and just by coincidence, he was doing a show there and we went to it. And he had signs posted everywhere and people walking up and down the aisles constantly looking for people with their phones out. And they kicked one guy out like in the first ten minutes. It's a serious thing. I take it quite seriously, as well. I'll be doing as much of that as we can. It's unfortunate that it's come to that.
GM: Is that everybody has to put their cell phones in this thing that doesn't allow a signal?
DC: That's exactly it. And if you need to use it, you can go out in the lobby, like if it's an emergency, and you'll be able to use it; you just can't use it inside the theatre.
GM: If you have somebody going up and down the aisle and watching for that, does that distract the show at all?
DC: I don't know, I haven't done it.
GM: But with his show that you saw?
DC: Oh, no. I mean, you kind of notice them and then they just sort of go away from your peripheral vision and you're just sort of watching him. You notice at the beginning.
GM: As a performer do you notice people taking videos or photos?
DC: Yeah, a couple times, yeah.
GM: I mean in general.
DC: Oh, it's wildly distracting. It's awful. And it's distracting not just because it's a person on a phone, but you're thinking, 'Oh, I'm fucked. They're going to send this out and now I can't do this joke anymore and now I've got all these shows to do and I want to do this stuff.' It gets really infuriating and frustrating. Because it's a simple thing. You don't have to do it. Just put your fucking phone down for an hour.
GM: Okay, David, good luck on the tour.
DC: Alright, man, thank you very much.