David Cross Keeps Audiences Engaged and Enraged

Wednesday 04th, July 2018 / 15:51
by Brendan Reid

Phoot by Daniel Bergeron

VANCOUVER – Pleasing everyone in a crowd is a next-to-impossible task, and few know this better than David Cross. Part of his stand-up style has always been topical, combining observations on religion, societal imbalances, and political zealotry with the comedic spins they so handily encourage. One of his recent stand-up tours, Making America Great Again, could not help but focus on the uprising of a certain president, and the cult that doggedly follows him. Naturally, his comments on the matter offended some in the crowd, and walkouts were a common occurrence. But this did little to faze Cross.

“If they don’t like something, they don’t like something, and that’s fine, that’s always going to be the case on some level,” he explained. “And that affects both ends of the spectrum. I have equally as many people on the far left who are angry at things I’ve said as I do on the right.”

Cross is well aware of the reactions to his material, and refuses to cater to one group or another. He simply comments on matters as he sees fit, and does so unabashedly; it is the sign of an artist who knows himself well, and is confident in his beliefs and stances.

Cross’s current stand-up tour, Oh Come On, follows a pattern similar to his other sets. He begins with “dumb jokey jokes,” as he calls them – jokes anyone can enjoy – then shifts gears into anecdotal set pieces. The final act of his set revolves around current-event related jokes, and this is usually where the blood starts to boil. When asked if he feels a duty to elicit such reactions from the crowd, he firmly asserts the opposite: “I have an obligation to be honest with myself, and to be funny. If I believe in the material, and know it works, then I can stand by it. I don’t subscribe to the notion of an obligation to talk about this or that, just to be honest with myself, which means I’m being honest with the audience.”

Cross stands behind what he believes to be true and humorous, and refuses to cater to the expectations of any audience member. This has been the case since the beginnings of his career. In the early 1990s, Cross hosted an open mic at Boston’s To Catch A Rising Star comedy club, and together with some friends he devised a dastardly plan.

“I came up with the idea: what if we fucked with the audience?” Cross reminisces when asked about the era. “We’d have three real open mic-ers, and then we’d have one of our guys be a fake comic, something really archetypal, and we’d mess with the audience, and have all kinds of things going on where they were completely clueless as to what was happening, and we’d segue way into sketches that way. It was a cool thing to do.”

These schemes often involved fake hecklers, fake waitresses, fake fights, fake blood packs, and just about anything to get audience members questioning what was real and what was scripted. It shows the unique engagement Cross strives for in his performances, something that has carried over into modern sets, if in a less blatant fashion. Cross is simply there to present his ideas, and allows his audience to believe what they choose to believe, and react in whatever way they see fit. It’s a commendable stance, and one all aspiring comics should work towards.

You can see David Cross perform his Oh Come On material on July 4 at the Vogue Theatre.