David Cross to bring wit and irreverence to Calvin Theatre Thursday

By Brendan Deady


Schadenfreude is the German term for pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune, and for those whose profession includes making others laugh at the depravity of their everyday environment, the 2016 presidential campaign offers some good pickings.

For comedian David Cross, it’s no different. When asked if he ever struggled to find humor in grim situations with broad implications, Cross said in an email interview with the Daily Collegian, “I love it!!! Yay Donald Trump and Ted Cruz!!!! More Please!!!”

As Trump continues his trailblazing across the country promising to “Make America Great Again,” Cross has begun the process as well. The Atlanta-born factotum of irreverent entertainment is stopping by Northampton as part of his “Making America Great Again” tour this Thursday night at the Calvin Theatre. His show is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.  

Northampton is the 41st stop on Cross’ four-month tour across the country, which ends a six-year hiatus from the stand-up circuit. While the tour title draws parallels to “The Donald’s” campaign, Cross’ main prerogative isn’t to deliver a mind-altering political message — he just wants to entertain.

“A comedian’s sole job is to entertain the audience. Anything else is gravy and up to them,” he said.

In an interview with WBUR radio leading up to his show in Boston last week, Cross said that by the time audiences reach him, their opinions are already set. The best he can do is better articulate some sentiments already stirring within his fans.

Regardless of intent, each sentence delivered in a performance contains some type of message. And the undercurrent running through Cross’s comedy career shows a repeat pattern of targets: euphemistic homophobia of conservatives, pedophilic priests, quixotic patriotism, fear mongering politicians, misleading media and even the technology invested in Coors Light cans.

He said this tour’s content doesn’t have a core theme guiding its direction, but is a mix of old material, odd anecdotes and social commentary — each section being about a third of his performance. At two months in, some of Cross’ experiences on the road have wedged their way into his set.

“The act, while having a structure and order to it, does change a bit from show to show depending on what news happened that day, or what weird experience I might have had earlier. And some of those bits will stick. In fact the first two bits I do are from experiences that occurred once the tour started. But no, I don’t excise or add bits based on what town I’m in,” Cross said.

Cross got his start in comedy as a teen in Atlanta, attended Emerson college for a year in Boston before dropping out to work full time on stand-up. Since then, the craft that has constituted most of his entertainment career, however, he may be more generally recognized as Tobias Funke from “Arrested Development.” He has appeared in a number of smaller roles and cameos — though perhaps most unintentionally comical as a toy designer in “Small Soldiers” — and starred alongside Bob Odenkirk in the HBO series “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” recently rebooted as the four-part mini-series “W/ Bob and David.”

Cross has cultivated a loyal following drawn to his critical social and political rants, flippant remarks on pop culture and consumerism and his jarring — sometimes cringeworthy — sarcastic approach to sensitive topics. While commenting on pedophilia in the Catholic Church, he once asked how the priests could be held accountable around such cute kids, who at eight years old should’ve known better than to tempt the clergymen.

“The oversensitivity (in America) is bordering on pathological. I think there is an extremely thick line between empathy and humorlessness. I like to think of myself as empathetic and having a good sense of humor. They’re not mutually exclusive qualities. And no, comedy should not (is not) exempt from anything. At all. Ever. (At least in America, maybe in Iran or North Korea),” Cross said.

At 51, and with more than 30 years under his belt in comedy both on stage and as a writer, Cross said the current state of the craft is strong, and benefits from the increased exposure granted by technology.

He said the form can go underappreciated by those who don’t understand the technical aspects that go into a good set and that some good comedians are passed over for cheap comedy that draws big commercial gains. With over 50 shows in three months, the experienced comedian still admits that his mind can wander onstage from the rote repetition of his sets, but is excited to return to the craft where he cut his teeth.

Cross’s tour began at the end of January and spans from Boston to California, with stops in Texas, Colorado and Utah. Tickets for Thursday’s show at the Calvin Theatre can still be purchased at iheg.com.

Brendan Deady can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @bdeady26.