Let America Laugh

david cross
David Cross' tour CD, "Shut Up, You F*cking Baby!"

David Cross reminds you a lot of your whiny, hilarious friend. But David Cross whines about politics instead of potato chip commercials, and he's funnier than your friend. A lot funnier. Raised Jewish in Georgia by politically liberal parents, he learned to make his alienation entertaining and has developed a passionate following of fans who are devoted to his cynical, sarcastic, biting, and oftentimes political humor. His HBO series "Mr. Show" gave him some fame, but he's not new to the game. He's been doing stand up for almost 20 years and was a writer for the Emmy award-winning Ben Stiller show. You can currently read his column in Vice Magazine or better yet, watch him in action on the new DVD that follows him on tour, "Let America Laugh."

Cross has been following politics since fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter dawdled his way into the Presidency in 1976. Now he's turning up the heat. On his tour CD "Shut Up, You F*cking Baby," he slams all things ignorant, from southern layabouts to aspiring LA actors. But much of his vitriol is reserved for overtly political characters. Washington it-men John Ashcroft and George W. Bush sustain several pointed tirades, as do anti-abortion activists, fear mongering pundits and religious fundamentalists. In short, he's political and funny, and he delivers it all as if you were chatting over a coffee -- or six shots of Jager at your local dive bar.

Lucky for young people and political participation, he's not a lazy drunk, but a driven political activist. This spring, he plans to launch a get out the vote comedy tour with politically like-minded comedians. He's not going to hound you, but he wants you to vote in 2004, because beneath the satire is real fear of another four years of Bush and the harm he could cause the Republic. He escaped shooting of the Fox sit-com Arrested Development, his latest project, to talk with WireTap.

WireTap: How much news do you intake daily?

bob and david
Mr. Show: It's David and Bob!

David Cross:
I read way more than I watch. I read the New York Times, and if I'm in a different city, I'll skim that paper. I go on the Internet a lot. I'll spend hours on, you know, Hamster, BuzzFlash, Bartcop, any of those guys. It's kind of addictive. My biggest problem is retaining the exact information. There's so much it gets jumbled. Occasionally I'll watch Fox News for as long as I can tolerate it, or CNN. I'll watch until I get infuriated, but you got to know what they're talking about and what they're not talking about. And I try to always -- and I'm not that successful -- remember how to read a newspaper. And to look for the subtle bias within it, whether it's left or right, the placement of information, the adjectives used and all that kind of stuff.

WT: Do you vote?


WT: How many times have you voted?

I've only voted in the midterms four or five times. I've voted in every presidential election.

WT: What was your most satisfying time to vote? Or what has been a good experience voting, where you've said, "Hey, you know that worked!"

Well, you know when you vote for something that becomes successful. There were a number of referendums in '98 that most of the things I voted for passed. That's very satisfying when you feel that most of the country is in step with your views. That's always surprising and gratifying. I don't think I'll ever experience something as frustrating and demoralizing and deflating and bordering on tragic as what happened in 2000. Not just the event, but this whole kinda campaign that actually became successful, where everybody was like, "Ok it's over, we get it move on, yeah we get it, alright, your buddy lost, don't worry about it, move on." Like you're just supposed to go, "Yeah, you're right, alright, forget it. Yeah it's a bummer for a couple of days but I guess it doesn't reflect poorly on the rest of our lives." That was shocking, and remains so.

WT: What was your personal therapy?

david cross
David Cross' tour DVD, "Let America Laugh."

Ah, you know I was holed up in a luxury suite at a hotel. Couple hookers, had a ball, went to town. Yeah, and then I got over my depression.

WT: About a third of eligible youth voted in the 2000 election. Why do you think that is? People are lazy, ignorant, alienated from the process?

Yes, I think it's all three of those things. You become ignorant because you're alienated and you don't think out the information and you allow yourself to purposefully get lazy so things don't bother you, so you use that as an excuse not to vote. It's pretty galling that I know people will wait in line for a weekend to see a f*ckin' movie that's gonna be there for three months, but won't wait in line for 12 minutes to vote. If not for yourself, then for everyone else, it's truly one of the most selfish things you can do. Just the fact that you won't educate yourself on the issues. It's truly one of the most selfish things you can do. Especially because so many people have suffered to obtain that right, or obtain the idea of that right.

WT: If you had to sum up in a bumper sticker why people should vote, what would it be?

Bumper stickers are the f*ckin' bane of civilization or intellectualism, and it's added in a terrible way to the anti-intellectualism and lack of debate and discourse in this country. I hate bumper stickers, you can't sum anything up. All you do is paint yourself in some caricaturist corner. Then the person that has the opposite opinion of you can just go, "Out that f*ckin' hippie, oh that f*ckin' right wing Nazi."

david crossWT: What would you do to try to get people to vote? Or what do you do?

I'm going to be putting together a tour, where myself and some like-minded comics go out. It's not going to be this heavy-handed, rabble-rousing screaming rhetoric at people, which I can't stand. I went to a bunch of marches in New York and Washington, and you know I believe in the cause, but to march with those people takes a lot of compromise on my end. So many of them are fools and just as ignorant and are no better than Ann Coulter. We should just get somebody from the left and the right and they should all throw bumper stickers at each other and the first one to cover the other one wins. I'll take maybe 2% of my time on stage to talk about why I think it's important and I'll do it in an economic and humorous way that will get them and their friends to vote.

WT: Do people in the entertainment industry take politics seriously?

I'd be curious to find out, but I don't think people in the entertainment industry are proportionally more or less serious politically than anyone in the landscaping industry.

WT: Have you ever thought of running for office?

Yes. The best thing about me is there are no skeletons. I'm brutally honest about all aspects of my life, so it's not like you're going to shock me a week before the election and be like, "This guy totally dropped acid." And I'll be like, "Yeah, well I talked about that ten years ago." So that would be good. And then uh, the other good thing is that I would probably be very good at my job and make a lot of good changes for the peoples.

WT: Have you ever thought where? Are we talking governor, councilman, mayor?

The mayor of the United States, it's a position I would invent and run for, and it would be honorary. And there would be a parade every three days and I would outlaw bananas and soy. No, I have no idea. My guess is it would be either something to do with the city of New York or a representative of a district in Manhattan.

WT: Your comedy is pretty savage and you seem to not worry about pissing people off. Is that because you think it's funnier that way, or you think it's the best way to convert your opponents?

I don't think of my opponents in the sense that I don't think of them consciously, I don't steer it one way or the other. I've been doing it for almost 20 years now, and it's just natural. I don't ever actively go, "Hey, if I do it this way it will convert more people." I just do it.

WT: What kind of mail do you get?

A lot of stuff from prisoners looking for dates. There's a rug cleaning place not far from my apartment so I get a lot of mail for rug cleaning.

WT: You've said, "You cannot win a war on terrorism, it's like having a war on jealousy... you ain't gonna win it." What political battles are important and winnable?

The most important is too loosen the grasp of corporations and special interests from buying politicians and their votes. Under that huge umbrella you'd have campaign finance reform, the freedom of information act would be broadened. I guess in a nutshell truth and openness. The first one is to get rid of this administration and I think that's winnable and what needs to be done for the best of the Republic.

WT: How and when did you become politically active and aware? What was your evolution as an activist?

I think very early, my Mom got me interested. I was reading at a really early age. The fact that I grew up in Georgia and Jimmy Carter ran for president and he was from Georgia probably had a lot to do with it.

WT: How old were you?

I was 12. I remember being a kid and the Vietnam War was huge and looking at Watergate. And I didn't know what I was looking at, but I knew I would realize it was important later. As a kid you start to buck authority, you slowly realize what you suspected, which is, "Hey, wait a second, I might be a kid, but I think I'm actually smarter than these adults," and that also makes you kind of question things and seek out that information and start reading the newspaper.

WT: Who were your heroes growing up?

I guess in part because my parents kind of had a liberal hippie vibe to them. My mom told me about Lenny Bruce, Abbie Hoffman, and the Chicago Seven, Martin Luther King. And I was a huge Hank Aaron fan, I love Hank Aaron.

WT: Any politicians you admire and would vote for in 2004?

I will vote for -- it's really depressing to say it but it's just something I've resigned to and I'll have to swallow it -- whoever the Democratic nominee is. Nobody is going to be as bad for free thinking, right-minded individuals than George Bush. I don't want to see that motherf*cker in office when he doesn't have to do anything for political reasons. That's really scary. If this shit doesn't scare you now, when he's making concessions for political reasons, giving him another four years where he doesn't have to worry about being reelected, we are f*cked. We're hugely f*cked. And you better get yourself a Bible.

WT: Do you ever think the Bush hatred can backfire and allow people to label Bush-haters as misfits?

That's always a danger. If all you do is spew this bumper sticker rhetoric and sputter these cute little catch phrases about how Bush is like Hitler, then you know you're a f*ckin' moron and yeah, that's distracting. But if you can articulate your reason and have a conversation and say, "Let me tell you why I hate Bush, and it's not because he's an evil guy," then hopefully, you won't be painted in a corner as a misfit. The individual has to have the information. You know, you might as well, f*ckin' take your top off and paint sunflowers on your face, you know, drop acid and do that dumb-ass Grateful Dead dance.

WT: If you could change the way the average American thinks about one issue, what would it be?

It's not an issue per say, but I would urge people to help create an atmosphere where they don't see this complete ideological divide. Because I think whenever you sit down with another human being who would absolutely disagree with you on every issue, you learn about them as a person and you relate, in human terms, and it's much more difficult for either side to dismiss out of hand, like that person's a freak, that person's a Nazi. You really do see these people as people and understand where they're coming from. That would really do more to help all of this. I think people, for the most part, actually want what they think is best. People are condescending, they don't listen, and it's contributed to a really unfortunate anti-intellectualism in this country.

WT: What's your advice for the young people?

Retain your idealism as long as you can. It'll be shut down soon enough, and whatever you can do to convince people to at least inform themselves is helpful.

Check out David Cross' website: BobandDavid.com

Dan Hoyle is a WireTap writer and editorial intern.
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