At BAM, famed comedian David Cross talks Trump, gun violence
A thin-skinned audience would surely take umbrage at the comedy of David Cross. They’d consider his jokes bashing organized religion and his stories about masturbating while fantasizing about the Statue of Liberty (because he loves America so much) offensive. But Brooklynites tend not to be thin-skinned or close-minded; particularly not the ones sitting in a packed house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where Cross was performing Friday night. The audience greeted his off-color humor with rollicking laughter.
To a fellow cynic, what’s not funny about a communion wafer made from the Son of God’s genitalia? If you’re wincing at that and you’re not familiar with his work, you should know that the former “Arrested Development” star has built a career out of using cynicism to frame issues that most people had trouble discussing without getting embarrassed, angry or both. From his days working with Bob Odenkirk (of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fame) on the set of the HBO sketch comedy series “Mr. Show, with Bob and David,” Cross played a number of offbeat characters, including a homophobic rock star who enjoyed shagging his male bandmates and a Georgia-accented redneck who — before drowning on a life raft between his girlfriend and her mother (with whom he’s also having an affair) — daydreams about having sex with a fish.
Cross’ comedic style hasn’t softened with the passage of time, but in an era when college students retreat to safe zones whenever they hear something that rubs them the wrong way, unabashed language comes as a welcome relief. On Friday, his irreverent stabs at willful ignorance and intolerance — delivered amid a flurry of raunchy language — shone brightly at a time when such things seem to be front and center every time one reads or watches the news. As in his sketch comedy, he often put on a voice and assumed the role of the people he mocked.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was, predictably, dead center in the comedian’s crosshairs. The name of the tour is, after all, “Making America Great Again.”
“I think people like going to Donald Trump rallies because it gives them a chance to finally go to a Klan rally without all the guilt,” Cross quipped, adding in a Southern drawl, “That’s what I love about Donald Trump; he’s tellin’ it like it is.”
There was plenty more to go along with that bit, but I’m afraid my publisher would have a coronary if I were to write it here. Suffice to say that a number of below-the-belt zingers, in that context, got people laughing. But as Cross has demonstrated so often in the past, blue language has been a great way to make sure people are paying attention when he gets to a big point. From sexual fantasies about the Statue of Liberty, Cross segued into a comment about the tail end of the poem carved on its base.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“That’s the opposite of what Republicans believe,” he said, before slipping back into narrow-minded character. “That’s what makes America weak, is empathy. Like we care about people less fortunate than ourselves.”
Cross also talked about gun violence, pointing out that none of the mass shootings over the past few years had done much to incite tougher firearm safety regulations. He wondered aloud if watching a more patriotic number of people die in a mass shooting — 1,776 victims, all at once, for instance — would spur lawmakers into action. He admitted that shooting guns is fun, but said that liking them is no reason not to have laws in place to keep them out of the wrong hands.
“Then we don’t have to hear about another 12-year-old boy accidentally shooting his 8-year-old son,” he said, shooting a meaningful glance at the audience. “I’m from Georgia, so I know.”
After taking a few moments to rip on organized religions and interact with a member of the audience (who was handed a pair of cold beers), Cross delved into certain people’s blind regard for the words of the long-dead Founding Fathers and what it means to be American.
“There’s nothing more American than standing firm and resolute in the face of reasonable thought,” he said.