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David Cross sharpens comedic blade on Brooklyn audience

June 1, 2018 By Benjamin Preston Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Comedian David Cross prepared for his upcoming tour with a show at the Knitting Factory last week. Photo courtesy of Just for Laughs
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Long known for his acerbic wit, David Cross sharpened his verbal sword Wednesday night at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, making use of an informal session before a Brooklyn crowd as he prepared for his upcoming summer tour.

In a set that ramped up with a long story about a couples colonic and crescendoed with a graphic demonstration of his fantasy about shitting in President Donald Trump’s mouth after watching him get beat unconscious by Ron Perlman, Cross made it clear that he’s sure to have thin-skinned and unsuspecting audience members headed for the doors in the months ahead.

“Anyone walking out yet?” he said after many of his particularly raunchy quips.

In Brooklyn, though, he was right at home. During the past few months, the small-venue series, “Shootin’ the Shit, Seeing What Sticks,” has given him an opportunity to try out new bits on a friendly home crowd before taking his material to cities where cynicism wrapped in irony doused in raw irreverence might fly over the heads of some, particularly as it is set within the context of Cross’s liberal progressive world view. The small shows have given him an opportunity to solicit audience feedback.

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“Wonder how that’ll play in El Paso,” was a consistent theme in Wednesday’s show, pulling “Where will he go next?” guffaws out of the crowd.

In an interview with the Brooklyn Eagle, Cross said that his material tends to be provocative and aims to push people’s buttons, much like the comedy he wrote into character sketches in the HBO series — “Mr. Show” — he created with Bob Odenkirk nearly a quarter century ago. But he doesn’t see much difference between the PC culture of today and the one that existed in the early ’90s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a comedian.

“It’s an amplification of what existed before, where people will hear a word and shut down before they hear the context,” Cross explained. “I did plenty of shows in very liberal PC San Francisco or Cambridge and places like that as I was coming up, and those are some of the worst, most intolerant audiences.”

Regardless of people’s politics, Cross says he’s never surprised or taken aback when people walk out.

“It happens all the time,” he said.

His last tour was extensive, with many stops in what is now considered “Trump Country.” Cross recalled the oppressive atmosphere in places where jobs had dried up and the only thing going was a Walmart or a string of fast food joints. Having grown up poor, he knows all too well the effects of inhuman greed upon disadvantaged people, a facet of his life he said informed his liberal progressive ideology.

His politics are no secret, and a litany of Trump’s failings, delivered in ceaseless monotone during his set, drove the point home. But president-bashing jokes aside, Cross said offstage that he doesn’t see his role expanding much beyond the small sliver of stage where he shares his iconoclastic humor with whoever his audience happens to be on any given night.

But the relationship he forms with the audience members he reaches can be meaningful. He remembers the impact touring comedians such as Franklin Ajaye and Steve Martin had upon him as a teenager growing up in an Atlanta suburb.

“When I started to go to open mike night when I was like 17, those comics had all left their own mark in various ways,” he said. “My job now is to the people who paid $35 dollars — or if you’re going to a Ticketmaster show, $65 — to come see me. Even when I feel like it’s not going to be a good show, I always imagine some kid in the balcony who’s coming to see his first comedy show, and I’m doing it for that kid, who is basically me when I was growing up in Atlanta.”

Well, kid, whoever you are, hope you’ve got thick skin. Cross’s jokes, while hilarious to world weary cynics, aren’t for the faint of heart.

David Cross begins his 46-city tour in Chicago on June 1, and will be back in the tri-state area later this month.


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