'While I’m doing Alvin And The Chipmunks, I’m thinking of awful risque‭ ‬things' | Interview with David Cross © C4

'While I’m doing Alvin And The Chipmunks, I’m thinking of awful risque‭ ‬things'

Interview with David Cross


I took this information from Wikipedia so not sure how accurate this is‭ ‬–‭ ‬but is it true you went to a performing arts school in Atlanta‭?‬

Yes that is true‭.‬

Have you always been destined to perform‭? ‬

Yeah kind of‭, ‬I don’t‭ ‬know how much I did until I went to that school when I was around 15‭. ‬Before that‭, ‬I was in a typical suburban lily-white school and it was awful‭, ‬I hated it‭. ‬Everyday my life sucked‭. ‬So that was a big deal for me‭. ‬It was really important‭. ‬As great as it‭ ‬was to take theatre and acting classes‭, ‬it was just being able to get out of out of that conservative and restrictive jock-type‭ ‬school‭ [‬and‭] ‬courses in a bunch of crap that I was never going to utilise

Was your school very like Fame‭, ‬singing and dancing in the cafeteria‭?‬

Well one of the funniest and most pathetic things I have ever seen was when I started going to that school‭. ‬It was right when Fame came out‭. ‬Do you know that part in the movie when a guy starts banging a tune with his knife and fork in the cafeteria and then someone joins in with a saxophone and then everyone starts dancing‭, ‬and all that crap‭. ‬

I remember being in the cafeteria when a couple of a people tried to make this happen‭, ‬and it was the saddest thing ever‭. ‬There‭ ‬were five or six people in on it‭, ‬and that was fine‭, ‬but for everyone else who was sitting there with sandwiches in their mouths‭, ‬they were going‭, ‬“What the fuck are you doing‭? ‬Are you seriously trying to do that thing you see in the movies that was choreographed for two weeks‭? ‬We’re eating our lunch‭ ‬–‭ ‬stop it‭.‬”

Your career is varied‭, ‬from pretty risque‭ ‬stand up to Alvin And The Chipmunks‭. ‬Do you ever feel a little schizophrenic‭?‬

No I mean‭, ‬not really‭, ‬because of the way my mind works while I’m doing Alvin And The Chipmunks‭, ‬sitting on the set that day I’m thinking about those awful risque‭ ‬things that you describe‭. ‬I guess if I watched all my stuff all the time then I would be a little schizophrenic‭, ‬but‭, ‬you know‭,‬‭ ‬I haven’t seen any of that stuff‭.‬

I read that you were once booked to perform in a Jesuit college to people who had never seen your stand-up‭. ‬I’m guessing that didn’t go too well‭.‬

I wouldn’t call it‭ ‬the‭ ‬worst gig I have ever had‭, ‬but it was the most unnerving‭ ‬– that’s how I would describe it‭. ‬Believe me‭, ‬I’ve been in plenty of situations when the audience didn’t like me‭. ‬And I’ve felt physically threatened‭. ‬

I didn’t feel like that‭, ‬but it was not good‭. ‬300‭ ‬people walked out‭, ‬and one guy came up onstage while I was doing my set and that was‭ ‬unnerving‭. ‬And of course there were people waiting to talk to me about Jesus afterwards who were very upset‭. ‬You know‭, ‬because I‭ ‬was making fun of their‭ ‬“best friend”‭. ‬

When I was on my way over to the gig‭, ‬I asked the students who picked me up in the car‭: ‬“So what’s the town like‭? ‬What are the schools like‭?‬’‭ ‬And they replied‭, ‬“Yeah we’re pretty established‭, ‬been around 150‭ ‬years‭, ‬probably one of the highest rated Jesuit schools in the nation‭.‬”‭ ‬And I was like‭, ‬“Jesuit school‭?! ‬Have you guys seen my act‭?‬”‭ ‬and they said‭ ‬“No‭, ‬not your stand-up‭. ‬You’re the Chicken Pot Pie guy from Just Shoot Me‭.‬”

You were also in Arrested Development‭. ‬To many fans‭, ‬it was the best comedy ever made‭. ‬Why was it not successful in terms of‭ ‬audiences‭?

I think it was a couple things‭. ‬One is that it was a tough show to come into in the middle‭. ‬It wasn’t extremely difficult but there was some information about the characters and their relationships that would be helpful to know‭ ‬if you were coming into it late‭. ‬

Also it was so pushed by people‭; ‬people who loved it really loved it‭. ‬People were like‭ ‬“Oh man you got to check out this show and you’re a fucking asshole if you‭ ‬don’t‭ ‬like it‭.‬”‭ ‬People who were on the fence about it were put off by that attitude and that was a tiny part of it‭. ‬

But the biggest part which outweighs any other part‭ ‬was because it was purely a victim of bad timing‭. ‬When Arrested Development‭ ‬was cancelled‭, ‬they hadn’t yet started calculating the people who Tivoed or DVRed the show to watch later‭. ‬They didn’t start counting those factors into‭ ‬“viewership”‭ ‬until the year after we were cancelled‭.‬

So you have this new series on More 4‭, ‬The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret‭, ‬which you star in and co-wrote with‭ ‬Shaun Pye‭. ‬Can you sum it up‭?‬

Well it is not your typical American sitcom‭. ‬There is a story which has a beginning‭, ‬middle and end‭. ‬Each episode takes place the very next day‭, ‬and we start with Todd in the dock and then flashback to two weeks earlier‭. ‬

So we get to see how he got there and what’s going to happen‭. ‬We follow this kind of ambitionless‭, ‬soft‭, ‬kind of nothing guy who’s a temp in some unnamed company‭, ‬who just completely flukes into an opportunity to immediately go to London to head up a satellite office and sell energy drinks to the UK‭. ‬

He is in way over his head in absolutely every aspect of this‭, ‬and he bluffs his way into the job because he has an equally ignorant boss who is played by Will Arnett‭. ‬He lies about his familiarity with the UK and he knows nothing‭. ‬He’s never even been outside of Portland‭, ‬Oregon‭, ‬in his life‭. ‬

He is well-meaning but his poor decisions to try and make everything right by telling these often ridiculous lies just compounds‭ ‬the situation as the show progresses‭.‬

On his co-stars:

Do you enjoy being the leading man‭? ‬

I don’t mind it‭. ‬Work is work and a role is a role‭. ‬I wish I had more time to do the other off-camera stuff though‭. ‬I would love to sit back and be at the video monitors and concentrating on writing‭, ‬and what the whole show looks like‭. ‬I certainly enjoy the role‭ ‬that I’m going to play‭. ‬I just wish there wasn’t so much of it as there is other stuff that I would rather be doing‭. ‬I really should talk to the writer about lessening my part‭.‬

The series is being shown in the US but it is basically a British production‭. ‬Why did you decide to do something over here‭?‬

I didn’t really‭; ‬I was approached by Clelia Mountford and Jane Bell at RDF Media‭. ‬I was in London doing some stand-up and they came up‭ ‬to me after one of my shows and basically asked me if I was interested‭. ‬They said‭: ‬“We are trying to create a project to team up an American actor/writer with a British writer/producer to create a show to star you‭, ‬co-written by you for the UK with the potential to sell it to the US as well‭.‬”‭ ‬That’s where the whole thing came from‭. ‬The show and the story is my idea‭, ‬but the idea to do it was their idea‭.‬

I was here for a total of six months‭, ‬writing‭, ‬then doing pre-production‭, ‬then shooting and there was about six or seven weeks of editing and mixing and stuff‭. ‬Also my dad is actually from Leeds‭ ‬– that is one very true piece of trivia‭. ‬He is one of five kids and he was like 14‭ ‬or 15‭ ‬when he moved to the Bronx‭, ‬right after the war‭.‬

Do you think there is a different sense of humour here in this country than in America‭?‬

Not really‭. ‬I mean it is tough to generalise the sense of humour of 335‭ ‬million people‭, ‬you could say that the Brits enjoy the cringe humour more than the Americans but that still means that there are more Americans than Brits that enjoy cringe humour‭. ‬It’s just not represented well‭; ‬you don’t see a lot of it on TV in the States‭. ‬

There really‭ ‬isn’t‭ ‬much more of a difference‭. ‬The one subject thing that is brought up here in Britain is class and that’s not a big source of humour for us‭. ‬We also have comedy shows that are based on race and ethnicities and that’s not the biggest source of humour for your guys‭. ‬The differences are very slight though‭.‬

The show was originally part of the Comedy Showcase‭; ‬did you have the whole series worked out then‭? ‬Or did you do the pilot and see how that was and then start writing the rest of the series‭?‬

A little bit of both‭, ‬I definitely had an idea of where I wanted it to go‭. ‬I knew I wanted to start in the dock and I kind of always knew what the end was going to be and certainly‭, ‬the beginning‭, ‬but the middle was not written or conceived‭, ‬so that’s the stuff I had to come up with‭. ‬

I could go four more series pretty easily and feel good about it‭, ‬with each episode taking place the very next day‭. ‬I have that‭ ‬mapped out now‭, ‬should we be asked to do more‭.‬

With Shaun Pye describing the series:

Finally‭, ‬what kind of reception do you get here‭? ‬Do people recognise you‭? ‬And what from‭?‬

By far the most recognition comes from Arrested Development‭. ‬It had a huge‭, ‬appreciative bunch of fans here who watched it daily‭ ‬and then of course there are people who recognise me from Alvin and The Chipmunks‭, ‬but eight out of ten times it is Arrested Development‭.‬

  • The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret starts on More 4‭ ‬at 10.30pm on‭ ‬ November 14.

Published: 29 Oct 2010

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