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Twenty-four Hours of David Cross


The comedian David Cross is a funny guy in a lot of different ways. You might know him from his role on "Arrested Development" where he played Tobias, the never nude. He's done a lot of music videos. He's done directing. He voices video games. Maybe you know him from "Mr. Show." But then there's his stand-up comedy which is characterized by the fact that he does not care who he offends.

Mr. DAVID CROSS (Comedian): I don't think Osama bin Laden sends those points in - to attack us because he hated our freedom. I think he did it because of our support for Israel and our ties with the Saudi family and all our military bases in Saudi Arabia. You know why I think that? Because that's what he (bleep) said.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Monday night, I got to see David Cross act in an off-Broad - actually it's an on-Broadway play - it was six plays in one evening. Cross and a bunch of actors, playwrights and directors signed up for an adrenalin-fueled challenge - the 24-hour plays Cross was in yesterday. He explained the concept. I wanted to know how they wrote and produced all those short plays in the space of just one day.

So what time of day does everyone first meet?

Mr. CROSS: This starts at 9:30.

PESCA: 9:30?

Mr. CROSS: Yeah. We meet the others at 9:30 at night.

PESCA: 9:30 at night. Okay.

Mr. CROSS: Yeah. Then, the - at about 11 o'clock, the actors and directors go away. Then the writers go off to their individual rooms and write until six in the morning - write a 10-minute play.

PESCA: Okay.

Mr. CROSS: At six in the morning that play is turned in. And then, the directors come in at 7 a.m. and they kind of do the same thing. They read all the plays and the director sort of give their desired picks for the plays.

And most times, it works out very well, like, people get their first or second pick. Then the actors come in at eight in the morning, and the casts are revealed. And they - everybody gathers around and has coffee. And they go, okay, the name of the play is, you know, ours was "Tenure". So, "Tenure" with Elizabeth Banks and David Cross and Aasif - you know, they pass the plays out. And here is your director. And then those six groups from that point forward go to their individual spaces that have been allotted for them. And we rehearse the plays.

PESCA: And you memorize the lines. Is that hard to memorize everything or…

Mr. CROSS: You know, we were talking about this - couple of the actors and I were talking about this last night. And there must be something that kicks in, a second nature, an intuitiveness - because I can sit - and everybody else had a similar experience. Where I can sit on - doing a movie, where you're literally doing a page and half of dialogue over 12 hours of the entire day.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. CROSS: That's it - page and a half, it's nothing. And up until the end, you still can't completely - you know, you're still cheating. You're still looking at the - in between takes. What is it (unintelligible)? In here we have 10, like, 10-page scripts, and somehow you just do it. It's like habit.

PESCA: It's like thespian fight or flight response. You know it's happening.

Mr. CROSS: You're just rehearsing all day, and it just sort of clicks in and it works.

PESCA: Well, the play you were in last night was - I would say it was a home run. You and Aasif Mandvi played college professors who weren't tenured; Elizabeth Banks who played the tenured professor. And you guys were sort of in your Peter Pan phase. And one of things I think that worked is - I don't know if you didn't miss a bit of dialogue, but it seemed because you and Aasif were so funny. If there was ever a time when maybe the lines weren't exactly read -you know how to be funny with - no matter what the situation was.

Mr. CROSS: That is true and I thank you very much for that. And I'd like to -I'll pay you $10 for what you've just said. I appreciate it. But I don't think we missed anything. I think maybe we dropped part of one line at some point.

PESCA: And there you all had a prop. Was yours the catheter that you showed?

Mr. CROSS: No. I don't know if you saw when I pulled out that there is - when I leaned into the box and pulled out somebody because she is moving in to her office…

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. CROSS: …and pulling out some odd things. And the bottle or the jar of psyllium husk is what I brought. And I want to make sure that I say that this whole thing, the reason it exist is to benefit working playground.

PESCA: They give for arts and playgrounds…

Mr. CROSS: Yes…

PESCA: …and for kids in the city.

Mr. CROSS: It's inner city arts education specialized, and it's the greatest thing.

PESCA: What was your arts education like growing up in the exurb of Roswell, Georgia?

Mr. CROSS: I got really, really lucky. My experience up to 10th grade was just miserable. I was in Roswell, Georgia. It's kind of half suburban half rural, red neckie(ph), white Southern Baptist. And then in 10th grade, I got accepted in the school of the arts, the magnet school, which at time was really an exceptional school. It actually won school of year or teacher of the year. If I remember 60 Minutes came down and did something and…

PESCA: So was it like the Atlanta, or the Georgia version of "Fame?" That school? The school of arts? Breaking into songs and then do the choreography?

Mr. CROSS: You know what, it's a - a funny anecdote and it's something I'll never forget was when "Fame" came out, it was huge. It was kind of a validation. And do you remember the part in "Fame" where they have that thing called hot lunch jam or whatever the word?

PESCA: Oh, yeah.

Mr. CROSS: Okay so…

PESCA: Bruno broke out the piano, and yeah.

Mr. CROSS: These are kids who don't understand the, ironically, the concept of a movie and how a movie works. And they - I remember there was an attempt, like you could tell if some of the kids were like starting to do a little drum in…

PESCA: (unintelligible).

Mr. CROSS: …and there's - yeah. And there's, like, a guy pulled out a guitar, and then some of the dancers, and it started and stopped so quickly. And it was so embarrassing, and it just petered out in - oh, it such a bad, awful way where they try to do this thing. And guess what, you're not in the movie.

PESCA: Could you actually hear an audible record screech in the background?

Mr. CROSS: Yeah. You should have. And then the string quartet went into "Louie Louie."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Quickly, you got an HBO thing coming up?

Mr. CROSS: Basically, it's like a sitcom where I'm me, and I have - and I live - I have two roommates. I have a guy in the extreme left - hippie, liberal guy who's an idiot, like they are - and a guy in the extreme right - conservative. You know, bordering on fascist libertarianism, ironically. And he's also an idiot. And I'm in the middle, and I'm the voice of reason, and I've just kind of left show business and I'm writing for - I write articles for In flight magazines so they just make up and turn it.

PESCA: And what's the name of the show going to be?

Mr. CROSS: "David Situation."

PESCA: "David's Situation"?

Mr. CROSS: Yeah.

PESCA: Among the idiots? "David Situation."

Mr. CROSS: Well, that will be parenthetical. I don't know, that's our working title for it.

PESCA: Excellent. Well, David Cross, comedian, actor. Thanks a lot for coming in and spending some time.

Mr. CROSS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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