David Cross called his 2016 comedy special and tour "Making America Great Again!," because, of course, it made sense at the time to get the Donald Trump references out of the way before Election Day.
Now that Trump is president, the stand-up comedian is figuring out how to deal with Trump in his act, even though he doesn't consider himself a political comedian. On the new "Oh, Come On" tour, which comes to the Orpheum Theater on Thursday, Cross doesn't tackle Trump directly, but talks more about his supporters.
Cross spoke with the Cap Times about comedy in the age of Trump, why he's not a "political comedian," and his role in Steven Spielberg's "The Post":
You must be excited to go back out on tour.
It’s been great. I did a bunch of festivals and then I did five shows in New England, and we had a couple of days off. I love it. I’m having a good time. The set is really fun, and the audiences have been great.
You do a lot of different things. What is it about stand-up that keeps bringing you back to it?
It’s really the thing that is palpably missing when I don’t do it for a while. Sometimes I say, "Oh, I wish I was on this fun TV show or in this cool movie," or "I wish I was directing this thing or writing this thing." I feel those things. But there’s nothing that has more of a stronger pull than getting back out on stage.
Has it changed at all for you now with cell phone culture, and people recording some of your act and posting it online? Does that worry you?
That’s the biggest worry, literally the worst thing. But I think audiences have gotten much better than they were five or six years ago. I think they get it now. There’s more of an innate understanding of what the deal is. Part of it that’s creeping in is that it’s rude. It’s not just, “Hey, I’ve got this device and I want to do it.” They understand that it’s rude. The social contract, as it were. People have a better understanding that, unlike music, it really ruins it for other people.
Has the role of comedian changed for you in current political times? I wouldn’t call you a political comedian per se, in the sense of, ”Well what’s in the headlines today?”
Good, cause I’m not. A lot of people don’t get that. If I’m doing an interview, I’d say more than half the time they say, “Well, you’re a political comedian, and with Trump in office..." And I’m not a political comedian. I talk about politics but I’m not a political comedian.
How would you make that distinction? Because you talk about other things as well, or because of the way you talk about politics?
I’d say it’s more the former. But I would also say that as opposed to Bush or Obama, or even going back to before anyone knew who I was when I would do jokes about Clinton, while those jokes were about them, now the jokes are less about Trump and more about his fans.
Trump is really tough. It’s all right there. He lies constantly, but he doesn’t lie about who he is. He’s not fooling me. He’s fooling a lot of people, obviously. But it’s not like, “Hey, I thought you were like this and you’re really like that!” So there’s nothing there to make fun of that hasn’t already been amplified a million times.
How did you decide on the title? (“Oh, come on” is the punch line to a story that Cross told the last time he was in Madison, which I won’t spoil here.)
The title actually came from the audience. I did about three or four months of these shows in Brooklyn in these little rooms, basement rooms, clubs and bars, just culling material. When the show was presenting itself to me and I was really getting it down, I would have Q&As with the audience where I would ask them, “Should I do this bit? That bit? More of this? Less of this?” Just asking the audiences for their opinions and questions that I had.
I had a proposed title in mind and I said, “What do you think about this?” and en masse, the audience booed. It made me laugh. And I said, “Well, what about this one?” and they all said, “No!” And then two people, simultaneously from opposite ends of the room, said, “The title should be ‘Oh, come on.”
This may be obvious working for a newspaper, but I really loved "The Post."
Of course you did.
What was it like working on that?
It was an amazing experience, one I’ll never forget. Just getting to work with that cast and crew and work almost every day with one of my best friends, and work with Steven Spielberg and get to hang out on the set.