As half of the comedy duo that helped inject some much-needed edge back into American comedy with Mr. Show with Bob and David, David Cross knows a thing or two about phreaking paradigms. But his recent releases on indie vet SubPop—including the sprawling two-disc concept album Shut Up You Fucking Baby and the recently released It’s Not Funny—have propelled him into the comedy record ranks of Cheech and Chong, Lenny Bruce and Firesign Theatre. Perhaps it’s the way he mocks America’s pain over 9/11, which it has used as an excuse to bomb the living daylights out of Iraq. Perhaps it’s the way he argues that freedom isn’t worth saving if it only nets America vacuous enterprises like The Simple Life. Whatever it is, David Cross talks like a guy who wants to just give it to you straight, but you won’t shut the hell up and let him talk—and he’s got a lot to say.
PopMatters: Contrary to its title, your latest album is actually pretty damn funny.
David Cross: Thank you. Actually, the title isn’t meant as a comment on the material. It’s kinda like when a kid or your girlfriend gets frustrated and goes, “It’s not funny! I know you’re laughing but it’s not funny!” It’s that kind of thing.
PM: Now, I know there’s an election coming up and
DC: How did you find that out!?
PM: I heard. I was on Fox News and they weren’t mentioning it at all
DC: Well, there you go.
PM: ...but CNN had something on it. I think the timing of the album, along with Michael Moore’s film and similar releases, is refreshing, because it shows how people are raising up rather than being scared shitless like they were in 2000.
DC: Right. I think it’s also directly because of 2000 that people are more active. Everyone that was pushed to the brink of sanity is going, “What the fuck? We can’t let this happen again.”
PM: People call you a political comic, and you don’t like that. But if the personal is political, that covers a lot of territory.
DC: Yeah exactly. But whatever; to each their own. But it’s important to me and important enough to talk about. Not that I think I’m going to change anybody’s mind or anything. I hold no aspirations to do what Michael Moore’s film is going to do, which is hopefully going to change people’s mind through clever manipulation of the truth. Let’s hope it works.
PM: What do you think the media’s role in this election is? Are they voicing the party line, or are they out to make money?
DC: Uh, it’s money. Money, timidity, fear. I don’t ever see it, outside of something that’s outwardly biased like Fox News, as Mr. Big sitting in his corporate office saying, “You will not do this. You will do this.” I think it’s individual; it filters down to the editorial board and the reporters. People just want to keep their jobs. Most people aren’t that courageous or bold; they’re careerists, you know? I mean, there are always a few here or there. Thank god for someone like Greg Palast and other people in the left, center and right who are going to research the truth and print it somewhere, even if it is just the Internet. But I think it all comes down to the individual, but most are being timid, fearful and don’t want to rock the boat too much.
PM: Do you think there’s now been a change in how American sees its media, how they’re organized and how they do business?
DC: Sure I do. And I think that’s due to the tireless efforts of others.
PM: Bush is a Christian fundamentalist going up against Islamic fundamentalists, yet the whole idea that this is primarily a religious conflict seems to have been ignored.
DC: Well there are enough distractions from the holy war aspect of it all. You’ve got people who believe it’s just about oil, people who believe it’s about spreading Christianity and defeating militant Islamic jihadism. I don’t know if that’s a real phrase
PM: It works.
DC: ...and you’ve got various people who believe it’s a benign campaign to plant the seeds of democracy in the Middle East.
PM: In someone’s head.
DC: Yeah, there are all kinds of distractions from what it could be when it could be a mixture of all three of those things, you know?
PM: What do you think will happen in the 2004 election?
DC: I think Kerry will get elected, barring some crazy terrorist act or discovery of specifically flawed voting machines. Or some huge thing like that. I don’t know what the October Surprise is going to be but I’m excited to see it.