On Sunday night, I was lucky enough to see David Cross do a stand-up set at Chicago's Congress Theater. And it was a really good set. Good enough that I hope most of it eventually makes it onto a CD. With that in mind, I'm not going to spoil any of the good surprises here and instead keep it mostly vague except for stuff that doesn't seem repeatable.
* "Squagels! Squagels!": Halfway through the show, somebody started yelling for David (I call him David, because I saw him in a bar one time on the Lower East Side and was too afraid to approach him, so we've got a history) to do a bit from, like, seven years ago, because that is apparently an acceptable thing to do in the middle of a comedy show. David apologized for not being Lynyrd Skynyrd (or whatever fucking band), and said that in lieu of doing material that we've all already heard, he'd written 90-minutes of all new stuff.
* Scatological Bits: I'll just say this: Best shitting yourself while walking your dog and wearing shorts story ever.
* Ontological Bits: Early in the show, he justified doing some jokes on a subject that some people might find hacky with a disclaimer something like, "Believe me, after about 45 minutes of the religious material I got, you're gonna be begging for an airplane joke." I personally could listen to an entire set of him talking about religion, but I see what he meant. The stuff on Christians, Mormons and Scientologists was all top notch, but his best material was probably on Jews. Hasidic Jews, specifically. You just don't get a lot of Hasidic Jewish jokes in modern comedy these days. So, it was a rich, untapped vein from which he culled.
More highlights after the jump…
* The Non-Chicago Olympics, 2016: Taking advantage of the venue and the timeliness of the situation, David did a few minutes on the weird and disturbing reaction to Chicago's Olympic upset (Ed note: Was this really an upset? Hasn't the U.S. already hosted them twice in the past 25 years compared to the continent of South America's zero times in the past forever?) from the right. Like how happy they are to see America lose a huge money-making opportunity in the middle of a crippling recession. And how the IOC's stated reason for voting against Chicago is the humiliating process foreigners have to endure for getting into the U.S. It seemed more like riffing than pre-scripted material. But the thing about David Cross is that he's so obviously comfortable onstage that his riffing is still pretty excellent.
* Health Care and Teabaggers: Some good quality stuff on this, which I hope makes it out on a more national venue while it's still relevant. (Like, before liberals and conservatives solve all their issues and start working together in peace for a better America, I guess.) Fantastic bit about Barack Obama's scheme to run for president and force health care upon America as a means of killing his own nagging grandmother.
* "Fuck you, David Cross!": Aw, it was the thing that every comedy audience member dreams of. About five minutes before the show ended, some dude in the back got up, yelled for David Cross to go fuck himself and stormed out, leaving everybody else very confused. David quizzed the crowd members near where the guy was sitting for a while and tried to figure out what the guy's deal was. Apparently the guy was an offended Christian (perfect!). But, the weird thing is, David wasn't doing a Christian bit when the guy walked out. He was making a joke about Native Americans. He hadn't made fun of Christians in at least a half-hour. At least. And didn't he have any idea whom he had spent money to see? So, David tried to get inside the guy's mind for a while and figure out his thought process. And there are very few things more entertaining than watching a comedian riff on righteous indignation.
* Time Mug: Time Mug is the new Squagels.
* The Opening Guy: Todd Glass came out before David and told us that he empathized with the way we were feeling. "Aw, there's an opening guy." And immediately we were (mostly) all on his side. ("Hey, at least he understands the deal.") He did a solid, funny twenty minutes, and he was off. And now I like him, and I will watch more of his stuff in the future, and I will retain fond memories of our time together. That is how an opening act should work. (Ed note: I saw Kaki King do an 90-minute opening set for the Mountain Goats once, and by the end of it, she'd completely exhausted every last molecule of good will the audience had for her. That kind of shit is counter-productive.)
* The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: If you get to see David live, definitely stick around for the (if you're lucky) encore. At least for our show, he came out and treated us to the first five minutes of his new new pilot for BBC, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (which, he warned, might never make it to the States, because, well, you know) starring himself — as a losery opportunist, schlubbier, more-hetero version of Tobias Funke — who, after being mis-overheard practicing with a self-confidence tape, gets sent to Britain by Will Arnett — a clueless, asshole-ish mover-slash-shaker business exec — to pull off some kind of big deal. Cross's real life girlfriend Amber Tamblyn plays his on-the-show girl he kinda went out with once and is now stalking. Five minutes is obviously only five minutes, but it was a really funny five minutes, and when it was over, he seemed very pleased the audience's reaction.
For me, the best live experiences — be it music or comedy — always involve people really enjoying themselves onstage. One comedian can have great, well-honed jokes, but he'll never make me laugh as much as the guy who's making himself laugh and having fun. On Sunday night, it David Cross had a bunch of great, well-honed jokes and he seemed to be having a lot of fun telling them.
During the show, he talked a bit about his lifelong problems with depression — which I'm sure won't come as a surprise to many of his fans — but does seem to be in a good place lately. Not just onstage that night, but elsewhere. He sounded great on Marc Maron's podcast last month (which, by the way, is great in general). He talked about how nice it is to be in a stable relationship, and the effects are seemingly apparent. Plus, with all his recent projects, it just feels like we're in a David Cross upswing moment. If you can see him on this tour, I'd recommend it.