Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"So look, I don't HATE children..."
the misanthrope leaves the house

I was awful excited when I heard that David Cross was going to be doing a series of shows at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater to polish his act for a London tour, so I made it a point to get out to catch the only night that could fit into my schedule (in London, that's pronounced SHET-yule; which sounds Yiddish to me).

The first time I heard David Cross was on his "Shut Up You Fucking Baby" album and I was utterly sold. He's the holy ghost in the "Dave" trinity of truly important comics working today: Cross, Attell and Chappelle.
David is a stand-up name right now, if you'll pardon the weak pun.

Cross is painfully acerbic and dry as a soda cracker. He's also one of the VERY few "in-the-public-eye" types who absolutely goes for the jugular every time when he talks about our ethically bankrupt administration. Plus he's not scared to get down and dirty when it comes time to give good funny, all of which I likes.

The gig was packed beyond full and the standby line went to near the end of the block. Astonishingly, they let EVERYBODY in and turned it into an SRO show, even suggesting that people sit on the stage. I came with my father and he hovered around the back in case he wanted to ditch (he did) but I opted for the on-the-stage route, which was as cool a way to see a show as I've ever had.

In what qualifies as one of the nicest gestures I've ever seen by a performer, David spent much of the night giving away a pile of promo material and general personal detritus. He prefaced the show by apologizing for the fact that the only jokes we'd be listening to would be old material that he (correctly) supposed most of us would already know; so whenever he felt there was a lull or he just got bored, he started dispensing goodies.

What sort of goodies? Well, there was a TV Land Award (In response to the crowd's gasp, he said "Oh, cmon! What're you going to do with it? It's not even a good paperweight." Would you believe he was given this award by LIZA MINELLI? Google tells all...), a Shins CD, a rather comfy looking Charlie Brown orange-and-brown striped sweater, a DVD of the Ben Stiller Show (after we all listened to some girl go on about how much she wanted it since she "watched it back in the DAY, man!", some cat in the back loudly said "I've never seen it" and Dave promptly walked it right over to him. Got a helluva laugh, too), a brand new pair of Converse sneakers (the guy who got them was also seated on the stage and his freakin' soles were peeling off his boots, so that was a true mitzvah), an astonishingly dorky looking pair of Iron Maiden shorts, a leather datebook with a Comedy Central logo embossed on the front, a shitload of final-edit videotapes with individual episodes of Arrested Development (I imagine the absent Matt's going to be pissed he missed these) and a whole buncha other stuff. He even apologized for not being able to provide something for everybody and for not providing much of a system for dispensing the loot (he would occasionally ask people to pick a number or just tell them to volunteer if they wanted a shirt). Quite the gennulmen.

Yours truly didn't come away exactly empty-handed either: I scored a copy of "Mr. Show - What Happened?" signed by both Odenkirk and Cross. Hella nice! I took advantage of my brief moment of face time with the man to slip him a copy of the upcoming "Drunk" mix CD that's coming up at the Hut (and that will be mailed out to our lucky reviewers very shortly) as a little thank you. David's notoriously internet savvy and I emblazoned the front of the disc with our URL in Sharpie, so maybe he'll stumble this way.

(If you DID get over here David, you have any interest in doing a track by track review? A man can hope.)

Anyway, David took a little while to warm up and he tended to speed through his best known material (or stop for a prize giveaway) out of what seemed like just-tuning-up-jitters and embarrassment at his "greatest hits collection" show.

It WAS a little weird that when he announced the crack baby imitation bit (a non-sequitur gag that plays off of the ludicrousness of even attempting such a thing) people were CHEERING before he even PERFORMED THE DAMN THING. There's a Pythonesque-geek appeal quality to Cross' humour that was much more evident in Mr. Show but still blossoms every now and again during his live act that likely facilitates these kind of outbursts; as a geek myself, I say this with love.

About a half an hour in, he was off to the races. Went from warm to hot to over the top boil when he delivered his Tampa Bay Elephant at the Circus routine. He shied away from that bit at first, claiming he couldn't remember it. Whoo boy, thank god the crowd talked him into it. Partially because a great deal of the crowd wasn't familiar with that joke and mostly because Cross' delivery was so goddamn ON, the place was DYING with laughter and so was I. I cast a look around at the bit's climax and the entire room was convulsing except for David who just surfed the vibe with a totally straight face. I can't remember the last time I've been with a group of so many people who laughed so hard and so long. You are commanded to go Soulseek that puppy; I can't begin to do it justice here.

Cross is at the top of his game when he just talks. At one point he had woolgathered for a few minutes before stopping himself by saying "What the fuck am I doing here; are you guys in my apartment? 'Ah, hey guys, enough bullshit; I think the game's on...'" Honestly, I think most of the crowd would've been happy to just listen and hang out in the living room. His rapport with the audience was astonishing; he would stop the show and just talk to people and get killer laughs without belittling anyone. He's inclusive and smart and knows how to route everything back to his material at just the right moment. David catches a lot of flak for being an obnoxious or intentionally-offensive comic; I think he's remarkably gentle and open. He's also a very giving lover, but you'll have to stop by my other blog to read more about that.

I've only heard Cross on audio and watching him sell his material I was surprised by what a gifted PHYSICAL comic he is. Often, when you listen to a Cross bit there's an incongruous laugh from the audience that seems misplaced. Finally, I know what this is: little physical cues; a stony stare, a shrug and a dance, a swift eye roll or a stuck out tongue. Man's got skills.

Hell, he was even kind enough to illuminate the secret to a routine that has long baffled me. I had long wondered about a bit on his new CD where he's clearly meant to be pantomiming some sort of gay sex. The crowd gets a big laugh which he stops by saying "What? It's a midget and I'm undoing his do-rag."

Take a minute to try and imagine what the hell Cross could be doing.

I never could figure it out.

So when he called for requests, I asked to see that bit and specified that I couldn't understand the sight gag. God bless that guy, he DID IT and made a point of exaggerating the visual and I finally saw what it was he was doing.

Now it makes sense.

But I won't tell you. I'll take that secret to my grave.

If you're in New York, David's got two more shows, tonight and tomorrow at 9:30. It's only an eight buck cover; I can't recommend getting out enough.

You might find yourself the proud owner of a cable Ace award.

If you'd like to learn more about Cross and Mr. Show, you can explore this Mr. Show fanpage (with tons of transcripts!) or you could just drop by BobandDavid.com.
Let's say by some strange turn of events, you've never heard David Cross before.

Time to change that.

Here's a pair of short bits:

1. David Cross - "Stephen Hawking with a Prostitute"
2. David Cross - "Organ Donation"

..and because the guy is only that much better when he gets off on a tear, here's a longer cut:

3. David Cross - "Born Again/Praying Troops/Friendly Fire"

Hey, if you liked that last routine, you can own it all nice and legal-like when you buy David's most recent album, "It's Not Funny" direct from Sub Pop Records.
The material is a bit more up and down than the first one, but it's still a shitload funnier than YOU.

And long as we're MENTIONING that first album, don't you owe it to yourself to buy David's first album, "Shut Up You Fucking Baby" direct from Sub Pop Records?

Also, I think the pizza place is still delivering. Indulge!

Unrelated, but recommended: Welcome to Boneville
glisten: Acap' CD 7

13: Sterling Jubilee Singers - "Will He Welcome Me There?"

Adam - More harmonizing. These guys don't seem to be quite as good as the others of this genre, namely the Fairfield Four. Pretty simple and vocally unchallenging.

I do love the Fairfield, but otherwise I couldn't disagree more and I'll leave it at that.

Spencer - There is a foot tapping in the background that comes through here & there & I'm impressed with their restraint as this one makes me stomp along rocking back & forth. The steady rise in emotion works very well. I don't know the history behind this recording but the train at the end sounds out of place.

The train is actually quite appropriate; the Sterling Jubilee Singers are from Bessemer, Alabama; home of a once-thriving steel industry and a web of trains. It's a rough place to be; 27% of the population is below the poverty line. It's also the birthplace of Birmingham Quartet singing. This is a specialty of my father's and I grew up listening to a lot of that sort of music on '78's. There's not much on the web about this tradition, but a trip to your local library should be illuminating. In the meantime, here's a link or two to get you started.

Kevin - Another group of jubilee singers. I like the more modern room recording with this type of material.

This recording is circa '96.

Buy "Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb" from New World Records.
This is the only easily accessible CD of the Sterlings. I really, really, REALLY think you need this. Heck, here's an Amazon link if that'll help. Trust me tho'.
These guys memory needs to be kept alive.
Read the liner notes for the CD.
Read this brief article on the Sterlings.


14: Bone Thugs N Harmony - "Mr. Ouija"

Kevin - I haven't heard anything from these guys in a while. This track is sonically/texturally interesting, but not much of a song. Bjork should be collaborating with THEM!

Yeah, this is really just a tidbit; but I'm hoping it's enough to make you curious as to what the thuggish ruggish boys might be about. Sadly, it looks as if the news of a new album was premature.

Spencer - All thug life references aside, this one sometimes sounds like a 50s vocal group, esp. on the "Oujia are you with me?" line. The song really doesn't develop much before its end so I turn my thumbs down at it.

Adam - I used to think a lot of the same feelings abut the last artist that I do about BT&H (being underskilled for the genre they're in) but this one has started to make me a fan, probably because this one is more Harmony and less Bones and Thugs. The arrangement is a little bit dirty, but I bet they are too.

Again, calling the Sterlings underskilled is a massive headshaker, but whatever.

Buy "Creepin' On Ah Come Up" from Amazon.
Visit Bone Thugs official home on the web.
Play with the web ouija.
Explore the Museum of Talking Boards.



Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's "Sin City" movie has me absolutely giddy.
And he wants to do Allred's Madman next?
Pinch me, I'm dreamin'! Good comic movies at last!
This jawdropper of a story has already made the rounds at S/FJ and Waxy, but it deserves to be kept around. Absolutely outrageous treatment of a store owner who happens to sell bootleg hip hop mixes. We've got a ways to go.
Also from Waxy: this article on the sort of video games that your average grown gamer wants to play was pretty damn right on. I'll sign the petition.
Wanna learn more about contemporary J-Pop? RTFM.
Vote Early, Vote Often. My contributions to this list were pretty random and much of what I would've nominated was already up, but I think they're worth standing by: "Just Tryin' ta Live" by Devin for best album and "Lucky Star" by Diz and Basement Jaxx for best single.

For the record, I'm likely inclined to pick D'Angelo's "Voodoo" for album and Britney's "Toxic" for single.

I know. I'm a bad, baaaaaad hipster.
I've had an OBSCENE amount of new media sweep through, but I'll update you soon. For now, can I just tell you that Kish Kash and Volunteered Slavery are just KILLING me?
Look, if you guys get me a media gig then I'll quit bitching.
Doesn't that sound fair?
C'mon now. I'm getting skinny.