What We Learned About ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘Mr. Show,’ and “Alternative Comedy” From David Cross’ Conversation With Michael Cera


“Do you guys feel like you’re learning things tonight?” asked David Cross, about two-thirds of the way through “A Conversation with David Cross,” a sold-out event at New York’s 92nd Street Y Wednesday night — and though he asked it in jest, there actually were lessons to be extrapolated from his informal 95-minute chat with Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera. Here’s some of what we learned.

He’s not optimistic about that ‘Arrested Development’ movie. “I don’t know that there’s going to be a movie,” Cross confessed, prompting an immediate “BOO” from Cera. “But the show airs — I guess you don’t say air anymore, it streams. The future, ugh!” (“Get ready to stare at 97%,” Cera chimed in.) Cross also confirmed that the original ten episodes had been extended to 14 — “Everything got stretched out for your enjoyment,” he joked.

He hates folk music. Cera asked about his childhood, and Cross remembered growing up in a “hippie-ish household” with parents who listened to the likes of Joan Baez — which is where he “learned to hate, loathe that music — I just hate, hate any kind of earnest, soulful, but also simplistic, ‘hey, let’s not be mean’” music.

He’s not a fan of Barenaked Ladies. A throwaway reference to the Canadian alt-rock band prompted a bit of a tangent on his self-proclaimed status as, “to a fault, a music snob, comedy snob, and if I don’t like something, I don’t like it. I’m not gonna go home later on and go, ‘Ya know what? They were really good, actually.’” Of BNL, he said, “I can see why people like them — they’re ‘fun,’ but it’s like, corporate picnic fun.” Cross and Cera discussed the band a bit more before returning to the topic at hand: “But we’re not here to shit on the Barenaked Ladies…”

Alt-comedy is mostly about what it isn’t. Cross talked about the origins of what became the “alternative comedy” scene, and recalled that it was, more than anything, a response to a kind of stand-up that had mostly become Jerry Seinfeld and Joy Behar clones. “There was very little, if none, of what we now see, what we now know as comedy,” he recalled. “There were cabarets, all these things that were in the back of bookstores and Laundromats, coffee shops, that were specifically about ‘we’re not that. We’re not going to be that. There’s all kinds of comedy that isn’t that. And you don’t have to be that.’” As far as his own act goes: “That was one of the things that I strove for: to make people uncomfortable.”

He’s not interested in “winning.” Cera asked about Cross’s public fight with Alvin and the Chipmunks producer Karen Rosenfelt, and his reputation for “starting fires.” But Cross clarified his beef with that particular type of executive, whom he says thrive on “this way of living, what they enjoy about life and enjoy about the job, that is winning,” taking on artists and other people in the business purely for the sake of the power pay, of waging a battle and coming out on top. “They think like — what’s that shitty show? Entourage,” Cross explained. “I think it’s reprehensible, I think it’s useless, I think it’s detrimental… It’s the grossest way to live, and think, and it’s a terrible philosophy, and those people are bad for the planet.”

He’s getting better about being beloved. As the evening was winding down, he thanked the audience for their continuing support, noting, “It took me a long time to be comfortable with compliments, and this type of thing. The last tour I did, I made a point of making myself not be a dick about it, and not be shy, and I really do, truly from the heart, appreciate you guys and your appreciation and keeping this shit alive. I really do. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and it’s probably a tiny tumor pressing in on the cerebral cortex, but I’m getting less grumpy and more understanding… so thank you.”

Oh, and they’re putting out a new Mr. Show book. In addition to his upcoming films Kill Your Darlings (“I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment on it, but I assume it’s good”) and It’s a Disaster (“I have seen, I really, really, really like it; one can’t say that about all the work that you do, I mean, we were in Year One together”), there’s an exciting project for fans of his late, great HBO series Mr. Show. “Bob [Oedenkirk] and I are putting out a book in September,” he told the crowd. “The book is a compilation of scripts that we wrote that never got produced, and they’re annotated and there’s stuff around them and extra bonus things.” It’s material that they’re proud of but know will “never get made.” In addition to the book itself, “we will do a book-signing tour and stand-up mini-mini-tour” with Mr. Show co-stars like Brian Posehn. Mark us down for “yes” on that entire enterprise.