Newsflash: David Cross does not like Evangelicals or their ultra Right-wing counterparts. He’s not exactly fond of religion or politicians in general, but there’s a special place in his non-existent hell for the former pair. If you’ve ever listened to David Cross’s past albums including, Shut up, You Fucking Baby!, It’s Not Funny, and Bigger and Blackerer, this is nothing new. However, Cross’s new tour, the Make America Great Again Tour, is a showcase of the comedy veteran’s skill at threading the needle between keeping his voice prescient and barbed while never turning the stage to a pulpit. With the tour’s title serving as an obvious allusion to the campaign slogan of multibillionaire and Batman villain, Donald Trump, the enthusiastic crowd that packed the Cleveland Masonic auditorium this past Wednesday night had a good sense of what they were stepping into.
There is a dangerous catch-22 for comedians who gain national attention on a television series as a memorable character. For some, when they return to the standup circuit the crowds will be bigger but they will be expecting the person they met in their living room. Full House’s Bob Saget had trouble separating his blue humor from his clean-cut Danny Tanner alter-ego. Cross has had success in the criminally underrated, Mr. Show, with Better Call Saul’s, Bob Odenkirk, and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margret just finished airing its third season, but most of America knows Cross as Arrested Development’s resident “never-nude”, Tobias Fuyke. The division between his roles and his actual persona has left a rift with audiences in the past. Cross lamented to a Des Moines paper following his Wisconsin show that there are still about a dozen people after every show that demand their money back. While there may have been the occasional uncomfortable muttered groan and clenched sphincter, by and large, Cross won over the Cleveland crowd early and did not let go throughout the rest of the night’s performance.
The argument could be made that the bulk of his standup features topics that are not only well tread by other socially-aware comics but also included in Cross’s previous efforts. While that may be true, Cross has only refined his focus over the years. His scathing incredulity to any number of the recent social injustices that litter the social media landscape were cutting and provided voice to the ineffable disgust simmering in many of us. Cross has honed in on his niche in an otherwise crowded field. He holds none of the swagger of the late great Bill Hicks. His delivery is not on pace with the chewing bullets snarl of George Carlin and he never had the time for the erudite smugness of Bill Maher. While his performance was unapologetic, it was his self-deprecating sense of honesty that won the audience over. As any good man with a conscience would, Cross has quite the axe to grind. One would assume if the curtain held for another three hours he would still have some gripes left on his chest. But Cross never appeared bitter; his targets are bullies, those that would abuse authority, not those abused by it. It’s a fine distinction, and at times the line is blurred, but for the most part Cross punches up, never down.