As incompetent doctor-turned-bad actor Tobias Funke on Fox’s twisted family sitcom ”Arrested Development” (Sundays, 9:30 p.m.), David Cross could be channeling a bizarro character from his own sketch comedy TV series, ”Mr. Show,” which ran on HBO from 1995 to ‘98. EW.com talked to Cross about why he’s not too surprised his quirky sitcom is still around, why ”Mr. Show” may return to HBO, and which new comedian you’ve never heard of is as hot as Chris Rock.
Everyone said ”Arrested Development” was too original to survive on network TV, but you’re still here. Are you surprised?
I kind of vacillate between being surprised and not being surprised. I know the rumors were that the network was very supportive of it. And as difficult as it is to discern whether executives are being genuine or disingenuous or full of s—, you err on the side of trusting that they really like it. Plus in a pragmatic sense, Fox has had a s—ty year with a lot of shows eating it, and this is the one show that’s garnered tons of critical acclaim. You’ve got to attribute some of our survival to the press too. Two thirds of the reviews I’ve read said, ”It’s so good it will probably get canceled because Fox doesn’t know what to do with it,” and I think that’s the critics’ way to ensure that it stays on.
What lured you back to a regular TV gig?
The show is f—ing great and it’s one of the most pleasurable atmospheres I’ve ever worked in. It’s one of those rare occurrences where there’s no ego, and it’s unfortunate how rare that is. Everybody approaches a scene asking, what’s the best thing to do here? That’s kind of what we had on ”Mr. Show,” and that’s why in part it was so successful.
Will there ever be a ”Mr. Show” reunion?
Bob [Odenkirk] and I just met with HBO three days ago about an idea we had. We recently toured with a show that we based on a movie script we had written, and we asked HBO about doing this show as a one-off special. I won’t go into all the details just yet, but we’re waiting to hear. It would be a one-off special. And Bob and I wrote a movie script we want to get out there. It’s going to be really low budget, because no one wants to make it, so we may have to raise $3 million and shoot it ourselves. It’s a sketch movie. Our theory (and we’ll have to prove it to everybody who didn’t want to take a chance on this script) is that people don’t give a s— about a lack of story. If people know they’re gonna laugh, they’ll go to a movie.
Your movie, ”Run Ronnie Run” [about a loser who becomes famous], never made it to theaters and was released as a DVD last year. What went wrong?
You’ll have to talk to the people at New Line. I had nothing to do with it. Well, I had something to do with it up until the last day of shooting, and then I had nothing to do with it. It was a s—ty experience, it was disappointing, and it was unfortunately not the movie it could have been. Some of that responsibility lies with us, but the bulk of that responsibility lies with [director] Troy Miller and New Line.
Has that experience had an impact on the projects you’ve chosen since then?
The lesson learned is, as Reagan said, trust but verify. I would trust Bob, but you never know when ego is going to rear its ugly head with other people.
Do you still have time for writing now that you’re on a weekly TV show?
”Arrested Development” is nice because I’m just acting in it. I don’t have to stay in the office and write until midnight, and I don’t have to sit in an editing room. But until I die I’m always going to be working on stuff where I’m writing and producing. Right now I’m producing a pilot for Showtime to turn Vice magazine into a half-hour TV show. To use lazy terms, it’s very cutting edge, underground, whatever.
Are there any other comedians out there who could follow in ”Mr. Show”’s shoes right now?
There’s a guy nobody knows about yet. He’s a young guy from London named Daniel Kitson, and he’s honestly the funniest comic I’ve ever seen in my life. Seeing him was the first great stand-up experience I had since Chris Rock’s ”Bring the Pain” special. I want to do whatever I can to introduce him to the U.S.
For a funny guy you have an exceptional singing voice. Ever think about cutting an album?
[Sarcastically] I’m touring with ”La Traviata” in Branson, Mo. And I’m doing an adult contemporary CD, all country and western songs. I’m gonna cover Toby Keith. All Toby Keith and maybe some Lee Greenwood. I want to make it as palatable to middle America as possible. My target demo shops at Target, too, so I want to get it in there.