Talking to David Cross About the Worst Time in His Life, His Proudest Moment, and His Biggest Regret
Entertainment

Talking to David Cross About the Worst Time in His Life, His Proudest Moment, and His Biggest Regret

The 'Todd Margaret' and 'Arrested Development' actor told us about severed fingers and shouting "transvestite!" at a schoolboy.
June 6, 2016, 12:00am

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into his or her psyche.

You know David Cross from being Tobias in Arrested Development, or from The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, or from the funniest sketch literally ever. Ahead of his new tour Making America Great Again, we spoke about that time his body made a weird panicked smell, whether he'd fuck a robot, and transvestites.

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What was your first email address?
Oh I have no… I don't know. I mean, I don't know. It was probably something generic. This is going back! I'm frankly glad I have a memory hole. I'd rather have other information filling up that space than my first email address.

What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
I haven't talked to my dad in forever, but my mom is pretty happy with what I've done. She's very happy. I think she's… sorry that's a boring answer. Cheesemonger.

Worst phase?
That was when I first moved to New York in the early 2000s. I had a stupid kind of death wish. I just got way too heavy into drugs and partying and not taking care of myself, and I was a bit of a mess. It was not a good time. And I'm surprised I came through and escaped, to be honest with you. I was just all over the place. So that would be my worst phase for sure.

How many books have you read and finished in the past year? Don't lie.
There are a couple that I definitely started and didn't finish. I got halfway through. I would say fourteen or fifteen, I imagine. I was on tour, and I read a ton of books, and I had surgery before that, so I was sort of sitting around. I'd guess fifteen.

What conspiracy theory do you believe?
I mean, there's nothing I really am adamant about. Like the silly ones: Of course, I don't believe in the easily dismissible, like "the Earth's really flat" and "we didn't land on the moon" and "there are lizard people running things" and "chemtrails" and all that kind of nonsense. But I would answer that by saying it would not stretch credulity to believe that… well, I don't believe 9/11 was an inside job at all. But it wouldn't surprise me to learn that say the government was giving ample warning of an impending event such as the one that happened on 9/11 and chose not to do anything with that information that came from multiple sources. Oh wait, that did happen. That did in fact happen. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they knew something was coming and sat on it because there was a handful of people who knew that it would allow them to do what they eventually did.

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So you haven't gone full "jet fuel can't melt steel beams" yet?
I—as I said, we know that they were given information and chose not to do anything. And that was a choice. Bush went on vacation after that. And I believe that there were enough people gathered in airtight room somewhere, who said, let's let this happen and then we can… They had shit ready to go in twenty-four hours so… I'm not… that wouldn't surprise me. I also wouldn't be surprised or shocked to learn that there was a second gunman during JFK's assassination. That wouldn't surprise me. So there's that.

So you don't trust the government, and it will probably take you out after this interview?
No.

When have you, in your life, been truly overcome with fear?
I think I remember very distinctly I was in my mid-twenties, and I was living in Chicago with my then-girlfriend ,and I was just a fuck up, a fuck up. I was drinking way too much, and I had this terrible, terrible, terrible job at a hardware store, and I worked in the warehouse where we would load trucks up to go to various stores or deliver things.

And it's a shitty job, and I had no money, and it paid shitty, and it was in the middle of this awful heat wave. My life was a fucking mess, and it was miserable. And it was on this pallet… I drove a pallet. Driver? Whatever you call that? This thing around the warehouse, and it has the tongues on it, or whatever sticks out, and you lift it up three stories, and you pull you have to get it into one of the pallet things where then you lift it up and bring it down.

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And I had got myself up to the highest level to pull these TV boxes in. I had to grab like three of them at a time. And they were heavy. They weighed like seventy pounds, and I was up there and I'm like: I'm just going to fall. I'm going to fall down, and what's the worst that can happen? I break a leg or break my arm, ribs, and then I'm going to get workman's comp, and I'm just going to be sitting pretty. I can make five times what I'm making right now, and I don't have to work this stupid shitty job.

And I remember really thinking this through, and I'm going to do this, and what's the worst that can happen, and I just got to make sure I land OK, and I really remember this smell that as I was getting ready to do it, that I can only describe as like a metallic, electric metallic kind of… it was coming from me, and I was sweating, and I was so fucking scared, and I was sitting there like psyching myself to do it: Just all you got to do is let your foot flip, just let your foot flip. Here you go. Here you go. We're going to do this. Fucking let's do this. It's going to be over in a minute. It's going to be fine. Just do this.

Obviously I never went through with it. But that was about as scared as I've ever been, and the smell that was coming off of me… whatever I was sweating, whatever the combination coming out of me was, was just this weird metallic. I think that kind of snapped me out of it too. I was like, What am I doing, this is crazy. This is crazy. You know, but that was about the… I don't know if it's fear, I don't know. That fear, it was pretty scary. Then it was scary to think that I even go that close to self-harm, just to get out of a fucking shitty job. Shitty situation, I guess. I guess it opened my eyes up to what a loser I was.

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Last meal?
If I get to go anywhere for my last meal, I would go to Wolvesmouth. Which is an amazing experience in Los Angeles where a guy and his team cook in his apartment, and it's communal feeding—like sixteen people who are mostly strangers and who eat in his dining room, and he makes the most amazing food, and it's beautiful. If it was being brought to me, then I'm just going to go full-on barbecue. I would get Franklins just to cater my… Franklins and John Lewis. Not the British department store, but the barbecue pit master in South Carolina.

Whole rack of ribs to yourself kind of thing?
Oh yeah. Ribs, pulled pork, everything.

Would you have sex with a robot?
Fuck yeah. No hesitation. Yes. Why wouldn't I? For moral reasons? No, fuck that. I'm assuming this is a twenty-first century robot—it's not some weird thing. It's not a mannequin with a hole cut out.

"I had a stupid kind of death wish. I just got way too heavy into drugs and partying and not taking care of myself, and I was a bit of a mess. It was not a good time."

If you were a wrestler, what song would you come into the ring to?
I would come in to—and you've got to play the whole thing—Gavin Bryars "Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet," but all five movements. It's a seventy-five-minute long thing. But you have to play all five movements when I enter.

Would that also be your funeral song?
No, my funeral song would be the in-flight safety song that plays on Virgin America.

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What's the grossest injury or illness you've ever had?
Uh, I've been pretty lucky. I had to have the end of my middle finger on my left hand sewed back on one night. It's a long fucking story. It's full of other injuries. I was taking off a sock. I was holding my other foot, and my hand was grasping onto a door frame, and there were like four of us who were somewhere in Massachusetts for a friend's wedding, and we were hammered, and we had done all this other shit.

We had tried to steal a boat, all this crazy shit, and we all had a shower because we were in this nasty, nasty water, and I was taking off my sock, and I was holding onto the door frame, and my friend closed the door to the bathroom to take a shower and crushed my finger, and I was like pounding on it and pounding on it, and it was in there for a good forty-five seconds because the shower was running and he didn't hear, and I was just screaming my head off. And then, when he opened the door, it was crushed and hanging on by the back skin of it, so I had to go to the emergency room. There was like blood everywhere. It's not that big a deal, because it was just the end, but it was pretty nasty to see. You could see the bone, and the blood was spurting a little bit… with every heartbeat it would kind of bubble up. So that was pretty gross, I guess, but not major.

Do you think drugs can make you happy?
I know they can!

What film or TV show makes you cry?
The hardest I've ever cried was when I was watching Breaking the Waves. I cried, then I got my shit together, and then I cried and got my shit together. That film made me fucking weep, openly on the streets of New York as I was walking home. And… Peep Show? I don't know if I… oh, and Toy Story 3 definitely made me cry, yeah. I'm so repressed emotionally that it doesn't take much, especially if I'm on a plane. I'm a plane crier too, which is a real condition. If you get above a certain altitude, have a few glasses of wine. Oh God, I can cry.

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What have you done in your career that you're most proud of?
Shit. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but, you know, I've been a part of a lot of things that I… I mean, this answer might change in fifteen minutes depending on how I feel if I really thought about it, but I would say I'm really proud of what we did, considering there was just a blank piece of paper in the beginning—and you have to include the third season—but all three seasons of Todd Margaret. As a whole, I think the first two were OK. They were good, but when you add that third season, it's really a cool thing that we did. I think I'm proud of being part of what became known as alternative comedy. Whatever role I played in that. Again, it was not a calculated thing. It's not like we all came together and went, "Hey guys, let's make a fucking cultural shift in what comedy is!" But it just sort of happened, and I'm proud of my part in that. So, I don't know.

It's actually a quite difficult one for you.
I just… especially the idea of having no idea, and then creating this idea, this thing that eventually became Todd Margaret. And again, you have to include the third season. The first two are fine, but when you add that third seaon and the idea of it and the twist, the writing. I think the writing is really pretty awesome, story-wise. Anyway, yeah.

What have you done in your life that you most regret?
My immediate response for that is the numerous times I have mistreated people or used girls, or misled them knowingly and then, when I had gotten what I wanted from them emotionally or physically, sort of found a reason to break up. Actually, now that you mention it—now that I'm mentioning it, I should say—my biggest regret that has to do with what I was just saying… a girlfriend and I, my on-again-off-again college girlfriend for several years… She was the girl I knew when I was in Chicago, and we had this long, on-again-off-again, tortured, highly emotionally relationship, and we got back together, and I'm sure that it was me trying to win her back again and got her. We worked at it, and we ended up going like, 'Let's move in together,' and we were young, and we were very excited, and we found a house in Somerville, Massachusetts, a duplex or whatever, and it was so exciting, and then after about three months, I was seriously thinking it was a mistake, and I wanted to break up again. Just awful, you know? Serial breaking up.

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And then, what I regret—and I've since told her this too and was happy I was able to tell her—my behavior, instead of being a man and talking about it and saying, "I know I'm awful, but I think we should break up again," I tried to create such a toxic atmosphere because I was a total pussy and didn't want the confrontation. I tried to get her to break up with me, so that it was her idea, and that's probably the most shameful, awful behavior I've exhibited. You know, it was nothing to do with her, it was all me, and I was just too much of a pussy to act like a man, you know. But then, I think that's probably up there with my biggest regrets.

What memory from school stands out to you stronger than any other?
One of the stories I like to tell, and I remember this vividly. This would have been, shit, sixth grade I think? In the States, when we're getting ready for our Christmas break period, you know, there's like a two-week holiday period, and the last day of school before everybody goes on break, there are like really no classes, and everybody just sorta has parties, and you go to English class, and you go to math class, and you're really just dicking around.

I remember the teacher's name was Ms. Coleman, and we were playing charades. And Ricky Carpenter got up, and he started doing kinda—I'm trying to describe this over the phone—but in a charades-pantomime way that you would do the Mae West, kinda one hand on the top of your head, one on your hips. It's a very female, suggestive… It's hard to describe, but that's sorta the universal, oh "sexy woman." So he is doing that, and then he kinda does like a limp wrist thing, and I said: "Transvestite!"

My teacher got really upset, yelled at me, screamed at me for saying something obscene—that's at the word "transvestite"—and she made me go outside and sit in the hall for the remainder of the class, by myself, because I said the word "transvestite." That was the kind of atmosphere in the very Baptist, southern Baptist, and uptight Georgia. I literally said the word "transvestite." She saw that as obscene and made me leave the classroom. And that was where I was educated. Public education in Georgia is not the best.

David Cross is on tour—check the dates out on his website.

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