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Comedian David Cross Plays Not My Job

David Cross attends The 2011 New Yorker Festival: Arrested Development Panel on Oct. 2, 2011, in New York City.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New Yorker

David Cross is one of those guys who show up and make everything they're in a whole lot funnier: from Arrested Development to Kung Fu Panda to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to his own cult classic TV show Mr. Show and his IFC series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.

We've invited Cross to play a game called "Rick Santorum wasn't the only loser Tuesday night." The New Hampshire primary isn't just the nation's earliest primary election — it's also the political contest that allows just about anyone to get on the official ballot. We'll ask Cross questions about three defeated Republican hopefuls you've probably never heard of.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now, the game in which people who do great things now do something silly. We call it Not My Job. David Cross is one of those guys who shows up everywhere and makes everything he is in funnier. He did it for TV shows like "Arrested Development," movies like "Kung Fu Panda," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," and his own cult classic TV show, "Mr. Show."

Now he's got his on series on IFC called "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret." He joins us now. David Cross, welcome to WAIT WAIT.

DAVID CROSS: Hello.

SAGAL: Hello.

CROSS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Great to have you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: I neglected to mention, of course, maybe the crown in your uhra(ph) which is the Alvin and the Chipmunk' movies. You've been out promoting...

CROSS: Yeah, and thank you so much for bringing that up. Thank you, thank you.

SAGAL: I did. You were in all, now three of the Chipmunks' movies. You're in the third one, "Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked."

CROSS: Yeah, because children love puns.

SAGAL: They do.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: From an early age, I've noticed. Even before they can walk, they like word play. So you've been out promoting this movie in an unusual way.

CROSS: Well, I've been promoting the "Todd Margaret" show and then people have asked about "Chipwrecked," which I had a terrible time on. So, yeah, it's...

BRIAN BABYLON: Why'd you have a terrible time?

SAGAL: Yeah, what happened?

CROSS: It was just a lack of respect. And, you know, it was the third movie, and those movies made a lot of money, like over a billion dollars, the first two.

SAGAL: Really?

CROSS: Yeah, yeah, I mean for everything...

BABYLON: How much did those chipmunks make?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Well, David, the Chipmunks always have been disrespectful. You didn't know that going in?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BABYLON: That's their thing.

SAGAL: They are chipmunks. They 're not nice.

POUNDSTONE: They're unruly. They've given David trouble. Did you have none of the albums growing up?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: Alvin often sang off-key, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CROSS: I know. It was grating. It was Simon. It was Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Simon.

CROSS: Fine, you want the...

POUNDSTONE: The one with the glasses?

CROSS: Yes.

POUNDSTONE: Oh, yeah, yeah.

CROSS: There's a lot more going onto him. And...

SAGAL: I've heard rumors.

CROSS: I'm writing a tell-all book with Kitty Kelly, and it'll be coming out. It'll be coming out.

SAGAL: Yeah. You know, it's funny, you always see blind items in the gossips. It's like, oh, and then there was a Chipmunk who's totally into crystal meth.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And you're like, what Chipmunk is it?

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, and now we know.

SAGAL: It's Simon.

POUNDSTONE: It's Simon.

CROSS: Yeah, it was just - it's too long to go into now, but it was just a...

SAGAL: Well, how is the movie? Tell us how - is the movie any good?

CROSS: It's really good. Do you like Sartre or Camus?

SAGAL: You mean all the great French existentialists? You bet, who doesn't?

CROSS: If you like their writings, then I think you'll like "Chipwrecked."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

CROSS: It works on a much deeper level than it appears to. Yeah, you got to see it.

POUNDSTONE: What did you do in the movie? What were you?

CROSS: I was this live action person that was just degraded throughout the movie...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CROSS: ..for, you know, the entertainment of Fox executives I think.

SAGAL: It turns out that actually being degraded is sort of your niche, usually. I mean I'm thinking both of your character Tobias Funke in - am I saying that right, Funke? Is that it, in "Arrested Development?"

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CROSS: It is Funke, yeah.

SAGAL: It is Funke. He was somewhat - he was kind of hapless, if I can be fair to Tobias.

CROSS: Yeah, he was - people have compared that character to the Todd Margaret character. And I think that Tobias is a little more pathetic in that he's deluded.

SAGAL: Yes.

CROSS: You know, the "Todd Margaret" is struggling and making very poor choices and making things worse for himself. But Tobias Funke is a bit like - he's a bit duplicative in a way.

SAGAL: And it is true that your show is called "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret." That is the most truthful title since "Jaws."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Because, if you watch the show, this guy just constantly makes the wrong decision, from the very first episode, and things get worse...

CROSS: Well, wait a second, what about the "Horse Whisperer," because that guy whispered to horses.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's true.

CROSS: That's pretty truthful.

SAGAL: That's true.

POUNDSTONE: Do you have any idea how old Yeller was?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I'm saying.

POUNDSTONE: Same kind of thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But, you know, but the new show, it's like, oh my gosh, there's a decision coming up, I bet he'll make a poor one. And I bet you can say you're kind of a spoiler, if you will, that the decision is going to be worse than the last one. You know what I mean?

CROSS: That is true.

SAGAL: Yeah.

CROSS: And you're just, hopefully once you get past the title, you strap yourself in, you're along for the uncomfortable ride.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something that's important to me, which is I just want to praise you for being an out and proud bald American.

CROSS: Oh, thanks. That was a struggle. That was a big kind of struggle...

SAGAL: Was it really?

CROSS: It was a struggle to come out. You know, it was just recently. Because up until about a year ago, I just thought my hair was starting to thin.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

CROSS: And you know...

SAGAL: As long as I've seen you, from going back to like "Men in Black," where you appear in "Men in Black," I'm like that guy is bald and he's totally out with it. He's comfortable with it. He's cool. He's not trying to hide it.

CROSS: Well, I started losing my hair pretty early, like around 19, 20.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CROSS: That's 19 comma 20, the ages.

SAGAL: Right, right, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BABYLON: Yeah, he was doing the Charleston and losing his hair at the same time.

SAGAL: Yeah, I know, every time he did the Charleston. Has it been something you've had to triumph over, being a bald American in the prejudice entertainment industry?

CROSS: No, you know, you just get stuck with - I mean it's actually good because people know what I look like and then when I put on a wig for, like, "Mr. Show," I mean what did we do, 100 some odd characters on that show, maybe more. You put a wig on, you look completely different. If somebody with a full head of hair puts a wig on, they don't look that much different. So it's actually a boon.

SAGAL: The things you have done as an actor have been so astoundingly humiliating to the character you're playing. One of the things that I adored from "Arrested Development" is the whole never nude thing where we find out...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I'm getting some knowing laughter. There's some never nudes in the audience apparently.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Where we find out that Tobias is a never nude. He can never be nude, even in private. He's always wearing his denim shorts. Where in the world did that come from?

CROSS: I believe, and I might be mistaken, but if memory serves, that is a real condition that Mitch Hurwitz, who wrote "Arrested Development," developed it, had heard about from some German guy. Of course, of course, a German guy...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

CROSS: It's a real thing. I believe that that's the case. So I've given myself a legal out.

SAGAL: Is it ever hard for you to just throw yourself into humiliating yourself for the entertainment of others?

CROSS: No, no, in fact, if you give me enough tequila and I'll get naked.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, David Cross, we're delighted to have you with us. We've asked you here today to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, HOST:

Rick Santorum wasn't the only loser Tuesday night.

SAGAL: The New Hampshire primary isn't just the nation's earliest primary election, it's the only one that allows just about anybody to get in and be on the ballot for about a thousand bucks. So in addition to the major candidates who went down to defeat on Tuesday, there were some others and we're going to say goodbye to these other candidates by asking you questions about three of them.

Answer two or more right, you win our prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is David Cross playing for?

KASELL: David is playing for Alejandro Rubio of San Diego, California.

CROSS: Absolutely not, not him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That guy, I hate that guy. Out of all the people...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question. If you were to go into the voting booth in New Hampshire on Tuesday and you were to peruse the ballot, you might find which of these candidates? One of these was a real candidate.

A: Vermin Love Supreme, whose platform calls for building a time machine to go back in time and kill Hitler? B: Nosferatu Feldman, who's running as the sole member of the "Feh" party?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Or C: Huggy-Huggy Kitten, who wants to kiss every American on both cheeks?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CROSS: I'm going with the first guy.

SAGAL: Vermin Love Supreme?

CROSS: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Vermin Love Supreme.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

POUNDSTONE: Whoa.

CROSS: Yeah.

SAGAL: Absolutely. In addition to the time machine idea, Mr. Supreme wanted to give every American a pony.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The next question, there was a Democratic ballot as well. President Obama was on it and he won handily. But there was another candidate, Bob Ely. Prior to the election, he sent a pamphlet to New Hampshire voters with what important information?

Was it A: Susan Stamberg's cranberry relish recipe, uncredited to her? B: quote, "to dozen good reasons not to vote for me, Bob Ely"? Or C: why the aliens want us to stop drinking beer, as explained to their onetime abductee, Bob Ely?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CROSS: I'm going with the second one.

SAGAL: You're going to go with two dozen good reasons not to vote for Bob Ely?

CROSS: Yes.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

CROSS: Yeah.

SAGAL: You're so confident.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BABYLON: Blazing.

CROSS: Yeah.

SAGAL: Yes, Bob Ely did, in fact, send to voters two dozen reasons not to vote for Bob Ely. He will come up with a lot of new taxes, he's inexperienced. And, quote, "beyond that, I won't spend time on many issues that are important to you." Last question, now I'm nervous but I got to do it.

Bear Betzler of Philadelphia, he's a candidate. He was asked, prior to the election, who he would pick as a running mate if he won't the nomination. He said he did not have a good answer to that. Why?

A: because, quote, "all the good ones are taken"? B: because, quote, "this whole vice president thing is news to me"? Or C: because, quote, "I'm not that into politics"?

CROSS: C.

SAGAL: You're right again.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

POUNDSTONE: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: He's good. Carl, how did David Cross do on our quiz?

KASELL: Oh, perfect score there, Peter. David, you had three correct answers, so you win for Alejandro Rubio.

SAGAL: Well done.

CROSS: Alejandro.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Well done, sir. The very perceptive David Cross stars in "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret." It's second season is now starting on IFC? Watch it. It's cringe laugh inducing. I recommend it. David, thank you so much for being with us.

CROSS: Thank you. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

POUNDSTONE: Bye, David.

CROSS: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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