Cult US comedian David Cross on why he's the Worst Daddy in The World

Cult US comedian David Cross makes his Belfast debut at The Limelight next month. David Roy speaks to the Emmy-award winning star of Arrested Development, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and the Alvin & The Chipmunks movies about his new fatherhood-informed live show Worst Daddy in The World and why he might be re-locating to the UK in the near future...

Comedian David Cross
Comedian David Cross

IT WAS 20 years ago that many people first encountered US comedian David Cross through his role as wannabe actor, Blue Man Group enthusiast and committed 'never nude', Dr Tobias Funke, on hit TV sitcom Arrested Development.

By that time, Georgia-born Cross was already a well-respected, Emmy-winning veteran of sketch comedy, thanks to his work on The Ben Stiller Show and Mr Show for HBO – the latter co-created with his friend Bob 'Better Call Saul' Odenkirk – and an established stand-up, as documented on his debut comedy special The Pride is Back, tour film Let America Laugh, and Grammy-nominated comedy album, Shut Up You F***ing Baby!.

In subsequent years, Cross (59) would reach a new, younger audience through his recurring role as Ian in the first three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, and by providing the voice of Crane in the Kung-Fu Panda franchise, while also co-writing and starring in the television series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.

However, live comedy has remained more or less a constant for Cross throughout his career: he first tried stand-up at the age of 17, and is currently touring his latest live show Worst Daddy in The World.

As its title suggests, the New York City-based comic became a father for the first time in 2017, with his wife, actor Amber Tamblyn. However, fans of Cross's misanthropic, provocative stand-up comedy style needn't worry that he's gone 'soft'.

David Cross brings Worst Daddy in The World to The Limelight on September 12
David Cross brings Worst Daddy in The World to The Limelight on September 12

"Just to be clear, it's not a 'one man show' type thing," explains Cross, who will soon be launching his own interview-based podcast series called Senses Working Overtime.

"And I'm not out there doing an hour-and-a-half of like, you know, 'parenting is hard, kids are weird', none of that. Maybe 30 per cent of the show is specific to having a kid, but they're universal observations, and I just sort of use it as a way to get to talk about other things.

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David Cross is coming to Ireland in September
David Cross is coming to Ireland in September

"It's stand-up, but it does have a bit of a theme to it: I start off by talking about parenting, then dip into these other things and come back to – not even necessarily parenting, per se, but more about how this is my first child, and I'm old, so I don't have the same observations that harried new parents have."

However, while Cross still tackles the regressive, degenerative state of his home country, US politics and the world in general, he does admit that being around his six-year-old daughter and her friends every day has had a tangible, positive effect on his general outlook – and thus, by extension, his comedy.

"I'm still angry about the same things I've always been angry about, and I'm still perplexed at the same things I'm perplexed about," says Cross, whose last comedy special was 2022's I'm From The Future.

"The the only real change is that I'm kind of forced to have a bit more optimism about things I normally wouldn't be that optimistic about – and that's just so I don't go mad. I feel like there's hope, and a good future for my child and her generation. And that's a good thing.

"But it really hasn't affected my stand-up so much: if anything, it has underscored the sense of urgency I have about those things I'm not optimistic about.

"And, I'm only really thinking of this now for the first time as you're asking me this question, but there might be more of like a pleading kind of 'come on everybody, let's stop being such a******s to each other' kind of feeling to my set, whereas before I had a kid it was more just 'f*** everybody, we're all a******s"."

When Cross brings Worst Daddy in The World to The Limelight on September 12, it will mark his long-awaited comedy debut in the north of Ireland.

"I've been in Ireland a bunch, but not Northern Ireland," the comedian explains.

"Unfortunately, in all my travels I just never had enough time to make it out there – up there, over there, towards there, amongst there – and so I'm very much looking forward to it."

On the subject of tweaking the show for international audiences, Cross is astute enough to realise how some of the US-centric stuff he'll be talking about will have a heightened comedic impact when delivered to non-American fans.

"I did a bunch of Canadian shows on this tour, and there's even a slight difference [in how it's received] up there," he admits.

"I was also in London in October. The bulk of the set doesn't change at all, but I definitely have more of an understanding of how crazy we [Americans] must seem to you. And I get it totally, you know?

"It's not like simply talking to people in, you know, Asheville, North Carolina or Madison, Wisconsin, like 'we're all in this, this is crazy'. You have that outside perspective, and I try to see it through those eyes – I can't help but do that."

Which brings us on the subject of how America seems to be rapidly devolving into a less than ideal place to be raising a six-year-old girl. Cross admits that he finds himself contemplating upping sticks from the US "literally every single day, because I've read something, or I've seen something with my own eyes".

He says: "I worry and contemplate my daughter's future and what we would do, what measures we would take and how bad things have to get before we leave.

"We live in literally the safest big city in America, so when I read, you know, the third news story that day about a school shooting in Texas or Oklahoma or Arkansas or wherever, it still feels so far away from the life that we're living.

"But things are so bad that I have a dual-citizenship now with the UK. It took a while, but I got it, because my dad was born in Leeds. So, I'm now a dual citizen. My wife and I have discussed it numerous times – you know, especially like if Trump was re-elected – how we'd either move to Canada or England.

"I love Canada, and it wouldn't be such a big deal as it's sort of equidistant between my family and my wife's family to visit their granddaughter and niece. It's not anything we take lightly, because we've got a good life here – but if it comes down to it, and I'm truly fearing for the safety of my daughter and her future or her education and things like that, then yeah – we'll leave."

Even if Cross does find himself living in London, England/Ontario after the next US election – though the prospect of another dose of President Trump is looking increasingly unlikely at time of press – no doubt he will still find himself being recognised in the street by fans of all ages, thanks to the enduring popularity of Arrested Development and the Alvin movies in the streaming/on-demand age.

David Cross as Ian in Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
David Cross as Ian in Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

"[Shows and movies] now live on in perpetuity," he says.

"I did three of those Alvin and The Chipmunks movies way before Arrested Development [actually from 2007 to 2011], so now I have fans that are in their 40s as well as kids who will recognise me. I'm talking like anywhere from like 12 to 42, and that's a new thing.

"It's so weird to me, where people will say 'I watched you when I was his age' and he'll point to his kid. That's new and weird, and it's because they are always on, somewhere."

David Cross: Worst Daddy in The World, September 12, The Limelight, Belfast / September 13, Olympia Theatre Dublin. Tickets via ticketmaster.ie