When Mr. Show went off the air, tears streamed down the faces of Gourmet Live editors. When Arrested Development went off, full-on sobbing ensued. The reason—where could we get our fix of David Cross? Luckily, with the second season of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret on IFC debuting January 6, and the simultaneous release of the Series One DVD, plus the news that a fourth season of Arrested Development is being filmed in tandem with a movie, we thought it high time to talk to David Cross about his own development, which was anything but arrested.
Gourmet Live: You grew up chiefly in Georgia in a family that struggled with finances. What was the typical Cross family dinner? What did you eat a lot of as a kid?
David Cross: Well, I wouldn’t call this typical but there was a period where we were getting government assistance. There were five of us. Two adults and three kids, and food stamps don’t really go all that far. We had a couple of years of powdered milk, cornmeal mush, and my least favorite, tins of s*** conglomerations with soft bones in them that you were expected to eat. Does that ring any bells? Maybe they legally can’t sell that fish-bone stuff anymore. I haven’t seen that stuff in decades. But Friday was going-out day, which was the best. Either KFC or pizza or McDonald’s or someplace like that. We looked forward to Fridays after six days of leftover mush.
GL: Working for years in stand-up, was it a life filled with cheap pizza and stale beer or olive-inflected hummus and organic kale? What did you consume to get ready to kill it on stage—what was your dinner of champions?
DC: LOTS of cheap pizza and cheap beer. For years my buddies and I would go to whatever bar had the best happy hour deal. I remember the Harvard Gardens in Beacon Hill had all-you-can-eat wings for about two hours. We’d get a couple of pints of the cheapest beer and scarf wings down until we were full. But when I only had $1.60 to spend on dinner it was (and was often) ramen noodles, a can of chicken noodle soup, a chopped carrot (boiled with the noodles), and then drop an egg in there and mix it all up with a ton of hot sauce. Heaven!
GL: When you appeared regularly at Catch a Rising Star for Cross Comedy you would plant fake hecklers in the audience. What would happen if you planted a fake restaurant reviewer at a fancy place like Le Bernardin? What would you instruct them to do?
DC: Hmmm. I don’t know why I’d ever do that. But I guess have them love the meal but be very upset with the cutlery? Have them vocalize that they were going to give a glowing review but now it’s been downgraded to only “fair”?
GL: You worked in restaurant kitchens. What was the best thing about it and the worst?
DC: Well the best thing, and really, the only good thing, was eating for free and stealing food and wine. My first job was dishwasher in the kitchen of Provino’s, an Italian restaurant in Roswell, Georgia. I was 15 (illegal, I know, but there were a bunch of kids in there and we all got paid under the table and it was the only way to get any money) and I would steal s*** like a two-gallon can of clams. Restaurant size. They were also doing some construction on a building behind the place and if there were any pans or dishes or anything that we couldn’t get clean enough no matter how hard we scrubbed, we would chuck them over the fence into the site when nobody was looking. The worst thing was literally everything else.