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A key figure in the rise of alternative comedy in the 1990s, writer-actor-comedian David Cross was associated with two of the subgenre's most lasting and influential television shows - "Mr. Show with Bob and David" (HBO, 1995-98) and "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06). The inventive sketch comedy show and the half-hour sitcom, respectively, were both adored by critics and earned a loyal following among comedy and alternative pop culture fans, but their niche audiences failed to deliver the numbers their respective networks demanded. In his stand-up comedy, Cross was fiercely intelligent, brutally honest, and often confrontational, especially in the fields of politics and religion. Cross managed to build a solid career at the fringes of Hollywood, with a Grammy-nominated stand-up album, voiceover work for offbeat animated series like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (Adult Swim, 2000- ) and "Crank Yankers," (Comedy Central, 2002-05; MTV2, 2007), and big screen character roles in the films "I'm Not There" (2007) and "Year One" (2009). Longtime Cross devotees, however, truly appreciated the work of his own creation, "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" (IFC, 2010-12) and thrilled at news of...
A key figure in the rise of alternative comedy in the 1990s, writer-actor-comedian David Cross was associated with two of the subgenre's most lasting and influential television shows - "Mr. Show with Bob and David" (HBO, 1995-98) and "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06). The inventive sketch comedy show and the half-hour sitcom, respectively, were both adored by critics and earned a loyal following among comedy and alternative pop culture fans, but their niche audiences failed to deliver the numbers their respective networks demanded. In his stand-up comedy, Cross was fiercely intelligent, brutally honest, and often confrontational, especially in the fields of politics and religion. Cross managed to build a solid career at the fringes of Hollywood, with a Grammy-nominated stand-up album, voiceover work for offbeat animated series like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (Adult Swim, 2000- ) and "Crank Yankers," (Comedy Central, 2002-05; MTV2, 2007), and big screen character roles in the films "I'm Not There" (2007) and "Year One" (2009). Longtime Cross devotees, however, truly appreciated the work of his own creation, "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" (IFC, 2010-12) and thrilled at news of the revival of "Arrested Development" on the media provider Netflix. Irreverent, opinionated and outspoken, Cross somehow managed to work on an incredibly wide array of projects, while never compromising his professional integrity or recognized comedic persona.
David Cross was born in Atlanta, GA on April 4, 1964. His father abandoned the family when David was 10 years old and they moved to nearby Roswell. His classmates at Atlanta's Northside High School of the Performing Arts voted him "Most Humorous." After high school, Cross moved to Boston, MA, but after only a year and a half at Emerson College, he left to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian on the local comedy scene. He began his career in television on Fox's seminal "The Ben Stiller Show" (1992-93). Although hired on as a writer, Cross occasionally made brief appearances in some of the sketches, including a memorable role in one of the show's most ambitious sketches, "The Legend of T.J. O'Pootertoots," which was written almost entirely by Cross. Although the show lasted for just 13 episodes, it unleashed a tremendous collection of talent into the comedy world, including Stiller Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, and most importantly for Cross, future collaborator Bob Odenkirk. Pooling $18,000 of their own money, the new comedy partnership financed a series of comedy showcases that became the prototype for their future TV success.
Although Cross appeared in several films after the 1993 cancellation of "The Ben Stiller Show," nothing compared to his next collaboration with Odenkirk - 1995's "Mr. Show with Bob and David." The absurdist sketch show - which resembled "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (BBC1, 1969-1974) more than any other American sketch show - was adored by critics and eventually garnered a huge cult following. But like most Cross projects, the show was far from a smash success in its day; instead it developed a nostalgic following by fans years later. In 1996, the bespectacled, balding Cross appeared in three films, essentially as the weird and/or nerdy guy: "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," "The Cable Guy" and "Waiting for Guffman." That image, coupled with the growing cult respect for "Mr. Show" and several stand-up specials, eventually made Cross the poster child for alternative comedy. By the late-1990s and into the new millennium, simply casting him in a film gave it a certain indie-comedy cred. It did not, however, guarantee success. Cross starred in and along with Odenkirk and others, co-wrote 2002's "Run Ronnie Run," a film inspired by a "Mr. Show" sketch. The film was never released theatrically, but in fairness, Odenkirk and Cross refused to associate themselves with the film's final cut.
By 2003, Cross' cult following had become so large that he essentially abandoned the mainstream, as his incisive, political and frequently caustic stand-up material already indicated. Also that year, Cross made his first appearance on "Arrested Development." Originally cast as a recurring member of the critically-acclaimed ensemble comedy, his portrayal of Tobias Fünke - a sexually confused folksinger-turned-psychiatrist-turned-failed-actor - was so beloved, that he quickly earned regular status. During the show's run, he found time to appear in yet another oddball role; this time in the critically acclaimed Jim Carrey film, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in 2004, but his focus remained on the quirky comedy series narrated by the show's producer Ron Howard.
While enjoying his television success, Cross maintained a notable stand-up career that consistently blended left-wing political commentary and crude humor, resulting in the release of two highly-successful CDs, Shut Up You F*cking Baby! and It's Not Funny, with the former being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 2004. In 2003, Cross released his first tour film, "Let America Laugh" and Comedy Central ranked the edgy comic No. 85 on the list of the "100 greatest stand-ups of all time." Branching out into the video game market in 2004, Cross provided his whiny, humorous voice for a Marine in the Xbox game "Halo 2" and a store clerk named Zero in the game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." He was also the voice of the violent, alcoholic "Happy-Time Harry" doll in "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (credited as Sir Willups Brightslymoore).
The busy comic also found time to direct the music video "10am Automatic" for the two-man blues-rock band, The Black Keys, which spoofed public access television. Toward the end of the criminally short run of "Arrested" and at the peak of his visibility, Cross began a public feud with the Southern comic, Larry The Cable Guy, accusing him of a number of offenses, including hypocrisy, racism and homophobia. During the last full year of his series, in 2005, Cross also began appearing as Stephen Colbert's arch-nemesis - the fictional liberal radio talk show host named "Russ Lieber" - on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" (2005- ).
Despite a huge outpouring of critical and die-hard fan support for the Emmy-winning series, Fox cancelled "Arrested Development" in 2006 due to low ratings. Cross continued unabated, appeared in the misguided comedy film, "A School for Scoundrels" (2006) and a host of animated projects, ranging from video game voiceovers to a starring role on Comedy Central's "Freak Show" (2006- ), a show that reunited him with Odenkirk, Garofalo and a host of other alt-comedy luminaries. He lent his voice to MTV's dark comedy "Wonder Showzen" (MTV, 2005-06) and "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ) and also appeared in theaters in mainstream family offerings "Curious George" (2006) and "She's the Man" (2006) starring Amanda Bynes.
In 2007 Cross had the unique honor of portraying beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Todd Haynes' inventive biopic of Bob Dylan, "I'm Not There." He voiced the sci-fi animated film "Battle for Terra" (2007), was one of the live-action characters in "Alvin and the Chipmunks" (2007), and reunited with "Bob and David" actor Jack Black in the hit "Kung Fu Panda" (2008), as a martial arts master. In 2009, Cross portrayed Cain, son of Adam and Eve, in Harold Ramis' biblical buddy comedy "Year One," also starring Black. While continuing to work steadily in animated films like "Cat Tale" (2009) and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" (2009), Cross remained busy in stand-up and animated feature films, where he voiced the titular villain's right-hand fish, Minion, in "Megamind" (2010) and reprised the role of Crane for the high-kicking sequel "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011).
Back on television, Cross briefly joined the cast of the short-lived comedy "Running Wilde" (Fox, 2010-11), which starred fellow "Arrested Development" co-star Will Arnett, before taking the lead role in a project of his own. Cross produced, wrote and starred in "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" (IFC, 2010-12), a wild fish-out-of-water comedy about a judgment-impaired American sent to London as the head of a sales team, where he finds himself mired in one bizarre predicament after another. This time it was Arnett who joined his old cohort for a recurring role as Margaret's equally inept boss. In 2011, he picked up more mainstream work with a recurring role as city councilman Duane Bailey on the hit sitcom "Modern Family" (ABC, 2009- ) and returned for another sequel in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" (2011), the latter of which Cross publically described as "the most unpleasant experience I've ever had in my professional life." On the other hand, his personal life took a turn for the better when he married much younger actress Amber Tamblyn, who Cross had been dating since 2008. Unlike the "Chipmunks," an enterprise Cross was happy to return to was the long-rumored resurrection of "Arrested Development" (2013- ) for a fourth season to be aired on Netflix's live-streaming application. Returning with Cross were cast members Jason Bateman, Arnett, Jessica Walter and Jeffrey Tambor, prompting devotees of the dysfunctional Bluth dynasty to once again hold out hope for a feature film adaptation.
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"This sounds corny, but we're just interested in doing good work. It was never our intent to use this show as a vehicle to become rich, lazy people . . . Of course, the important thing to remember is to get out while we're still funny. Then we'll make movies for the Bubble Factory. Then we'll start talking." --David Cross in THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 2, 1997
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