When I met David Cross, it was in a studio space in Williamsburg filled with old furniture, taxidermied animals, and medium-volume American rock music. Cross was being photographed for the pictures that will accompany this interview, and in the interest of efficiency, he had asked if I could speak to him while the makeup artist prepared him for the shoot. I got to the studio a little early, was frightened by a small stuffed tiger, and then sat and thought about Cross’s career, and particularly the way in which he has participated in several of the most acclaimed comedy series of our time, sometimes as a co-creator (Mr. Show), sometimes as a principal (Arrested Development), sometimes as an occasional guest star (Modern Family), while at the same time maintaining a career as a stand-up comedian (his last album, Bigger and Blackerer, was released in 2010), an author (his book, I Drink For a Reason, was published by Grand Central in 2009), and a writer-producer (The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, a show he created and stars in about an American “businessman” in London, has run for two seasons on IFC).
It’s an impressive amount of work that maintains an impressive level of quality, which isn’t easy to do in any discipline, let alone in three or four at the same time. Maybe that’s why he came up with the idea of combining the interview with the photo shoot: more time to do good work elsewhere. Lest it seem like I am in the tank for Cross or anything, he arrived about five minutes late, and his beard was too bushy. But he was cordial, spoke clearly, and didn’t flail his arms around or make crazy faces while he spoke. We began by talking about Brooklyn, and specifically the fact that Cross and his girlfriend, the actress Amber Tamblyn, have recently moved to DUMBO. He answered the first few questions while he was getting pancake makeup put on his nose.
Ben Greenman: Since this Q&A is for Brooklyn Magazine, let’s start by talking about your recent move to Brooklyn.
David Cross: I should say first that while I’ve been to Brooklyn over the years, I’ve only been a resident for a few months. I want to get that out of the way first so people don’t accuse me of pretending to be something I’m not..
BG: How did the move come about?
DC: I had lived in the East Village for ten and a half years, and it got to feel like a different place. There were two factors. The first was the mall-ification of the area. We have two 7-Elevens.
BG: Who needs two?
DC: Who needs one? There’s that and a Subway and all these stores that don’t really need to be there. If I’m in the El Paso airport, fine, but the neighborhood had all this unique character that it no longer has. Then there’s the weekend crowd. I have a dog, so I have to go out at night to walk it, and there’s vomit on the ground, and drunk girls screaming “doggie!” I’ll give you an example: there’s this spot on Avenue B that used to have great dollar-burgers. Now it’s a place called Billy Hurricane’s.
BG: Is the name ironic, do you think?
DC: No. And look, I’ve been to that kind of place before. I was that guy who went with a group of friends and tried to get laid and everything else, but it happened in other places, when I was traveling, maybe. I don’t know. It makes for a certain kind of neighborhood, and it wasn’t the neighborhood I wanted anymore.