The Cross' Word

The shelves are empty, the vault pillaged. Soon enough David Cross will have no good excuse to talk about Mr. Show with Bob and David, the sketch show he and Bob Odenkirk created (apparently with a Coke can converted into a bong, several notepads and pens, a mutual fondness for public nudity and a lifetime's worth of exposure to Sid Caesar and Sid and Marty Kroft) that aired on HBO from 1995 to '98. This week, HBO Video releases the fourth and final season on DVD, with the requisite bonus bloopers and other tacked-on errata, which joins two other DVD sets and the 2002 book Mr. Show: What Happened?, a history-of and episode guide for people who occasionally like to turn off their TV sets and read books about TV shows. Save for a reunion somewhere down the road, presumably when the path to glory turns into a ditch, "This is probably the end of Mr. Show as we know it," Cross says from his New York apartment.

"I don't think I'm gonna wake up one day and go, 'Oh, shit, I'm not doing anything about Mr. Show. There's no interview to do,'" Cross says. "I won't go through that. It'll just be a slow tailing off, and I won't really think of it. Maybe I'll contract cancer in 20 years, and I'll pull down my Mr. Show book all dewy-eyed and reminisce and then have a peaceful death. That's what I'm looking forward to, as opposed to the violent death I keep dreaming about--and I mean daydreaming, not dreaming in my sleep."

For the moment, though, he is only too happy to delve once more into the distant past, perhaps because Mr. Show's final season was its best--its best written, best acted and best executed. The DVD serves as a glorious reminder, offering up such tremendous sketches as "Wyckyd Sceptre" (in which a metal band's gay antics are caught on tape), "'Taint" (about the space between a man's "bing-bong and flabby habby-babby"), "Civil War Re-enactments" (a re-creation of the "fake bloodiest" battle in history), "Cloning Hitler" (about... well) and "Prenatal Pageant," in which Odenkirk and his trailer-park wife (Jill Talley) enter their unborn child into a beauty contest. The latter sketch appeared in the season's fourth episode, "Rudy Will Await Your Foundation," which was the most perfect episode in the show's run.

"It had really strong sketches, some really goofy shit, and the whole of the show was greater than the sum of its parts, and its parts were very strong," Cross says. "If there was a fifth season, we would have really done more of that. And it had what helped make our mark, which was one sketch with a really human quality to it, a real sense of humanity, which was the 'Prenatal Pageant' piece, in which Jill and Bob's performances fuckin' couldn't be better. It was poignant, it was sad, it was funny and real, but you're watching this crazy comedy show. A staple of Mr. Show was the logical extension of an absurd idea. The idea of a beauty pageant for fetuses is absurd, but it's logical when applied to the fact you have these pageants where, literally, 6-month-old babies are competing."

The day after this interview Cross will fly to Los Angeles and begin shooting the second season of Fox's Arrested Development, on which he plays the ambiguously straight Tobias Funke, a discredited doctor whose fear of being nude, even when alone, is outweighed only by his love for acting teacher Carl Weathers. It's the closest thing to Mr. Show on TV--not in execution, but in principle. After all, this season there is a rumor that Tobias will join the cast of the Fox show The O.C. , and it's likely that Justine Bateman will join the Arrested Development cast as the love interest of...her little brother Jason.

"With that O.C. thing, I can't tell you how thrilled I am with that idea," Cross says. "For me, David Cross, it would be hilarious, and I would have so many stories about going and taping an episode of The O.C. , which I would never do in my fuckin' life. Except now I almost have this protective-bubble excuse: 'Oh, I'm not doing it. Tobias is doing it.' I actually get to be on the set of all this teen heartthrob shit but in the guise of doing this character who's in this other show. That's fucking awesome. That's above and beyond how great of an idea it is. And I get to interact with their characters as Tobias? Awesome. Awesome. And the Justine thing is brilliant. These are brilliant, brilliant, brilliant writers. It's fucking amazing."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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