From its foundation as a Puritan colony in 1630, to the ban on William S. Burroughs’ groundbreaking The Naked Lunch during the free-wheeling ‘60s, Boston has a long, proud tradition of suppressing freedom of expression. Yet it has also nurtured some of our nation’s most provocative individuals: Donna Summer, the Pixies, Edgar Allen Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Guess which side of that cultural divide David Cross falls on? It was here in Massachusetts’ capital city that our hero dropped out of college after the longest semester of his young life. Here that he first forged his career in the white-hot crucible of the late ‘80s comedy scene, with exactly the sort of smart, thought-provoking remarks that could have once landed a man in the stockades. And here that he returned, after years in the wildernesses of Los Angeles and New York, to record the performances documented on Bigger and Blackerer.
Bigger and Blackerer was taped during two such shows, back-to-back on the same evening at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre. As you may have surmised from the packaging, this title applies to both a CD and a DVD. These are separate releases in separate formats with the same name. Some of the material contained on the Bigger and Blackerer DVD, directed by Lance Bangs, will air as a television special on the cable channel Epix on April 10th. And, yes, there is some overlap between the CD and the DVD, but not a lot. Though both media are housed on a shiny, silver five-inch disc, each is an entity unto itself, full of material that appears solely on one or the other. Only by watching the DVD will you learn of Cross’ unique relationship with the deaf community, share his canny insights into the editorial machinations behind the Bible, and marvel at how well a bald, middle-aged white guy can fill out a pair of jeans. Yet one must listen to the CD in order to hear about gastro-intestinal misadventures with his dog Ollie Red Sox, or sing along with “The Sultan’s Revenge,” the swinging, Vegas-style opening number composed by Cross and his good friend Mark Rivers (author of the theme to Mr. Show).
As the above blocks of delicious press release quotes state, Cross has been around for quite awhile. I had no idea he had been a comic since the 1980s, but it makes sense considering he seemed to pop up on random occasions in whatever I was watching through the 90s and the decade after that. In fact, he still manages to insert himself wherever he can fit in this new decade…although that shouldn’t be surprising given how much his popularity has risen over the years. My first constant exposure to him was due to his role on Arrested Development, where his ridiculous Tobias Funke character uttered some of the most ridiculous dialogue to ever come out of a human’s mouth. Then just as that series ended (or rather right when I caught up to it, since I didn’t start watching it until it had already gone off the air), Cross showed up in another one of my other favorite shows as the voice of a planet in one of the Futurama movies. Plus he pops up occasionally (although not recently) on The Colbert Report…so even if he isn’t the main focus of a show I’m watching, it’s oddly a strange bet that he has been in most of everything I watch regularly.
In any case we’re here to talk about his stand up special from…I don’t actually know when, but judging by the “health care debate” jokes I’m going to say it was still fairly recent. In that regard the special was already a tad bit dated, but Cross kept from making this special seem too in the past by livening it up with a slew of other jokes. As with most specials that get released on DVD, the concert was an amalgam of a couple nights, but there’s no real way of knowing this during the viewing of it—you only get an idea that the stand-up bits weren’t from the same night when you watch the extras on the disc. It’s edited together quite seamlessly and it has a natural flow about it that it doesn’t seem distracting in the least…at least not from a technical standpoint, there are quite a few random audience interaction moments that were distracting for Cross, but that’s another issue.
If you’re a fan of his brand of humor then there’s plenty to guffaw (strange word choice, I know) at in this piece. While I attempted to keep my laughter to a minimum due to others in the house attempting to sleep while I was watching it, on more than one occasion I ended up emitting a much loud laugh that I anticipated. That’s just the price you pay when listening to Cross tell a joke about something seemingly innocuous like a Martin Luther King Jr. license plate…only for it to turn into a confusing racist joke. Cross really has a penchant for this style of humor and this stand up special really is a fantastic display of that. Highly Recommended.
I originally thought this was some kind of DVD/CD hybrid set since the press release I was sent seemed to tout it as such…but then I actually read closer and realized that they were actually two separate things. So basically all you get here the DVD in an interesting digi-pak foldout case with a foldout poster and…well, that’s it. Well that’s not everything actually considering there’s a pretty decent collection of extras for a stand-up special that’s less than ninety minutes. Video and audio are what you’d expect from a modern stand-up production and everything looks clean and clear to me. Oddly enough I think Cross may be one of few performers I’ve seen who didn’t sweat profusely during his act.
The extras include:
Eyeball Easter Egg (Main Menu) (1:57)
Easter Egg (Extras Menu) (8:45)
An Existence Predicated Upon Manufactured Necessity (8:03)
An Unpopular Stance (2:15)
The Most surreal Thing I’ve Ever Experienced (7:32)
How to Make Your Own Yogurt (2:42)
Unnecessary Bonus Bullshit (7:11)
It’s a pretty decent selection, particularly the easter egg of him trying to do stand up while talking into a beer bottle. There may actually be more eggs than this on the set, but I suck at finding these things and it’s only because I was watching the disc on my computer at the time did I stumble upon them. The rest of the extras are just individual stand-up bits, though they’re all pretty damn hilarious so I recommend checking it out. Just about the only “meh” extra I saw here was the easter egg of him recounting his time trying to get the part he ultimately played in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (another one of my favorite movies…told you he was everywhere). It was a joke that just went on for too long, although there were mildly humorous elements to it.
In any case the sets definitely a Recommended outing for any Cross fan. Newcomers may want to cover their ears as he tackles some touchy topics, but nothing too out of the ordinary I don’t think.
David Cross – Bigger and Blackerer arrives on DVD on May 25th.