Whether inhabiting unforgettable characters like the “never-nude” Tobias Fünke, rewriting the rules for absurdist humor with the groundbreaking “Mr. Show” or eviscerating dogmatic conservatism in pointed standup, David Cross has left an undeniable mark in comedy during his nearly 30-year tenure in the industry.
Yet when asked to reflect on his influence — an imprint that can be noticed in everything from left-field Old Spice commercials to surrealist comedy revues like “The Eric Andre Show” — Cross dismisses the notion of any “godfather” status with his trademark display of irreverent wit.
“I know that I’m important in that tiny little world,” says Cross, who appears Saturday at the Speakeasy with friends Arden Myrin, Naomi Ekperigin, Mike Drucker, Harry Moroz and Emma Haney in part of a new series in 2019’s SF Sketchfest. (The 18th annual event, with hundreds of events, runs Thursday through Jan. 27 across The City.) “But it’s not like it informs decisions that I make. I don’t have a tribute wall, or a room filled with memorabilia or anything. I don’t carry that information with me into a meeting—like, ‘Here’s a YouTube channel with my greatest hits.’”
A versatile performer comfortable in multiple mediums, Cross enjoyed a typically prolific 2018. He reprised his role of the sexually-repressed Dr. Fünke for the fifth season of “Arrested Development,” turned in a memorable guest performance in the Amazon series “Goliath,” created and produced the British dark comedy “Bliss” and closed out the year with a successful standup tour. (That doesn’t include his roles in two critically-acclaimed films, 2017’s “The Post” and 2018’s “Sorry to Bother You.”)
With his packed 2018 in the rear view, Cross plans on enjoying down time this year with his young daughter. (He’s married to actress Amber Tamblyn.)
But that doesn’t mean we won’t hear anything from him. Cross, who enjoys all forms of comedy, easily can satisfy his itch for standup, which is most conducive to his hectic lifestyle.
“I can call someone, get on the subway and I’m on the stage in like 30 minutes,” says Cross. “Whereas if I have a good idea for a TV show, that could take years before it gets going.”
It will take the Brooklyn resident longer than a half-hour to make the trek to San Francisco, but once onstage at the Speakeasy, he’ll be back in his familiar environs, although SF Sketchfest promoters are calling his show truly unique. Billed as a “never-before-seen” comedy experience, Cross’ Speakeasy presentation will be one of six “immersive” gigs at the venue, where fans can speak with the performers, try their hand at blackjack, gets some impromptu acting lessons and belt out karaoke tunes.
Cross, who has participated in SF Sketchfest a half-dozen times, said he doesn’t know what to expect at the Speakeasy, but he’s confident it will be a great experience.
“I think we will able to figure it out,” says Cross. “I mean, I don’t want to take anything away from the experience, but it’s standup — we will be fine.”
And that may be the key to Cross’ success — understanding that when it comes to comedy, it’s best to not take anything too seriously.
IF YOU GO
SF Sketchfest at the Speakeasy
Where: 644 Broadway, S.F.
When: 7:30 and 9 p.m. Jan. 11-12, Jan. 18-19, Jan. 25-26
Contact: (415) 891-9744, www.sfsketchfest.com
Jan. 11: Janeane Garofalo & Friends
Jan. 12: David Cross & Friends
Jan. 18: Dana Gould & Bob Odenkirk
Jan. 19: John Hodgman & Paul F. Tompkins
Jan. 25: Improv All-Stars with Scott Adsit and Tami Sagher
Jan. 26: Michael Ian Black & Friends
SF Sketchfest runs Jan. 10-27 at various venues; rush tickets may available at some sold-out shows.
Other select events:
Margaret Cho: Conversation and audience Q&A moderated by Ben Fong-Torres: 7:30 p.m., Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., S.F., $25-$35
Brent Weinbach with Max & Nicky: A Very Weinbach Opening Night: 8 p.m., Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F., $25
The Kids in the Hall 35th Anniversary: Paul Myers releases “Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy” with Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, with a screening of “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy.” 7 p.m., Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., $25-$35
Superstore Tribute: America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Mark McKinney, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nichole Bloom, Nico Santos, Johnny Pemberton and creator Justin Spitzer Castro appear. 7:30 p.m., Castro, $35
W. Kamau Bell: Homegrown comedy hero appears with his friend and fellow comedian Hari Kondabolu. 4 p.m., Marines’ Memorial, $25-$35
Carol Burnett: The legend answers audience questions, in conversation with Wendie Malick. 8 p.m., Castro, $55-$75
Julie Klausner: The creator of “Difficult People” appears, with Tom Scharpling. 7:30 p.m., Marines’ Memorial, $25-$35
We’re No Doctors: Busy Philipps, Steve Agee, Jane Wiedlin and Dana Gould appear in a live version of the podcast about neurotic, hypochondriac actors. 8 p.m., Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., $25-$35
Best in Show 20th Anniversary screening: Ed Begley, Jr., Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara and producer Karen Murphy reunite; Kevin Pollak moderates. 4 p.m., Castro, $45-$55
Celebrity Autobiography: Cristela Alonzo, Ed Begley, Jr., Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Hitchcock, Michael McKean, Laraine Newman, Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel act out each other’s memoirs. 7:30 p.m., Marines’ Memorial, $50
The Pole Vault Championship of the Entire Universe: Bill Corbett, Conor Latowska, Kevin Murphy, Eric Martin, Andy Richter, Eliza Skinner, Paul F. Tompkins, Janet Varney and “Weird Al” Yankovic appear. 1 p.m., Marines Memorial, $35
Speechless: Megan Koester, Ian Roberts, Eliza Skinner and guest judge Merrill Markoe appear in the comedic PowerPoint presentation. 7:30 p.m., Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., S.F., $35
Crashing tribute: Pete Holmes, creator and star of the show, appears with producer Judd Apatow and cast member Madeline Wise. 7 p.m., Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission St., S.F., $25
Office Space tribute: Writer-director Mike Judge and cast members Diedrich Bader and David Herman observe the movie’s 20th anniversary. 8 p.m., Castro, $30-$40.
Bring the Rock Show: Greg Behrendt hosts (guests are Electrik Snöfläke and Matt Nathanson) the show in which comics tell stories about songs from their past. 7:30 p.m., Swedish American Hall, $30
Iron Comic: Amy Miller, Andy Kindler, Dwayne Kennedy, Jackie Kashian, Greg Behrendt compete in the timed event, hosted by Nato Green and Moshe Kasher. 7:30 p.m., Cobb’s Comedy Club, $32
Neil Patrick Harris : The actor appears to celebrate his long and celebrated career. 4 p.m., Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F., $45