David Cross Called St. Louis 'the Most Humorless City in America.' Now He's Coming Back


"I knew that show was going to be problematic," Cross says today. - DANIEL BERGERON
  • "I knew that show was going to be problematic," Cross says today.

David Cross is coming back to St. Louis for the first time since a disastrous set more than a decade ago at Saint Louis University — a show that went wrong because, as it turned out, the student organizers didn't actually want David Cross the stand-up comic. They wanted chicken pot pie.

It was 2001, and a student board at the Jesuit university had invited Cross to perform during welcome week. They seemed to think they'd be getting "Slow Donnie," Cross' faking-a-brain-injury character on the then-popular sitcom Just Shoot Me, a part known for Cross' falsetto'd catch-phrase, "Chicken-pot-chicken-pot-chicken-pot-pieeeee."

Instead, they got David Cross the comic, a guy who swears a lot and hates President George W. Bush. At the time, Cross was working on the material that would eventually make it onto his Grammy-nominated 2004 album, Shut Up You Fucking Baby. He also wasn't shy about offending religious sensibilities, as evidenced in a bracing bit about being raped by the Virgin Mary.

The SLU show was so bad that Cross would later recall St. Louis in a Reddit AMA as "the most humorless city in America." So bad, in fact, that he didn't return to St. Louis for seventeen years.

"I knew that show was going to be problematic," Cross says today.

In retrospect, the warning signs were about as obvious as the f-bomb on Cross' album cover. He recalls that when two students picked him up from the airport, they casually mentioned that SLU was one of the oldest Jesuit universities in the country. "I was like, back up a sec, did you say it was a Jesuit school?"

That was only the first harbinger of certain disaster.

"You've seen my act, right?" Cross asked.

They hadn't.

As he remembers it, "They said, 'No, not really, but you're the chicken pot pie guy.' And I was like, well, this will be interesting."

It was not interesting — well, not unless you are interested in comedy trauma. Hundreds of audience members left in the middle of the set, raising a cacophony of metal chairs being dragged across the floor. Cross remembers one outraged man even approaching the stage, but instead of a regular round of heckling, the angry man took Cross' pitcher of water, poured a glass, and drank the entire thing right there in an inspired bit of passive-aggression.

"He poured the rest of it, and then turned the glass and put it down as if he was victorious — it was just a really strange thing," says Cross.

That night, he adds, he had to leave through the venue's back exit.

"It was very disconcerting, and it took me a day or two to shake the experience," Cross says. "It was not pleasant."

Now Cross is looking at a November 4 date at the Pageant for his "Oh Come On" tour. It will be his first time in St. Louis since the disastrous SLU set, and it comes after years of repeatedly jabbing at the city.

Asked about it now, Cross clarifies that he while he did nix St. Louis on subsequent tours, it wasn't animosity in a "fuck St. Louis" sort of sense. "I try to separate the experience of what happens in one night in one city on one day, and the city itself," he says.

He adds, "Salt Lake City is the last place I'd want to live, but I always have great shows there."

Cross knows his stand-up persona can be polarizing, and his work in TV and movies — such as his turn as the flamboyantly repressed Dr. Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development — poses significant contrasts to his caustic style behind a mic.

But he also notes that even during that traumatic 2001 show, some people in the SLU audience stuck around. They wanted Cross the stand-up comic, and it's that St. Louis that Cross hopes will come to his show November 4.

He says doesn't view the reunion in bitter terms. He knows St. Louis is not a bad boyfriend who wronged him years ago.

"I want to flip this script," he says. "Let's stay humble and grounded. St. Louis is giving me another chance, and I appreciate the opportunity."

Then again, if you're thinking this show is going to be all chicken pot pies and denim cut-offs, Cross has some advice:

"Do your homework."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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