David Cross Criticizes Comics Who ‘Bitch and Moan’ When Their Trans Jokes Don’t Land
David Cross does something that most Grammy-winning comedians won’t do — when a fan tells him that one of his jokes hurt them, he listens.
In a recent interview with Salon, the Arrested Development and Mr. Show star slipped in some side-eyed snark about — ahem — certain comedians who think that speaking truth to power and pushing boundaries means putting vulnerable groups in their crosshairs and crying “oppression” when critics legitimately voice their disapproval.
Cross told the story of how a fan convinced him to cut a questionable joke from his set by explaining its negative impact on them. Cross said that it “doesn’t affect me in any way to not do that line,” noting how easy it is for a comedian to accept criticism and move on with their lives when they don’t spend all of their emotional energy crying about “cancel culture” just because trans people don’t like being called rapists.
When asked if a fan had ever approached him after a set to tell him that they were offended by a joke, Cross said, “Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely.” He noted that, while many of the complaints he’s received have been oversensitive overreactions that he doesn’t take seriously, he still gives fans the courtesy of being heard. Occasionally, a fan will explain an angle of an issue that Cross didn’t consider, and it will lead to him either editing or omitting a joke from future sets. That process of learning new perspectives and adjusting your act accordingly is what Bill Maher would call “literally communist China.”
“It was a throwaway line, and it was like, ‘Okay, I’ll lose it.’ It’s easy to lose. It’s not a difficult thing to do,” Cross explained of the edit. He then addressed the edgelords of the comedy world who struggle with this simple idea of changing an act based on audience reactions, saying, “All the comics who b---h and moan about, ‘Hey, they’re trying to cancel me for this joke I made.’ Most of the time it’s a nothing joke and it doesn’t matter.”
“And now you are positioning yourself as this bulls--t voice of, ‘They’re not going to cancel me. You can’t silence me.’ For what? Your dumb joke about trans people? Who gives a s--t? I mean, is it that important to you?” Cross continued. “Just move on and not hurt hundreds of thousands of people. It’s a choice people make.“
Self-editing and adjusting to new information sounds like a normal part of any creative process, but for some reason, many in the comedy world see the act of listening to fans and taking their perspectives into account as “the death of comedy.” In the real world, we just call it empathy.