Arrested Development's David Cross

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Christopher McLallen / Corbis

David Cross

In his first book, I Drink for a Reason, comedian David Cross ponders religion, politics and ideas for T-shirts sold at Urban Outfitters (example: "I Have to Go to the Bathroom"). Familiar to fans of the cult TV hit Arrested Development as the "never-nude" Tobias Fünke, Cross doesn't mince words in print. The book's preface is direct ("Hello"), its dedication straightforward ("To me. I couldn't have done it without you") and its stance on Jim Belushi pretty clear ("I have beef with Jim Belushi"). TIME talked to Cross about the literary scene, his upcoming stand-up tour and what to expect when Arrested Development comes to the big screen.

TIME: Why did you decide to write this book?
Cross: It was simply picking up the phone and saying yes to whoever's idea it was. Somebody from the publishing company called my literary agent, which I didn't know existed at the time. Still haven't met him. Although he's welcome to 15% of whatever I earn.

What was the process of writing like? Surprising? Easy?
Oh, well, if it was easy, it would have been surprising. No, it was awful. I procrastinated quite a bit. I thought — and this is just naiveté and ignorance — but I assumed it would be easier than it was. The beginning was easy because I just sort of took my time and was dicking around. And then as the deadlines started looming and a year turned into five months, I started getting a little panicky. So I was like, "Can I get an extension on this?" And the publishers were like, "Yeah, sure," and reset the doomsday clock.

One of the chapters in your book skewers the literary-party scene. Have you been to any lately?
No, the only thing I've ever been to — and it's not quite the same thing — is years ago, I went to a sort of charity event for the New Yorker at a supper club in Chelsea or something. There were some actresses, authors, various people. If you were to make a lazy stereotype of a New Yorker reader, it was that kind of crowd.

So what's the lazy stereotype of a David Cross reader?
I guess, well, it would be my mom and my girlfriend and my manager. And you now! So just describe whatever you're wearing.

And Paul Rudd? His review was something along the lines of, "One of the funniest books I've ever skimmed!"
That was one of those things where the publishers were very excited — "Oh, he's got some celebrity friends, and that'll look good on the jacket." Literally, I must have gotten three or four lists of like, "Hey, you were in a movie with Jack Black. Can you get Jack to write something?" And I was like, c'mon, let's not go overboard here. They were pushing me to get as many celebrity names as possible.

Which included Keith Olbermann.
That was my idea. I'm friends with Keith. I like him quite a bit. And as he says in the blurb, we disagree about things, but we have very interesting, good, educated conversations about stuff. And we're in a fantasy-baseball league together.

Your first stand-up tour in five years kicks off next month. What should audiences expect?
I'm trying to tweak the show so that it's not simply an hour of stand-up. And I'm trying to add some more elements to it, which I'm working on now — doing something to justify a $30-ticket price. I trust I'll be able to rise to the occasion and put on a good show so people hopefully feel like, "Well, that was fun. I'm glad I drove out here."

Instead of throwing rotten vegetables at you.
Well, hopefully not rotten. I mean, I will eat anything. And the rest I'll collect and send to the food bank, so that's fine.

I read that you've been doing stand-up since you were a teenager.
The very first time I ever went onstage was the week before my 18th birthday. It was literally the worst thing you could ever imagine happening. I mean, if you saw it in a movie, you wouldn't believe it. It was just the greatest set ever; I mean I was f___ing killing. And I even said, "The red light's on — I gotta go," and people were like, "NOOO! STAY!" So I finished and stepped off the stage and thought, Wow! I'm a genius. And then probably the next 16 times, I just bombed. I couldn't understand it — "Wait, these are the same jokes I told last week." People just hated me.

What's the material like for a 17-year-old comic?
They were weird, esoteric jokes. I was heavily influenced by Andy Kaufman and Steven Wright. So it was some strange amalgam of those two things. I can remember I used to do this joke about, I was driving down whatever street the other day, and this woman in the car in front of me had this ridiculous bumper sticker. It was like, "Follow me to Tennessee." And then people chuckle or whatever, and I pause and go, "So we got into Nashville ..."

I have to ask, what's the story with the Arrested Development movie?
I got nothing. There's no update, I guess.

So filming hasn't started or anything?
Wait, what?! Oh my God, I need to be in Hollywood right now! I mean, there's not even a script. We're far, far away from that. But everybody wants to do it.

What do you miss most about the show?
Just finding out what the characters are up to. Obviously, I miss the camaraderie and having fun, but more than anything, my curiosity is like, "Oh, what are those guys doing?"

What do you imagine will happen in the movie?
Trying to imagine what [show producers] Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely have up their sleeves? That's crazy. Whatever I come up with will be not nearly as funny or creative as what they've come up with.