"I'm not saying that all Republicans are racist, sexist homophobes..." David Cross says about halfway through his second album. "Just the people they choose to elect into office." He's not joking—Cross' stand-up comedy rarely entails traditional punchlines—though he does prove dozens of times over that the title of It's Not Funny doesn't reference his material; it refers to the tragicomic, hypocritical, and indulgent face of the America he sees under George W. Bush. Cross, an increasingly well-known actor and co-auteur of the sketch-comedy genius-factory Mr. Show, remains peeved, and when he's alone on stage, he's free to question, attack, and vent. The hard part, the part that most stand-ups don't even go near, is balancing a moral message with a laugh. Like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks before him, Cross makes it look easy. Angry, but easy.
It's Not Funny, recorded over the course of eight shows in Washington, DC, earlier this year, does a remarkable job of pacing the vitriol. Cross expands a routine about the ridiculousness of a commercial for electric scissors (shown during The Simple Life, no less) into a treatise on the world's perception of American bloat. Answering Bush's assertion that terrorists hate America's freedoms, Cross proclaims, "You know what? I hate our freedom. That's all we've done with it? We're fucking assholes!" Elsewhere, he aims sarcasm at the color-coded terror-alert system, euphemistic military doublespeak, and, of course, religion. Oh, and he imagines George Bush murdering and devouring a Jewish baby for fun.
That sort of intensity, which Cross would surely admit can drive people away in droves, has become a staple of his act. Even where It's Not Funny strays from the political, Cross remains ready to call "bullshit" on anything, from the horrors of radio-rock like Evanescence ("I would rather hear the death rattle of my only child") to standby stand-up fare like friends having kids ("Your baby is fucking boring!"). In a medium where the norm calls for inoffensive, middling safety, he's an antihero of the finest kind, spinning negativity into material that's simultaneously smart, biting, and—most importantly—funny.