It hurts, but we're not surprised at David Cross' public distaste for St. Louis.
While most know the comedian from his role as the sweetly deranged Dr. Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development, Cross' persona as a standup comic is decidedly hard-edged, confrontational and spouted with gleeful disdain for traditional, middle-American values. That style got him in trouble in 2001 during a gig at Saint Louis University, and ever since he's bashed the Gateway City as a comedy hellhole. Most recently, he recounted the tale in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, during which he dubbed St. Louis the "most humorless" city in America.
Cross has been giving interviews this month to promote the release of his directorial debut, HITS (which also stars Missouri native David Koechner), and he hopped on Reddit last week to take questions from the internet masses.
"Yo, David, what city is the most humorless in the US?" one Redditor asked.
"Oh, that's a great question!" Cross wrote back. "I haven't been to all of them, but St. Louis -- I always had, I just stopped doing sets there, but personally I've had very bad sets in St. Louis."
This is hardly the first time Cross flipped the comedy bird at St. Louis, and the reason likely has to do with the 2001 SLU show that ended with hundreds of offended audience members jostling to escape the room. Earlier this month, Cross recounted the horror in detail on an episode of the Nerdist podcast:
I'm riding to the gig from the airport and I'm doing what usually do, which is asking questions about the town, about the school. And I'm like, what's the school like, describe it for me. "Oh, it s great, it's a fun school, it's kind of medium size and you know it was America's first Jesuit school?" And I'm like...I'm sorry, you said this is is a Jesuit school? Do you know, are you familiar with my act?
It turns out the Student Activities Board, which arranged for Cross' show, assumed his material would be like his bit part in the sitcom Just Shoot Me. Things only went downhill from there:
"We get into this room that doesn't have a stage, they got these risers and set it up, they kind of created a stage and it's all metal folding chairs. And there's 300 of them with this little kind of row in the middle...It's not a theater, in other words.
I go up on stage and I have my table with a pitcher of water and a glass on it, and I go up and I start doing my act, and I never, very rarely do I alter it...and fairly early on there was Jesus stuff...and then people start leaving. They're kind of oddly not rude in the sense nobody's heckling, but they just start leaving.
But everyone is leaving at the same time, I'm talking about hundreds of people and the chairs are scraping, and they're not doing it on purpose, just a bunch of people, they're bottle-necking at the door. But about 60 people are into it and start moving up front. It got really creepy where a guy came up on stage and he was really confrontational, staring at me. He took the water, poured it into the glass and chugged the whole thing. That was his Christian "Fuck you" to me.
And it was really just off-putting. I can't put it into words how uncomfortable it was and just the murmuring and trying to do a set. It was almost like anti-heckling, and it was really effective in throwing me off.... It really shook me.
Indeed, the incident was so nightmarish that years later, in a 2009 interview with the AV Club, Cross pointed to the SLU show as the only time his material put him in direct conflict with an overtly religious audience. Earlier this year he took a few vicious shots at St. Louis during an interview with fellow comic Paul F. Tompkins.
Cross left an equally strong impression on his irate SLU audience. The Student Activities Board publicly apologized for Cross' set and praised the student body "on holding itself to a higher standard, expressing their distaste by walking out on Mr. Cross' offensive display." Notably, the apology did not mention how all this anguish could have been avoided had someone actually watched Cross' standup before hiring him.