In his latest TV show, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, David Cross plays Todd Margaret, an unbelievably hapless anti-hero that makes every mistake he could possibly make. Created, written by and starring Mr. Cross, you cannot imagine to what limits Margaret is pushed. Episodes air at 10pm on IFC. We spoke to Cross about the riotous show and, of course, Squagels. This is the transcript.
My first question: it seems things are getting worse for our hero Todd, and it seems they will get much worse.
You have no idea. The last thirty seconds of episode six is very much a ‘how the hell is he gonna get out of this’ because it’s crazy and everything comes together at once in a bad way.
Right. [Laughs]. I like how the theme of it…the title of the show is really true what happens. You start to get it right away, you’re like, this really is going to get increasingly worse.
You kind of see these shows happen this way and it seems like nobody can make a show that has worse things happening, in a worse way, than this. This beats all the other shows it’s based around.
I’ll take your word for it.
You made it with Shaun.
Yeah, it came about because these two women who worked at Argus Media, which is a British production company, approached me after a show I did. I was in London doing stand-up. They came up to me after a show and asked if I’d be interested. And this was their idea … of creating a show that I would co-write with a British writer with British producers that I would write for me to act in, for the UK, that could potentially be sold to The States as well. That’s where the whole thing kind of came from. It was a matter of figuring out a story for that. Because everyone, including Channel 4, which is a British television center thing, were all in agreement that it shouldn’t simply be a “fish out of water” comedy.
I’ve always been interested in the story as much as the comedy, going back to Mr. Show days. It was a matter of figuring that out under these auspices.
As opposed to a whole series of British observational, fish out of water…
Exactly, exactly, exactly exactly. I didn’t want it to be like, on the other end, just Curb your Enthusiasm where you know each week you know that Larry’s gonna say something out of a sense of candor, or at least to him, honesty, that makes things awkward and weird, and it’s kind of resolved at the end of each episode, it’s over, and next week, you turn into HBO and it’s a different thing … this is compounding, it builds upon itself.
Right. Right. Every episode you see his house in Seattle, and it’s just getting worse.
That comes up later. That comes into play as another plot point that kind of why we’re reminding you of it. We’re having fun, visually it’s funny – it’s great little visual pop … but it has something to do with the plot.
It feels like it could be a movie. It feels like it could be a 90-minute movie.
That’s interesting. The director, Allen Hardcastle, was talking about, when we release DVDs of it, trying to create an option where you take all the pauses out, even the dips, the black that would be in there for American commercials, because in America there’s like, four or five act breaks so they can put commercials in there, in Britain you have one…taking that out and letting it run would really feel like a movie, because of the way it travels.
I’m hoping it will win an Emmy and an Oscar as well. It’ll be a first, I want to release it into theaters.
What’s the British Emmy?
The BAFTAs. Film and television.
Maybe that as well.
I think that goes without saying [laughs].
Did you see it’s tailored to British humor? I know British humor is different, I don’t know how … do you ever think, this wouldn’t play–
Oh, come on, wait a minute. Back up. I’m going to poke at your journalist integrity. If it’s different, you have to be able to tell me how it’s different.
It’s more … absurdist I guess, it’s less pop culture and more informed about historical references. I can look at a show like Coupling, which is made into an American show and it’s not funny. The Office works I guess.
Well, they “Americanized” The Office. That’s their word. That’s nothing they’re not aware of. That was primarily because for the American audience on the network, if it was cable they wouldn’t have changed anything. NBC, which is part of a huge multinational corporation, part of a much bigger consortium of businesses, they can’t do anything too controversial. Well, not controversial, but anything that’s uncomfortable for people. They don’t want any complaints coming from anyone, anywhere, and at the day they still need to sell, you know, overpriced pharmaceuticals and things like that so they can’t annoy or irritate their audience too much, so they might as well get away with more overall.
They get away with more on British television.
They do kind of revel in the awkward, uncomfortable cringe humor that Steve Coogan is a master at and Ricky Gervais and that … that’s something they’re quite good at, it’s something they enjoy, something they as a people enjoy. They’re big into class issues and stuff like that.
Cringe humor, that’s a good way to put it.
We have less of that here.
Where did you meet Shaun Pye? Is he part of a…is he just a writer, does he have his own troupe, I’ve never heard of this guy.
You seem to have a bit of an animosity towards him.
[With bizarre Boston Accent] I had to butter this guy, who is this guy, who the fuck is he? What’s he doing in here?
That’s the Boston in you.
The very first thing that I did when I signed on to do this, and we drew up a brief overview on how this would work, first thing I did after I came back home was set up a bunch of meetings in London. He had the good fortune to be part of the last interview of the second to last day, so we went to a pub and had 4 or 5 pints, and we got loose and hanging out and making laugh and he was the guy. He’s very funny guy.
I wish I was at that pub. We’ll find out what happens to Mr. Margaret, does it involve the Queen? Or the royal family or something, would I be off base?
I had two other questions. About Squagels, have you seen any advance in bagels since then?
I used to subscribe to the e-newsletter about bagel technology, I just decided to go totally Unibomber, Thoreau, go and live my life. The first thing that suffered was that. I’m the way, very ignorant to whatever bagel technology has taken place over the last four years or so. I’m off the grid, the bagel grid.
The bagel technology grid.
The inventor of the Segway died.
Well he probably should’ve had his Squagel.