In legal news, a Massachusetts judge ordered Dane Cook's sister-in-law today to pay Cook $10.9 million in restitution.
Erika McCauley and her husband, Darryl -- Cook's half-brother, are jointly responsible for paying him back, with Darryl on the hook for another $1.1 million to reach the $12 million total. The McCauleys had embezzled millions from the comedian while Darryl was serving as Cook's business manager. For that, he is serving a prison term of five to six years, while Erika is serving up to three years behind bars. According to the AP, she has asked the judge to at least keep two gold wedding rings.
Why would they do that? Because before my chat with Cook began in a restaurant, Cook asked the waiter to bring him a "chicken situation." A chicken situation? That sounded all-too-familiar to Behrendt, because, well, that's a bit he tells on his 2005 CD and DVD, "Greg Behrendt is Uncool." Roll the clip! Oh, wait. Embedding not allowed.
Click to view: Greg Behrendt, "Chicken Situation."
Hmmm. So. There's that. When Cook and I sat down to talk, it seemed to me that Cook's interaction with the waiter was merely one of those things Hollywood types do when they're rich and famous and feel like they should be able to have whatever they want, no matter what's actually on a menu. I didn't think he was trying to steal Behrendt's bit. Borrow it, maybe? Because I don't think he expected me to include it in my profile. For Behrendt, of course, it's not only personal but also professional. Because "chicken situation" is his thing.
On the hottest day Los Angeles had ever known, Dane Cook would not be bothered with a restaurant menu. Sitting down for dinner last month in an Italian cafe on the Sunset Strip, Cook told the waiter he'd like to have a "chicken situation," which, not to be confused with "The Situation," translated into a grilled chicken breast, put on a plate alongside any pasta and "some sort of sauce." Cook may be a comedian who has thrived by making up his own slanguage, but he's also very Hollywood and has been for years, despite the Boston heritage and sports gear he often wears. Then again, perhaps he's still the same guy he's always been. The same kid who worked at Burger King, who learned at an early age that at the BK Lounge, you can always have it your own way.
Twenty years after his BK days, Dane Cook is very rich and very famous, and about to embark on yet another stand-up comedy tour of North America's arenas.
Cook is so rich and so famous, in fact, that he abruptly cancelled the first few stops on his tour -- which now begins tonight in Syracuse -- because he had to deal with the legal aftermath of his half-brother, who recently pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from Cook while acting as his business manager. That's millions as in $3 million, which was the amount Darryl McCauley had the gall to forge on a single personal check that threw up all sorts of red flags to trip him up in the end.
But Cook is nothing if not resilient.
He has overcome that setback much as he has the backlash to his fame, by plowing forward. The guy who proved the power of social media by building a fan base of millions on MySpace and convincing them to buy his comedy CD in its first week of release has plowed forward. Cook has more than three million fans on Facebook, half that many people following his Twitter feed @danecook, and figured out how to get fans to pay to watch him on UStream.
So where does he go from here?
In what has become almost an annual appointment for us, Cook sat down with me to talk about where he has been, and why he's jumping back on the road after just finishing a North American arena tour last year.
"I think it was close to a million people came out, and I gotta tell you, I was blown away by that, because, to be honest with you, I thought with the economy, the way it was heading. I mean everybody said I was crazy to do that tour when I did, anyways, because it wasn't like, here's a promoter and here's a chunk of money and go out and whatever, I bought that tour. I basically rented those arenas. I don't think people realize that sometimes. I think that people think that it's some kind of in-house deal. Truly, it was like me gambling on myself to go out and give shows for the fans and put on that kind of caliber show that I knew people wanted after having seen Vicious Circle and seen Rough Around the Edges, you know, it's like, wow, I wish I could see something like that. And so I went out, and did that tour. I was blown away and flattered by the amount of people that came out, and I felt like, when I was finished, I was like, alright, I think I'm ready to put the mic down for a while. I kind of saw this two-year thing, where it was like, I'm going to step away from comedy altogether and focus on -- I've been writing a book."
And doing more movies.
"Yeah, even a couple of movies, I've been working with a great team of guys. I'll get into that in a second, but it was really -- more for me, the tour was like, let's step away from all the stuff that I've kind of been doing. I was on a certain rhythm. Some of it I liked. Some of it I didn't. And it was like, let's go out, hang with the fans, have this great 20-year anniversary of comedy, share it with fans, and let's disappear for a little bit. Let me get some people off the team, that maybe aren't participating in a way I would like, get some fresh blood and figure out where we're going to take this whole thing now. But I ended up in the clubs almost every night with some new ideas, and fresh perspective on a couple of things, and next thing you know, six months later, I've got a new hour. And I want to go back out. And the movies I'm being offered. I did three films this year. All indies. Because the bigger ones were awful. Really not funny. And the indies were interesting and scary. Not like anything I had done before, or that people had seen me in. So it was really, I look at it as, minus the stand-up that I'm going back out to do, it was really about picking a new direction, figuring out some new ways to tell stories."
Speaking of telling stories, I saw you tell a story in Montreal at the Steve Martin Gala, and I know you're still working on it here in Los Angeles, about watching the TV show, Disappeared. It struck me that this is the kind of story that I could hear another comic telling at The Moth storytelling series. Have you ever tried dipping into that pool?
"I've been invited. I know Jeff Garlin pretty well. And Jeff has invited me down to a couple of shows that he has put on, but, I just, I never had the time. I never really had the time to go do it. This year went by a lot quicker than I could have anticipated, but that would be something that would excite me, to get out and try something like that."
I ask because living in New York, it seems to me that the trend in New York comedy is toward more and more storytelling-based comedy, and I wonder if you feel that kind of validates the work you've been doing over several years. When you first rose to great fame, some people were knocking you for not being set-up, punch, set-up, punch. And now more and more people are telling longer stories that have jokes peppered through them, but are stories.
"It's interesting, because in this day and age of 140 characters on Twitter, that it was actually my guess that we'd see more Steven Wright type guys. The Mitch Hedbergs. Who are real consolidated and concise, kind of have that Seinfeld, almost the haiku of jokes. I felt it was going more in that direction. Listen. What you said is kinda true. It's a nice nod, I guess, to be like, alright, I was doing something right in the eyes of people I respect and admire, and you know, might have put my feet to the fire a little bit. But even during that time, I never thought I was doing anything that was -- I came up watching Bill Cosby's "Himself." I think we may have talked about this before. It's like Bill Cosby "Himself," Eddie Murphy, and Pryor, these guys that a lot of people look up to, they weren't joke, set-up-punch guys, either. So it was always a little bit of it. Is it nitpicky because yeah, I had stories, and I wasn't necessarily a set-up-punch kinda guy, a joketeller, in the old school, classic sense. But I never really looked at it as I'm doing something so unique. Or I never felt alternative doing that. I just felt like I was emulating people that I admired, who didn't really let you hear the joke. They were just kind of telling stories. So, now, to hear that, is a little bit of validation. It's not a gold star on the head moment, but it's, listen man, it's always nice to be appreciated by other hard-working people -- your peers -- and maybe not just hard-working. Anyone who chooses to do this for a living and really commit to it, and what that really means to like, most normal people, most "squares" wouldn't get that, but being in it, to have other people recognize the sacrifice, to have them say, that works. Yeah, that does feel good."
While I was in traffic, I got to read the LAist interview with you.
"Good to know that you're reading while you're driving."
Only at red lights. Only at red lights.
"I only posted that like nine minutes ago, and you've already read it."
There are plenty of moments in L.A. traffic to stop and read. But it mentions Aziz Ansari, whom you just met. It strikes me as funny on a couple of levels, one because he's going through that rapid rise to ascension/backlash, although probably only a backlash within the comedy community, which is a weird thing in itself. But I'm wondering what you think of the fact that what helped Aziz rise to such a famous level was creating a character that mocked a high-energy comic.
"Right. The Randy thing."
He claims it's not really based on you, but at the same time...
"I saw Funny People for the first time about two weeks ago on cable. I sat down and said, I'm going to finally figure out what this is all about. And you can always tell when someone is having a little bit of fun with you. But I watched it, and this actually reminded me more of some of the Def Jam guys. I've never had music. I've never had sound effects, and stuff like that, playing with a guy behind me. He did one little trick, it was like an old-school comic trick, and I've never used that. And I can say this because he's doing a character. Plus, I'd heard him say at one point or another that it wasn't based on me. I think people wanted it to be based on me because of the high-energy element, but once again, it's like, if someone's being high-energy and saying that's a Dane Cook thing, I kind of look at that as that's a compliment. But meeting Aziz and understanding what that...it may be difficult, I may have said this in the article, so I hope I'm not repeating, but I think what some of those guys are experiencing now is that they sold people a certain bill of sale, like, fuck mainstream, and yet they play into it. Andy Kindler is another guy. I've taken so many knocks from Andy. I think Andy's brilliant. But Last Comic Standing is the height of selling soap. You're selling soap on a network."
And selling soap with your manager!
Darryl McCauley, the 45-year-old half-brother of comedian Dane Cook, received a five-to-six year prison sentence yesterday after pleading guilty to embezzling millions of dollars while serving as Cook's business manager.
McCauley not only sold merchandise for Cook, but also at one time managed his email and online presence as the comedian rocketed to fame in the 2000s. It's uncertain exactly how much money McCauley had stolen over the years, although forging a personal check for $3 million from Cook to himself certainly threw up a giant red flag.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley put out a statement yesterday, saying: “For several years, Mr. McCauley abused his position as a family member to gain Mr. Cook’s trust, and stole millions of dollars for his own personal gain. We hope that today’s sentence will act as a deterrent, and our office will continue to investigate and prosecute these cases.’’
McCauley's wife, Erika, also faces multiple charges. Her trial has not yet begun.
(via Boston Globe)
Last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Dane Cook stopped by to talk about his summer, and the things he has done to occupy his time in between massive stand-up comedy tours of U.S. arenas and theaters. He starts another tour this weekend in L.A. at the Greek Theatre.
Here's a clip of Cook on Kimmel.
The previous night, Cook sat down to dinner with me in West Hollywood and dished for a full hour about where his thought process is right about now. I'll post it as soon as I can set aside enough time to decipher and transcribe the recording off of my iPhone. In the meantime, please allow Cook to tease our latest interview and even turn the Flip cam on me. Note to self: I need to remember to look more Hollywood when I'm in Hollywood. Roll it.
In its 28th year, the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal has featured just about every big name in comedy. But Steve Martin, having "quit" stand-up comedy before JFL's debut, was not among them until last night, when he made his debut hosting two Gala-type showcases at the fest. (Photo by Montreal Gazette)
Word on the street has put forward the idea that Martin, now 64, may in fact be making a return to comedy. Though I couldn't talk to him personally to confirm or deny that word, I do know that on his current banjo and bluegrass tour with The Steep Canyon Rangers (who also accompanied him in Montreal), Martin has been making audiences laugh with his banter between songs. And Martin has plenty of experience as a host, doing so three times at the Academy Awards. He pulled it off quite nicely last night, as well. He told the audience that hosting brought forth a lot of responsibility to be funny. "But then I remembered that my friends John Cleese and Marty Short hosted last year, and I thought, well, I'm funnier than those idiots," he joked. Martin then acknowledged that he had finally come to Just For Laughs, which he called "comedy mecca. And we all know how funny Mecca is."
They played a highlight reel of Martin's greatest JFL moments, which, of course, amounted to footage from the first few minutes of the show, paused to allow latecomers to find their seats -- at which point Martin cracked, "You would think in a place discovered by Cartier, they'd know how to get to places on time" -- and Martin performed a custom tune with the band singing along called "Atheists Don't Have No Songs." Most Galas have goofy sketches for the host to perform, but Martin was not required to be wild or crazy on this evening. He did, however, play an audio recording of one of his phone calls to his wife, so as to make sure he wouldn't get the Mel Gibson treatment. And he closed out the night with a performance of "King Tut" (sans Egyptian outfit).
Oh, and there were plenty of stand-ups, too. The bookings were all over the map, and most certainly not hand-picked by Martin, with one notable exception. At the 10 p.m. show, Martin introduced Dane Cook as a "surprise guest." Cook told me he flew in just for this opportunity to perform for his comedy idol, arriving just in time for the late show, and departing this afternoon. At the showcase, Cook told the audience: "People say to me, Dane, why don't you come up and do the festival more often? Because the sets are fucking ugly!" (Photo by Tim Snow)
On today's new edition of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Maron sits down with Dane Cook -- and Cook apparently has video footage of this, which may or may not see daylight, too -- you get to hear Maron be an asshole while accusing Cook of being an asshole. It makes for an interesting listen. Both guys seem to have an agenda. Both guys seem to have an understanding of the other person that fits while at the same time doesn't fit. In between bits of verbal sparring, you get to hear Cook talk about his childhood and school life, his father's alcoholism, and about his outlook on life.
Happy ending? Listen to the whole thing (including Maron's opening monologue about his battles with nicotine):
Jamie Masada and The Laugh Factory have been operating a Charity Comedy Camp for at-risk kids for the past quarter-century, and on Saturday, they're opening the doors again for underprivileged kids from 9-16 who live near Los Angeles to audition and potentially learn stand-up from the pros.
It's a free camp. Previous counselors Bob Saget, Dane Cook, Chris Tucker, Shawn Wayans, Paul Rodriguez, Jamie Foxx, & Rob Schneider are featured in this trailer:
More info? Auditions will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 19 at the club. The camp takes place over the next 8-10 weeks in the summer. Please RSVP and call or email with any questions! 323.656.1336x1 email@example.com
This is Dane Cook's 12th year working with the camp, and you can see him talk about it with TV Guide in this clip from two summers ago. Roll it.
After the unexpected ending of his musical performance on last night's finale of American Idol, Dane Cook told me this morning via email a little bit more about the "before" part of the process, and credited comedian J. Chris Newberg not just for working with him on the song, "Simon Said," but also on how he "certainly rose to the occasion in that behind the scenes insanity."
How was Dane Cook even on Idol, though, you may wonder? Credit another Simon, Idol's creator and executive producer Simon Fuller. "Simon Fuller is a fan of mine for some years, so they just asked me to be a part of it," Cook told me.
Internet sleuths may also know that Raquel Houghton, who sang at Cook's HBO taping of "Vicious Circle" when she was dating him back in 2006, made it to Hollywood Week of Idol in season eight last year.
Anyhow. Back to Cook, who gently mocked me for suggesting that his Idol performance would be a duet and not a solo act, saying: "As far as collaborating with my buddy Daughtry? Oh come on, Sean don't you know me yet?? When do I ever do what people expect?"
If you'd like to hear the full studio version of "Simon Said" that Cook recorded with Newberg and a band, it's available on iTunes by clicking this button:
With Simon Cowell's final season as the judge who matters on American Idol coming to a close last night, I wouldn't have thought that there would be actual comedy to pay attention to, but of course that meant that there was, and let's talk about it.
Without any explanation, the show zoomed in on Dane Cook at center stage strumming a guitar and roasting Simon. Sure. Um. OK. As I suggested at the time remotely on Twitter to New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff, perhaps FOX was rewarding Cook for his loyalty to MySpace by letting him sing -- after all, Cook did find his path to fame by making 2.6 million friends on MySpace and clinging to the network long after everyone else jumped to Facebook and Twitter. Lo and behold, later in the Idol finale, it turned out that the show was betting on MySpace for its 10th season. I guess I wasn't surprised that Cook would be singing on live network TV -- he had told me about wanting to pursue a music career three years ago, although I would have figured that, given his friendship with past Idol finalist Daughtry, that he would have showed up on the finale with Chris Daughtry for a duet instead of as a solo act. That wasn't the news that came out of Dane Cook's appearance, however. Roll the clip!
So, yes. That happened. At the end of the song, some of Idol's biggest rejects got the chance to run onstage alongside Cook, and wouldn't you know that one of them would want to grab the microphone for another chance at infamous glory on live network TV? Wouldn't you know that? It seems like if you were a producer, you would know that. So I don't know how you could claim this is anything like what Kanye West did at the MTV Music Video Awards, because Kanye West had not been invited onstage by producers. At all. Nope. That was a surprise. This?
No matter what Cook said -- and he said this on Twitter afterward: "That was not staged. Weirdo hijacked the song. Just glad he didn't hit me in the face w/the mic or Americal (sic) Idol would b American Beatdown," Cook wrote on Twitter. "Weirdo = Fuckface." It looks like FOX producers set him up. Ian Benardo, the first freak to take the mic before second freak Tatiana Del Toro wrestled with him onstage for control of it, told MTV that that was the plan all along.
About the song and roast itself, it turns out that Cook wasn't acting alone, anyhow. Musical comedian J. Chris Newberg had an active hand in the writing and production of the song, and posted as such on Twitter and Facebook last night. After the live TV ruckus, he said Benardo's stunt only meant that the song he wrote with Cook would garner more attention in the morning, which hopefully would boost sales of the song on iTunes. Before it happened, though, he posted this photo with Cook from backstage, saying: "My writing partner, Dane Cook, before he made TV awesomeness."
The song, if you want to hear "Simon Said" as it was intended, should be available later today on iTunes.
Writing comedy on Twitter carries with it some of the same perils of performing comedy in front of a live audience: The notion that the audience may have heard it all before, either through parallel thinking (or if you dared to steal the joke outright), that the material is hack, that the jokes are offensive without any redeeming value, or, worst of all, that you turn out to not be funny at all.
Twitter being a very social medium, it also has become an alluring device for comedians. Instead of jotting down ideas in a notebook as they strike you, comedians can immediately share their wit with their followers online. Twitter also serves as a real-time counter to that perpetual threat comedians face from the public at-large, that any random person will, upon hearing you're a comedian, try to get you to "say something funny." Instead of feeling cornered by that threat, a comedian now can simply point the offender to his/her Twitter.
At the same time, though, Twitter challenges every comedian to be better at their job. As tempting and as appealing as it may be to weigh in and share every thought you have with your followers, remember that millions of other people are doing the very same thing at every minute of the day. So an Apple employee lost the next-generation super-secret iPhone, and Gizmodo paid the guy who found it to publish details about it. What if you, as a joke, pretended to be the guy who lost the phone? That's what Dane Cook did on April 19:
Followed a day later by this:
Cook's fans let him know about this, because last night, Cook wrote: "@azizansari is cool. comics have similar premises guys. I was quicker on the topical bc I read @gizmodo every hour. I'm a gadgeteer."
Must have been delicious irony for Cook, who has had to deal with old-tech allegations of parallel thinking for years.
They aren't the only ones to come up with the same joke about something topical, of course. As Witstream's Lisa Cohen told me during the Twitter #140conf yesterday, Twitter's threat of parallel thinking forces comedy writers to raise their game. I agree. I had told her about something I said on Twitter and Facebook during the Winter Olympics, when I saw the same exact luge and curling jokes I had seen four years earlier, and four years before that. It's just that for many people, Twitter remains such a new way to communicate instantly with anyone and everyone, some users forget that there are millions of others thinking the exact same thing.
Before you hit send, you may want to think, am I really first? Am I really original?
One to grow on...
Here's something you don't see every day. A famous comedian performing in his "home" club on his birthday, and getting serenaded by the club's owner and the audience. And yet, that was Dane Cook, last week, at The Laugh Factory, with club owner Jamie Masada and a very appreciative audience. Roll the clip.
Ustream has hosted millions of live streaming Web shows and series. A quick look at Ustream's entertainment section pulled up 251,628 separate listings, with plenty of comedians among them. They've all been free, but that will change Feb. 6 with the first pay-per-view offering, which takes fans behind-the-scenes of Dane Cook's final stop on his current stand-up comedy tour.
The one-time offer "for his special fans" at http://www.ustream.tv/danecook boasts "5 hours of Exclusive LIVE COVERAGE for only $5," presumably from the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., where Cook and his opening acts will close down his Isolated Incident Global Thermo Comedy Tour. I'm also going to go ahead and guess that Cook will be chatting with fans from backstage before and after the show -- and maybe even during it for a few minutes? -- as well as getting his opening acts into the mix.
Would you pay $5 for something other people are offering currently for free? That has been the question of the Internet age for anyone who provides unique content.
How much would you pay to watch a live online show?
How much would you pay to read an online blog?
I'm asking for my imaginary friend. Obviously.
UPDATED: Dane Cook posted some additional news on this front. He has turned it into a contest, even, with people who buy tickets by Jan. 29 eligible for prizes. Prizes? Yes, prizes. The prize being a free trip for two to attend the show in person with all-access privileges. For everyone else, if you watch the Ustream feed, you'll get to see Cook's sound check, participate in a live Facebook chat (couldn't you do that part on Facebook? anyhow), pre-show chatter, access to his opening acts, the full show, and an after-party.
Trick or treat! Comedian Dane Cook uploaded a new video last week in which he interviewed himself to promote his upcoming show this Thursday at Madison Square Garden as part of the New York Comedy Festival. Strange but true. Roll the clip!
Related: Buy tickets to Dane Cook's show at Madison Square Garden, or any of the remaining dates on Dane Cook's arena stand-up tour this fall.
Furthermore: Check out my own interviews with Dane Cook...
June 17, 2009 -- on Isolated Incident
Nov. 12, 2008 -- at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas
Sept. 21, 2007 -- answering his critics
April 16, 2006 -- on the night he taped HBO's Vicious Circle in Boston
Even though many in the comedy industry were in Montreal last week, the comedy world kept making news. Go figure. Here's what you (and by you, I mean, of course, me) might have missed:
Cook released this song as a TwitVid (TwitVid?) to celebrate reaching more than 1 million followers on his Twitter feed @danecook.
Mere hours after his appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Dane Cook called me up last week so we could chat about what it's like to have two stand-up comedy CDs debut in the top five on the Billboard charts, perform for arena-sized crowds as only a few had done before him (notably, Steve Martin and Andrew "Dice" Clay), and overcome not just the cultural backlash that came with it, but also his own early insecurities.
But first, a clarification on my earlier review of Isolated Incident: The bonus DVD is not the TV special at all, but rather an hourlong documentary, called "30 Premeditated Acts." This is where you see the Dane Cook that fans rarely see anymore. The guy who pops up unannounced at The Laugh Factory to try out new material, to bomb, to do crowd work, to get rid of temporary demons, to even get bumped by Dave Chappelle. There also is a running infomercial quality to it, with segments in which Cook talks about the evolution of certain routines on the new special, and we see jokes that didn't end up making the final cut. We also get to see glimpses of Cook's longtime friends and former comedy partners, Al Del Bene and Robert Kelly.
It's all quite fascinating (well, maybe not all of it), and I dare say (no one dared me to say it) that it would have made for a much more interesting and enlightening Comedy Central special than the actual special that aired on the network last month. Lots of crowd work, which shows you how Cook reacts off the cuff. There is a segment with two loyal fan who happened upon one of the shows and flirted with him during his set. He is self-aware. Isn't he always, though? Among quotes that could be taken out of his context by his detractors: "I like a joke that isn't going to be laughed at for maybe a year or two. That's kinda cool." Later, he talks about a lengthy bit on suicide, and how it has changed his outlook on comedy. Or race. Or abortion. He tells the camera: "I attribute some of the more successful comedy bits that are darker in tone, to truth. When a comic talks about something that has touched him and affected him personally, and it's real -- not just something that he pulled out of nowhere because he thought it was funny...that's when you can smell fear in a comic, where it's like, I haven't experienced this but I'm trying to sell it to you -- but when you've lived through something and had an experience like that. Like somebody close to me that took their own life. And how I struggled with it, and it made me mad, and pissed and sad, and you know made me feel reminiscent, and closed off. You can sense those things." Certainly a much different Dane Cook than you probably remember, right?
So I was eager to hear from him the other day.
Because he had just been on Conan, we talked about that first. Cook mentioned this on his Twitter feed later, as well. Here's what he told me: "There's a lot of pressure on him and that staff. I could certainly understand the pressures from the powers-that-be when I walked into that new space tonight. That being said, Conan's great and I had a howl performing with him."
And yet he's not going to be keeping the tape anytime soon. Not everything clicked.
"Sometimes I wish that what we talked about during the commercials was the show. There's some great insight...Things I keep in memoirs, talking to Jay Leno, talking to Letterman, talking to Conan about what goes on behind the white hot lights."
What, no mention of Kimmel? I know you do his show a lot. "With Kimmel, he's almost like the audience. He's like hanging out with the Joe Regular. Jimmy is fast with a line, but it's a different vibe."
He mentions how those late-night talk-show guys living in a rarefied air that few can ever know, which leads me right into the interview, because I wanted to know what it must be like to be a stand-up comedian who is touring arenas on a regular basis -- something few comedians have ever done. Does he feel a similar pressure to a guy like Conan to be as big as the venue he's playing?
"I can definitely relate to it. I've had my own pressures driving this big rig of comedy that I've been behind the wheel of. But what Conan is doing and what his staff is doing...he's in a rare air, an elite class, that historic chair that he's sitting in."
Of course, Cook himself is a long way from where he started out in comedy in small clubs in and around Boston. "When I stepped onto my first stage at Catch A Rising Star in 1990, David Cross was still doing Cross Comedy there," he recalled. "It was like watching Gladiator. Steve Sweeney, the Chance Langtons, the DJ Hazards. I was coming up among these heroes (of the scene). What I realized was, I want to go into this occupation, holding an ax, or a pick and dig. I wanted to carve my own route, and I'd really like to do that as trial by fire. And I told my folks early on, if you stick with me, I'm not going to languish on this, I'm gong to take this as far as I can possibly go...and it just kept going. Year after year, I kept expecting my dad to put his hand on my shoulder and say, 'You had a good run, kid."
The runs not over yet. His new CD/DVD debuted near the top of the charts, and every Thursday-Sunday this spring and into the summer, his Global Thermo Comedy Tour has been packing arenas with thousands upon thousands of his 2.6 MySpace friends. Yes, he's still on MySpace (and even puts in a dig on Facebook on the new CD to defend his older online turf).
"I'm smack dab in the middle of dream-come-true moments." He says this, even with "the backlash" and "the weird moments" happening at the same time in his career.
Seeing Chris Rock's most recent HBO special -- filmed in England and South Africa in addition to here at home in New York City -- gave us a sense of how American stand-up comedians are going global. Is it the Internet? It's the Internet, right? Fans cited YouTube and Facebook in how they got to know and love ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, in this new video documenting Dunham's weeklong tour across Europe:
Dunham next tours through Canada, where Dane Cook also has been playing to arena-sized audiences. Here's a Bubble Tweet he sent out before performing last night for 18,000 fans in Edmonton.
When Dane Cook first released a teaser trailer for Isolated Incident, it easily intrigued more than a few people -- myself included -- to see how a stand-up comedian who has been touring arenas of 10,000-20,000 for almost three years could scale it all back and perform unannounced for an audience of only 20. Of course, it turns out that tease really was just a tease. (Clarification: All of the really insightful stuff is on the bonus DVD, which is a documentary. Read about that, as well as my new interview with Dane Cook here!)
For one thing, Cook's new special was filmed in front of not 20 unsuspecting customers, but rather, a few hundred of his rabidly loyal fans at a wholly planned production at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. We'll have to look at the DVD extras to see the more unusual and most likely more enlightening footage of Cook interacting with what any comedian would call a smaller crowd. But it does live up to its title of being an Isolated Incident, because Cook remains on tour performing for arena-sized audiences. Even if we learn during the Comedy Central Records special that the "isolated incident" in question refers to an unusual graphic sex act the comedian performed for an ex-girlfriend. Not that that should surprise anyone. Cook shot to fame off of a record that closed with a bit about the comedian flicking cashews off of his erect penis. He has said many times over the years how he always has avoided drugs and alcohol, so that leaves sex as the vice he loves to talk about in great and graphic detail onstage.
On Isolated Incident, his sexual curiosities include the titles of user-submitted videos to YouPorn (his closer, in fact, encourages fans to seek one out in particular, but it was nowhere to be found before Sunday night's broadcast -- research!), as well as the well-trodden stand-up road of women who synch up their menstrual cycles. And when he wonders if men would ever do the same with erections, his female fans in the audience shrieked with joy. They're also fine with Cook role-playing with a girlfriend as a rapist/murderer, and with his suggestion that couples reveal all of their sexual fantasies and perversions early in a relationship. Cook manages to dance a fine line as a sentimental bad guy, which goes a long way to explain why young women have loved him and young men have become fans enough to learn his routines by heart. He talks as passionately about sex as he does a minute before or afterward about the deaths of both of his parents, and how much he loved them. Aw. Then again, Cook is the rare breed of stand-up who, when featured in this week's Entertainment Weekly, gets beefcake photos that show him shirtless.