Dane Cook was, for a brief time in the mid-2000s, the most popular comedian on the planet. Then, as the rock star cliché goes, it all came crashing down. It turns out his story is more complicated than that, as he lays out in this episode of The Last Laugh podcast.
We talk about his humble Boston beginnings, why he turned down the chance to replace Adam Sandler on SNL, and how he has continued to push himself as a stand-up comic with his first special in over a decade on the horizon. Cook also opens up about his joke-stealing feud with Louis C.K., his own “cancel culture” moment, and a lot more.
As he was preparing to just barely graduate from Arlington High School—my Massachusetts alma mater as well, coincidentally—Cook knew college wasn’t for him. But that didn’t stop him from becoming the favorite comedian of frat boys everywhere.
“I started doing some college gigs in and around Boston,” he tells me. “The nightclub act, in front of grown men and women, that was one energy, but then performing to people my own age, there was an entirely different dynamic.” The young, bro-filled audience would balloon every time he would go back to perform at the same colleges year after year. “And I was like, I think I’m onto something here,” he says.
Initially, Cook resisted the pull of this mostly male college “energy.” He didn’t want to become a caricature of himself that “wasn’t allowed to grow and evolve” into a comedian who could also perform for actual adults.
“I do remember one of the business decisions I made was, try to be a real person, try not to be a character or else you might end up getting stuck as—and the stigma definitely got put on me anyway—‘You’ll only be a frat comic,’” he says. “That was going to happen anyway because of what I looked like.” Cook recalls asking for directions to the performance space at one of his college gigs and an administrator asking him, “Are you going to the show?” He replied, “I am the show.”
Three decades later, he’s set to tape his first stand-up special since 2009’s ISolated INcident at the Wang Theatre in his native Boston later this month. “It’s a long time coming,” Cook says of the new hour, which he was originally scheduled to perform just before COVID hit. “In 2019, I finally played Radio City Music Hall and then I was supposed to tape the special soon after that. And so I was geared up and ready. I was so ready.” The long pause gave him a chance to fine tune the material even further.
“It’s my best show yet,” he promises. “I’m going to be doing something that will also advance the form of stand-up comedy and how I think it should be seen. We’re going to do some really interesting things that hopefully other comics and people will say, ‘Oh, that’s how comedy should work on television.’”
The material is “more personal and more introspective,” Cook says. “When you just share your truth, it can be stark, it can be caustic, it can be light, and it can be just fucking straight-up funny. And people are invited on the ride and I can’t wait for people to experience it with me.”
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