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E-MAIL THE AUTHOR | ARCHIVES By Christopher Stipp

August 19, 2005

DANE COOK

My mother made me take it back.

It was a copy of Eddie Murphy’s eponymously titled album. Literally. It was this big, honking geometrically dense LP and I thought if I was crafty enough I’d be able to smuggle it back home on my own, easily forgetting that I was not only 12 years old but that mom had to be the one to take me home from the mall.

I immedietly was ordered to take the album back, I’ve never forgot the walk of shame back to the Musicland to try and explain how lame I was in buying something I clearly wasn’t allowed to have, and I never tried to buy it again. For a few months at least.

I quickly became a consumer of Murphy’s material exploits, on audio and video, and even dipped into the canons of other comedians who I really thought were good but not neccessarily publicly revered. Bobcat Goldthwait’s “Meat Bob,” a mid-80’s performance which holds up like the Golden Gate through a 9.3, for example, was one of the first real cassettes I ever bought and I still can’t believe how many times I’ve listened to it; my last listening was a few months ago after his new comedy album dropped and remembered I still had the original tape and its plastic shell casing with the paper gatefold insert.

I quickly learned that comedy, to me, was this visceral energy that affected my physical disposition. A good laugh is just impossible to do by one’s self; you need someone to trigger it. Through the years I could tell you the notable comedians who have been able to load that gun and fire it again and again. Murphy for sure, Louie Anderson, Damon Wayans pre-ABC television show days, George Lopez, Bill Hicks without question, Richard Jeni and Denis Leary all spring to mind real quick. And, in a flash, there was nothing. For a long time. I don’t know what the hell was going on in my comedy section but there wasn’t anyone new for a long time in the mid-90’s. It was like someone set off an atomic bomb in the comedy clubs across America and decimated all the funny. I’d go to Best Buy and see a pathetic display that was part emicated display rack and part Jeff Foxworthy/Bill Engvall shill fest. Not to take anything away from the latter comedians, as I think they deserve all the success in the world given to them, but they couldn’t have been the only guys working out on the road for the past decade.

And then it happened.

Comics Come Home, November 18, 2000.

When the special eventually aired on Comedy Central and after I watched it, having taped it for some great Christopher Walken impression material Jay Mohr let loose, I remember thinking about the guy who ripped his pants off at the very end of his set, who had one of the craziest bits about rest rooms which still triggers something within me when I see a sink that’s all wet and minced around the stage, goofing on the odd movements of television magicians, in a manner that was fresh and new. The guy was flat out funny. Funniest person I had the pleasure to watch perform in years. And when some people ask what makes the guy so funny, fans just defaulting to the “Because he is” angle, I would say that Dane is funny because he takes the surreal and absurd but couches manic energy into real situations. The schtick isn’t schticky because he isn’t playing a character or trying to embody an image, thanks Dice Clay for the memories and here’s your irrelevancy check, the insane envisioning of situations he’s thought of and trying to make them exist in a reality everyone can understand. That’s why Dane Cook rocks so hard.

I remember with being satisfied with having bought his first CD “Harmful if Swallowed” straight from him and supporting this guy’s career. I sent the guy a note, something I really only do if I’m really moved by someone’s prowess at what they do, and he was genuinely appreciative when he wrote back. This was a guy I wanted to see succeed and over the years Dane Cook has done it. You want someone like this to succeed if for no other reason than this guy has worked so hard to develop an audience over the years and, I feel anyway, he really appreciates every one of them.

His newest CD,“RETALIATION,” blasted straight to the top of the Billboard charts when it was released a few weeks ago, almost topping Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” as the highest charting comedy release ever, he has a new movie coming out in the Fall called WAITING, he’s working on a DVD release of an ensemble comedy concert entitled Tourgasm, he’s supporting the release of the album by performing behind it and he took some time out of what must be a hellacious schedule to talk to me.

The man couldn’t have been more relaxed, frank, open and interested in talking about where things are and where they’re going.

P.S. - If you haven’t already seen it here’s Dane celebrating, in his own way, Tom Cruise’s obnoxious, publicity driven behavior on the Oprah show when he was out pimpin’ WAR OF THE WORLDS. Not to be missed.

I CALL THIS LOOK BLUE STEEL

 


Thanks for making some time for me. Your schedule must be crazy.It is but I’ve been doing stand-up now for 15 years and to have so many people excited about my comedy is just…I’m psyched that you guys wanted to talk to me.

I’ve got to say I was looking forward to this for a while as I was one of those who bought your CD, Harmful if Swallowed, years ago when you were the one who was self-producing it. It was right after your Comedy Central bit on Comics Come Home.

I gotta tell you, man, it really…the original release and seeing where that went, laying down a fan base, that brings me to all the excitement that’s happening now. I really have to say that people like yourself and other fans who supported it from then until now it’s really because I feel like I have a great connection with my fan base and so…thank you for being a part of the Dane Train.

I’m also glad I have this time today because I read that your CD debuted at number four on the Billboard 200.

Yeah!

I was comparing it to what else came out this week and after looking at the rankings I saw that you did better than the new Babyface but not as good as Young Jeezy.

Damn that Jeezy…so young…

What’s that like, finding out t hat your CD almost topped Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” album from a quarter century ago as the highest charting comedy release?

When I got that factoid…when they sent over, “Hey, listen, 26 years later…you’re the first guy who’s done it in Soundscan history…” my initial reaction was, “Holy shit.”

It was a Holy Shit moment. And I let it soak in but soon after, not too long after, the first interview I did they asked, “How you do feel?” and I said, “You know who knew this was coming? My fans.” And that’s the thing: they knew for many many years, and I’m shocked, but it’s funny because a lot of the response I was getting is, “We knew it would happen, Dane.” Fans everywhere were saying it and I try to keep in contact as much as I can so, yeah, definitely shock and I had to sit down. But it just made me feel like I want to continue, as it says above my desk, be continuously creative.

Really?

And push myself in other ways to bring the entertainment…A fresh bowl of Ha-Ha, whatever I can.

Now, you must be hearing this over and over again, as it’s doing well, it seems like this is a stronger album, tonally, than the last one especially when it concerns your feelings about hecklers.

(Laughs)

Obviously, no one enjoys having a heckler, but what brought this up and why did you say, “Fuck that, let’s put this part on the album”?

Because it was two things that came together. It was very uncomfortable to be in the room to even hear it on the album. Even I was a little uncomfortable the first time I heard it. But, in a split second, it becomes fuckin’ real, genuine, funny moment with the line I say at the end.

And it’s very rare where you go from scary to like wonderful.

To be honest, when it happened in the room I knew what I wanted to do which was make 500 people want to melt into the wall. I wasn’t really mad. I really wasn’t mad at the guy. I was kind of using it to get to the punchline which was (CENSORED…I can’t let him spoil the funny. Sorry) which was something I had thought up, as just a metaphor or something.

So, when the moment happened I thought, “I know I’m recording and I know I should blow this off but I think this might be the place to do the uncomfortable moment. If it doesn’t work I’ve got 6 other shows this weekend.” So, it just started happening and I started feeling everybody, you know, looking down and, ugh, just getting kind of like\, “Jesus, Dane really seems like he’s mad at this guy…” and, “Dude, fuck you…”, and, “I will kick you out!” Which I would never do unless they were like throwing bottles and so, to get that laugh, that’s a real moment, it’s on the album and hopefully it won’t blow it for anybody but, no, I was not in a Bill Hicks mode, I was not really mad. It was just for the shake of shaking things up on the Retaliation CD.

I felt uncomfortable when I heard it. I was getting used to the whole flow and then, out of nowhere, it just screeches to a halt.

I think it’s becoming…It was either going to be a moment that…because a couple people thought, “Does it ruin the flow of the album?” and I said, “No, no. It makes it unique.” It makes the album something layered and something with texture. So I said, “Fuck it, I’m keeping that in there.” And I think it’s funny because I get a lot of responses, and everyone’s got their own favorite quotes, but everyone points at that moment and it’s like, “I was driving and I’m feeling tense and then I’m laughing.” I affected you on your drive to work.

I was on the stage at the Laugh Factory in LA the other night and a guy and I got into it a little bit because he was really drunk, the whole deal, and I was being playful with him. And then, finally, I said, “Ok, Pop, listen, you’re going to shut your mouth now, you’re going to laugh when it’s time to laugh,” and, at the end, I knew that a lot of people had heard the CD so I said, “I think there’s kind of an uncomfortable vibe in here…” And it was like a Bon Jovi moment because like 10 people yelled out, “[I’m not going to let him ruin it for the rest of the class.]”

I felt like I was doing Bad Medicine up there.

Do you find that’s happening a lot? I remember buying Bob Goldthwait’s “Meat Bob” on cassette when I was about 9 and I remember getting Bill Hicks’ “Relentless” along with scads of others later on as I was growing up. One thing that linked them all were these small, repeatable lines. Dave Chappelle said that it frustrates him when people were yelling, “I’m Rick James, bitch” Do you find people shouting lines at you like “Large fry, mutha’ fucker!” and how do you feel about it?

Yeah, but you know what, dude? If you don’t want people looking at your painting then don’t fucking paint. You know, it’s like…it goes with the territory, man. It’s like I can’t…I got a lot of respect for Dave and I think that Dave is brilliant, he’s one of the best comics of our generation but I will say it’s like, “Dude, you did it!” You gotta know when you’re that funny people want to quote you. People want to come up to Tom Cruise and be like, “Ooo…Mission Impossible!”

It doesn’t matter what you do. If you’re a musician people want to go up to Bruce Springsteen and quote their favorite line. Maybe I’m just not that jaded and bitter yet but I fucking love it.

When people come up to me and are like, “Dude, I want to punch every bee in the face.” I’m always like, how many people in this world get to have people want to quote them and repeat…so I say, again, being continuously creative. If you keep making new stuff they’re going to listen. They’ll listen.

Sometimes I’ve had shows interrupted. I know where guys like Dave are coming from. I’ve had shows interrupted by people yelling out and when you’re a comic it’s all about tempo and cadence and rhythm and making it look conversational when there’s actual beats. I get it. I’ve been annoyed, I’ve been thrown off but I recently was thinking about hecklers and talking to someone saying, “You know what? There’s always that weird moment when a heckle moment happens because as much as you loathe that they’re thrown you off on the track you’re on, for me, it always reminds me that I’m a comic. “ Like, those moments always remind me that you know what, I can sleep until noon, I can hang out and play hockey on a rooftop with my buddies on a Thursday, if this guy wants to yell out…you know what? I’m a stand-up comic.

You deal with it, you roll with the punches and it’s aggravating sometimes but everybody’s mentality is different. And I hope Dave continues to just trail blaze. I just hope he continues to just trail blaze in new ways and doesn’t let “I’m Rick James bitch” deter him from doing what he does best which is making memorable moments for people’s lives and he’s done that. I hope he sees that more than the crap people are saying about him.

In the same vein, how are you keeping it all in perspective?

Heroin.

The first thing you do, and I live in Hollywood, but the first thing from moving from Boston is that I’ve got a core group of friends who have been my friends my whole life. And a big family of five sisters, a brother, we’re very close. So, that’s gotta be first. You’ve got to have friends and family that you can trust to be like, “Dude, this is good or bad.”

When you’re being inundated, and right now I am really being inundated, but I worked hard to get to be in a position where people want to peek in for a minute and right now everyone is peeking in. Peeking, checking it out, and I want them to stay in the room. So, I stay grounded in one respect by hanging out, living a regular life away from entertainment and all the…I call it living at the blackjack table, that’s what it feels like in entertainment. Because you never know when you’re gonna take the hit. There’s always a feeling when you play blackjack like you’re gonna lose, even when you’re winning. That sucks, you don’t want to live your life like that so I take breaks from comedy by dong my own thing with the people around me.

But, on the other hand, I stay very close with my fan base…through the web site, through My Space, through whatever technology because I love interacting and, what keeps me grounded, is the thought that if a year from now the roller coaster comes to an end, or whatever kind of analogy you want, that I will always have a fan base of people who know that I care. That I care about them and entertaining them, and they respect me and my vision, why what ifs, and I’ll always be able to walk into a club or a theater and have a group of people who want to hear me. I think that’s what keeps me grounded knowing that there’s no end game. It’s always a work in process and being true to your fans.

Speaking of your family, your brother Darryl. The fan notion is that he was a dick to you at Burger King when you worked there. How does your family feel about being involved in the comedy process?

They love it.

Any mention of my sisters or my mom , especially my mom, they flip over it because they’re all pro-comedy and they’re all cool people and have always come to my shows since when I was playing laundromats and pizza places where there was only two people and they weren’t there for comedy, they were there for pizza. They are like my rock.

Darryl, interestingly enough, was my manager at the first job I had, he was a dick, and we were not very close growing up but I am extremely proud to say, and I know he is too, that in 1995 I started a company, Great Dane Enterprises, it’s my company and I put it together, sitting one day with my books, trying to figure out how I was going to do entertainment but balance my budget and checks and whatever and he sat next to me and he said, “Listen, why don’t you take care of the talent stuff and let me take care of this.” And that was in ’95 and he is now vice-president of my company and we are thriving and we are the closest that brothers can be and we both feel very accomplished.

My family is proud of us so, yes, he was a dick but he has grown to be my best friend and I would say one of my biggest supporters.

That’s great.

Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s all good right now.

Tourgasm. I’ve been following it for a while now. Is it going to be coming out on DVD? I know you said that if you had your way it would be a multi-episodic documentary but are you closer to knowing if this is going to be a KINGS OF COMEDY kind of film or is it going to be a long form…

I can tell you this, because something very exciting is happening now, but it’s not signed, sealed and delivered and I’m one of those people who…I won’t talk until it’s done or going.

My goal, ultimately, is to have a DVD of Tourgasm that shows much of the 400 hours of great footage that we did from coast-to-coast. That being said we are definitely in a position right now and hopefully this week on my web site I will be releasing a major update, knock on wood, on where Tourgasm is going to be seen and I think that when you hear about it you’re going to be pretty pumped because I know I am.

So, we will be seen one way or the other even if this thing doesn’t come through in the 11th hour which we all know is…and we’ve already got editors on it and, if I had my best case scenario, I would love to have something available by Christmas or the holidays.

Just thinking about how far you’ve come…you now being able to walk into virtually any record store in America and buy something with your name on it…what’s it like to have your self, your persona, permeating the world with your comedy?

Well, Chris, I’ll let you know…When I was in 10th grade, and I wanted to be a comic my whole life, but when I was in the 10th grade I used to go to Tower Records in Burlington, Massachusetts, a few towns over, and I used to go to the comedy section of the record store and I used to look for my album.

I used to flip through hoping, somehow, magically, or somebody snuck into my house and recorded me in my room when I was acting out and being…doing skits…I used to dream as I flipped past Carlin and Cosby of coming across my own disc.

So, I got to tell you, man, it’s fucking mind-blowing to walk into any store now and see both of my creations or thoughts there for people and I couldn’t…there’s no better way to put it…it is a dream come true.

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