No comedian is as popular or as despised as Dane Cook. For the past year, he's avoided making movies or doing TV appearances, choosing instead to tour the country, playing to sold out stadiums everywhere he goes. He finishes this "ISolated INcident" tour at the BankAtlantic Center the night before the Super Bowl. Then after that show, he says, he'll never perform the material again. While he's in town, he'll also hit up a few local "hot spots," perusing the young, attractive women of South Florida.
I had the chance to interview Cook over the phone yesterday. We discussed why he thinks so many people dislike him, why he's going to stop doing his current routine, what he dislikes about the Sunshine State, and why he'll be looking for love in South Florida.
Dane Cook was without a doubt the most popular comedian of the past decade. Like Andrew Dice Clay and Eddie Murphy in the '80s -- and nobody since -- he consistently sells out arenas across the country. His rowdy shows, filled with passionate, screaming fans, make him some cross between a rock star and a professional wrestler -- who tells long stories filled with dick jokes.
He's also the most hated comic in America. There's something about the mass appeal of his particular blend of physical comedy (some call it spasming), observational bathroom humor, designer T-shirts, and hair gel that just rubs some people the wrong way. He's also been accused of stealing material from other comics, the worst sin possible in the comedy world.
But these days, hating Dane Cook seems more trendy than anything else, like detesting Wal-Mart or wanting a Prius. Like him or not, the man set his sights on making stadiums full of people laugh the way Steve Martin did in the '70s, and that's just what he does.
You're easily the most loved and the most hated comedian working today. You've got to be asked about that all the time. What's your standard answer?
I wish I had a standard answer. I don't. My perspective being that of a wild ride of 20 years, I've sat with my heroes. I've met with Bill Cosby and Steve Martin. I'm friends with Chris Rock. I've performed with Dangerfield and Robin Williams. I've received so much valuable, encouraging information from those guys. It helped set me up for the backlash years and what really was a brutal spanking machine of sorts when I finally hit the upper echelon of the comedy mountain.
When you're a person who reaches high levels of exposure, then you're exposing yourself to more people who truly are not fans. And unless you're Will Smith, who somehow is like the only guy who can do no wrong, everything else is just stand and deliver. And I do.
Is there something different about what you do -- playing to large crowds in stadiums and arenas -- than, say, the guy telling jokes in front of a fake brick wall in a club somewhere? (You know, besides the money.)
I wanted to emulate guys like Steve Martin. And I certainly watched more of the storyteller comics, guys like Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor. I listened to Newhart albums growing up. I wasn't a punch-guy. I think the combination of being a "verbologist," loving the language but appreciating and absorbing physical comedy makes for a great show. So I think there's something to be said about the people in these larger events using all of these different tools.
You're an energy guy -- to say the least. But Florida's getting the very tail end of the tour. Aren't you worn down and exhausted by now?
In many ways, this tour was like a gift. I needed this tour. It was a yearlong tour. No stepping away. No movies. No television, unless it was to promote the tour. I really just wanted to be around my fans. I wanted to celebrate coming up on 20 years doing standup comedy. I lost both of my folks a couple of years ago to cancer. They loved standup comedy. They were very supportive people. And nothing made them happier than seeing me perform live.
So with all the movies and the hits and the misses and the hot lists and the cold lists and everything I went through during that time, when I finally landed, I had dealt with my parents' deaths. But a little voice inside me was saying, "Just be around your fans, the people who put you on the map in the first place. And hopefully give the best shows of your life."
So the energy comes from a real affinity for the people who get me here and through some very low lows and some incredibly high highs. The shows are actually recharging me.
How often do you come to Florida?
For most of my career, it's been at least once a year swinging through Florida.
I hear you don't drink or do any drugs. What do you make of this fantastic, debauched land of ours then?
There's some great spots. My mom lived down there for the last several years of her life, in Delray Beach. Like any place, there's certain left turns you're glad you took and certain right turns you say, "Get me the hell out of here." For me, it's always been a place to relax. Find me a beach. I'm kind of a sun dog, so anything on a beach in Florida in the ideal weather, you're not going to find a better spot.
Anything bad to say about Florida? All the corruption, greed, decadence?
Um, certain spots have a certain smell. It kind of reminds me of New Jersey.
Oh, the perpetual low-tide aroma?
That's it! I can't quite put a finger on what's causing it. It's kind of an egg-y sort of smell.
After the shows in Florida, what do you have planned?
I'll do two more shows, then I'll never do this routine again. I'm literally putting it all down. I'm a new comedian the second week of February. I'll be an open mic-er. I'll go back to a small club (when I'm ready), and I'll be thinking of a couple of funny things to say and trying to cultivate a theme and a routine around it.
For all the hoopla about being Mister MySpace and the 21st-century comedian, you sound like you're saying you're more of a throwback guy, no?
I used to watch guys like Steve Martin. I loved Steve Martin. I wanted to be someone who could get up there and be so free and honest and fantastical with their imagination. I wanted to bring that into my personal life. I used to be very shy. I had anxiety attacks into my late teens. I never thought I could be somebody who could get on stage, let alone be a physical presence. I spent a lot years grinding away, doing the small shows nobody came out to see me at. I did it for the love of the game.
I did a show years ago with Rodney Dangerfield. I used to host for Rodney in L.A. in the last couple of years of his life. I had some great conversations with him. I remember Rodney sitting down one day and just saying to me, "Hey man, if it was 1983, I'd put you on a Young Comedians Special." And it was such a moment of validation. Those are the storytellers I appreciated, guys who got out there and put on an all-around great show.
You'd still be rerunning on HBO.
A lot of those acts still hold up. He picked some real great guys.
What else will you be doing in Florida?
Well, I'm definitely going to enjoy some football, even though my New England Patriots are playing golf these days.
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And the Super Bowl parties?
It's funny, I was in a relationship for a few years that was real homebody. I kind of like that. There's never really been an afterparty with me; I've always done the meet and greet and then I'm out of there. But I'm single as of November, so I'll have to dust off the old, uh, bachelor abilities or whatever and get out there. I'll have to hit a couple of hot spots. I'm not sure where or when, but I will definitely be going to a couple of parties.
Should South Florida ladies beware?
Yes, definitely. I'm back in effect.