If the funniest man in America cant make you laugh, hell show you his balls. Thats right, his testicles. Hell let them dangle and jiggle and if the sheer sight of them doesnt get to you, then hell start bounding up and down and running all around until those balls are doing something that looks like a cross between the funky chicken and a pile of caviar frying in an electric chair. Hell do this because making people laugh is what he does and because if he cant get you to laugh telling his new jokes then maybe hell try his old jokes and if the old jokes dont work then hell take it as a personal affront of sorts and then hes liable to do anything and anything means he just might show you his balls.
If nothing works, then its balls, he says. Everybody laughs at balls. If its between balls and failure, then Im going with balls.
His name is Dane Cook and theres a decent chance you havent heard of him, nor seen his balls. This despite the fact that the funniest man in America has been a professional comic for 15 years and routinely plays sold-out shows to audiences that number in the tens of thousands and that a few weeks ago his second album, Retaliation, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts, which is the highest a comedy album has charted since a guy named Steve Martin released A Wild and Crazy Guy 26 years ago. And even if you forget all about the big numbers and just consider that when hes not touring or not appearing on television or doing funny whatever wherever, then hes onstage at the Laugh Factory, right here in Hollywood, some six nights a week, including his permanent rotation on both weekend nights. And still, because comedians are the most anonymous of entertainers unless they have their own TV show, you might have missed him.
So here are the facts. He is 33 years old and perhaps 5-foot-11 and from Boston. He likes the Red Sox. He likes to wear T-shirts and jeans and leather jackets. His hair is spiky and black and messy in the way that peoples hair gets spiky and messy when coated with the kind of hair product that makes talent agents look like guys trying to play talent agents on TV. Dane Cook can pull off the hair just like he can pull off showing his balls at the Laugh Factory or biting a complete strangers arm despite the fact that the complete stranger was the rapper Nelly and Cook bit his arm while declaring his everlasting love for Katie Holmes during an off-his-rocker Tom Cruise imitation done live on Jimmy Kimmels show are you really going to argue with this guy about his hair?
His earliest inspiration came from childhood. The family would sit down to watch Johnny Carson and he would sit down to watch his family watch Johnny Carson. I was too young to get most of the jokes, but there was something about this man that you loved. Thats when it clicked, thats when I decided I wanted to be the guy who made people laugh at night. I didnt have the easiest life growing up, but when we could all be together and laugh at Johnny Carson that was something. I wanted to give that to other people. That was the beginning.
From that point on he drew on every comic he could find, old, young, dead, living, whatever. If there was a guy cracking people up at the soup kitchen, Cook would seek him out. I wanted to learn every trick in the book so that you could never say Dane Cook is this kind of comic, he says.
This makes his comedy a bit hard to describe. Its partially stoner humor and partially working-mans humor and both at a very high level. Its incredibly physical and incredibly cerebral, but not manic like Jim Carey or brainy like Stephen Wright. Some comics like to be comfortable; Cook likes to plumb the edge. He likes hostile audiences. Hes played a lot of rooms where his was the only white face and nobody was all that happy to see it.
For years, I did it every Sunday in New York City. It was like go on heckle me for four or five minutes. Ill take it. Bring it at me, but if you shut up for a second Ill use one of my standard opening lines: Im not gonna lie to you, it is great being white. And I love it. You know, theres a lot of perks. I wake up every morning with a huge bag of cash. I dont know if you know that we get that. Its just congrats on being white and I love that. Sometimes I get credit cards. Being white is just oh God, Im glad Im not black. Jesus, Im glad.
Unlike many comics who labor over jokes, Cook tries to spend less than a day between the time he comes up with an idea and the time he tests that idea on stage. He adds new stuff every night, goes on tangents, takes left turns, rarely losing his audience, always getting them back again. He likes to see what plays and he likes to get himself in and out of trouble. Theres no standard patter, no real pattern.
Theres stuff that I still bring up thats been around for 10 years, but I guess the best way to explain it is that my strength early on was thinking of segues on the fly. Thats my best tool. I can take you from the Beverly Center to being in bed with a girl and somehow you dont even see a change. So given that and being so spontaneous, my feeling is if a jokes meant to be a part of the show, Ill think it. Ill feel it from this crowd. When I see a band, I want to feel like the show is for me. I dont want to feel a set list. I try to bring that to comedy. I want you to feel like the show is for you. Does it always work perfectly... nah, but when it does, its the best feeling ever.
Except, that is, for being white.
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