His 2005 platinum-selling album, Retaliation, was the most successful comedy bow since Steve Martin's 1978 classic, A Wild and Crazy Guy. He's also experienced more than his fair share of backlash and personal tragedy. Now, before co-starring with Jeffrey Tambor in this fall's NBC sitcom Next Caller and preparing another hour of stand-up material, Dane Cook appears in this weekend's production of The Producers at the Hollywood Bowl. He plays Franz Liebkind, the writer of the show-within-a-show Springtime for Hitler, a role played by Will Ferrell in the film adaptation of Mel Brooks' musical.
Here are excerpts from our conversation with Cook:
Are you nervous?
Dane Cook: No, actually. I'm not nervous. We are in the throes of what is probably one of the most relentless rehearsal schedules I've ever been a part of, but I would say that the energy around here is infectious and warm.
How did the role come about in the first place?
[The producers] pretty much just called and said, “We're familiar with what you do, you've got a little bit of a theater background and we know you can carry a tune — we've seen a few things on YouTube and such — so we'd like you to come be a part of this.” I was just completely overjoyed and waiting for many, many years to jump into a role like this, because nobody really has ever seen me to do anything musically like this of this caliber. I don't think a lot of people know I came out of a song-and-dance background. I did a lot of musical theater, summer stock, Cole Porter plays.
It's kind of coming full circle for you.
It really is. I had an incredible mentor when I was in high school — a gentleman named Frank Roberts was my drama teacher and really my first inspiration as far as believing in myself as a performer.
What is it about your Hitler-and-pigeons-loving character, Franz Liebkind, that you like the most?
[Laughs.] I think what's really interesting about this guy from my approach as well as the legacy of this incredible show is you get to really play him as a multi-layered guy. There are many different buttons you can push with him, and he goes from being very silly and broad and boisterous to a bit maniacal and I would say effervescent in his tenacious search of the truth behind what these guys want from his play… And of course there's the lederhosen.
Live action is actually close to stand-up comedy.
I've also got a bit of a sketch background, and the difference between [standup] and sketch is you really feel a bit of a safer, community vibe when you're with a few other people…I think the art of stand-up comedy is just a wonderful, singular experience. This is just flipping everything and doing something where you feel like you're part of a wonderful ensemble.
Any lessons learned over these many years?
A lot. There's a great quote that I heard from Abraham Lincoln, which was, “No man resolved to make the most of himself has time to waste on other people's contentions.” And I think I had to really learn the essence of what that means…I've learned to be okay in the moment, being present with myself, regardless of the accolades or regardless of the naysayers.
The Producers is at the The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd., Fri., July 27, 8 p.m., Sat., July 28, 8 p.m., Sun., July 29, 7:30 p.m., (323) 850-2000, $15.50-$175.50. hollywoodbowl.com