Fresh off a charity show in Dublin with Denis Leary, red-hot comedian Dane Cook likens his career in comedy -- which has him teetering on the precipice of Seinfeld-like superstardom -- to that of a ballplayer's. "At first you're just trying to get hits," Cook explains. "But once you're Mark McGwire, if you don't get a home run every third at-bat, people are like, ŒWhat's his problem?' I don't have to scratch and claw to prove I'm funny anymore, but now the fans are expecting something. Now it's about being consistent."
Fortunately for Cook, after fifteen years in the trenches honing his high-energy, observational and unapologetically weird style of comedy, he's got the humor steroids not just for consistency, but for game-ending home run after game-ending home run. Then a fireworks show. Hell, maybe even free peanuts. And he owes it all to Ernest Glen.
It was Glen who failed to show up for that new-talent night at the Catch a Rising Star comedy club in Cambridge, Massachussetts, in 1990, allowing Cook to take the stage. He killed, and soon found himself entrenched in the Boston comedy scene. But Boston in the early '90s was not the easiest launching point. The '80s comedy boom had imploded, and headlining acts found themselves in holding patterns, effectively stalling up-and-comers like Cook, who were eager to take their place. Having put together a solid twenty minutes, Cook didn't want to tackle a new comedy scene without putting together at least twice that -- the length of a standard headliner routine -- but he couldn't get the stage time to do it. So he out-funnied the headliners.
8 p.m. Friday, October 7, Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, $24.50-$44.50, 303-830-TIXS
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"That got me in trouble sometimes," he recalls. "Club owners would be like, 'You've got to go easy; you're blowing these headliners off the stage.' And I immediately would say, 'Then headline me.' Comedy shouldn't be about competition, but at that point, it was a simple equation: I wasn't there to be the second-funniest guy in the club. The only way I was going to keep my head above water was to have people writing my name on a comment card."
By 1995, Cook had written enough material to move to New York City. His move coincided with the rise of the Internet, which he saw as a marketing tool. While other comics posted fliers, Cook was one of the first on the Net, chatting with people, steering them toward his website, steadily building a following. As a result, when he began touring across the country, he encountered people who knew him everywhere he went. Even today, Cook, who performs at the Colorado Convention Center on Friday, October 7, continues to pave the way in Internet promotion. Recently he claimed 375,602 MySpace friends, and the number rises hourly. Every novice comic from Denver to Montreal is aping the idea.
But all the promotion in the world can't disguise a poor comic, and on stage, Cook delivers. Not your typical set-up/punchline kind of jokesmith, he presents bizarre yet relatable ideas -- like how every man prefers being part of a heist to sex, or how in every group of friends, there's always one that nobody likes. Then he draws the outcast into epic proportions, all the while ripping around the stage like a fourth-grader sans Ritalin. His comedy resonates because it's pure Dane Cook -- no characters, no gimmicks. He's so popular, in fact, that his recently released Retaliation double CD debuted at number four on the Billboard charts. The last comic to even come close to that was Steve Martin.
Cook also performed in front of 50,000 fans at the University of Florida, wrapped the Dave Attell Insomniac Tour, acted in the movie Waiting (due out this month) and shot a documentary called Tourgasm. Oh, and he's hard at work on a pilot called Cooked. Seems everything's turning up roses for the Dane Train these days. Somewhere, somebody give Ernest Glen a hug.