Readers, I’m going to be completely honest with you, I’ve never been a fan of Dane Cook. His demeanor and brand of comedy that seemingly only appeals to college frat boys made me never care for him. Luckily, it appears that isn’t exactly an unpopular opinion as he’s been out of the limelight for quite sometime now. But let’s not forget that window of time in the mid to late 2000s where he was actually relevant. Actually, yeah, let’s indeed forget that. Ah, who the hell am I kidding, he was quite popular for awhile, longer than he deserved, that’s for sure. As if him prowling around stage with his high school level observations and stupid haircut weren’t bad enough, it was then thought that his mug needed to be on-screen for an extended period of time.
Let’s go back to the beginning: Dane Cook’s career as a comedian began in the early 90s. After several years in limbo, he appeared on the Comedy Central program, Premium Blend, where a group of struggling comedians earn a chance to shine in front of a live audience and those watching at home. His act garnered rave reviews catching the attention of future fans and critics. He kept receiving acclaim from his act, which led to the release of his first comedy record entitled Harmful if Swallowed in 2003.
Now, I want to take a moment and talk about that album for a moment. I sadly know it very well because a couple of my close friends thought it was the funniest thing going at the time. It was nothing but incessant screaming and horrible punchlines. We were all freshmen in college and while I was all about Mitch Hedberg, my friends embraced Cook and it haunted every car ride I took with them back then. Now the recording was pivotal to Cook’s later success as it helped him gain even more steam in the world of comedy and soon, he was the talk of the neighborhood. His next album, Retaliation, hot stores in 2005 and actually charted alarmingly high. In the process, he became the first standup in decades to have a top 10 album on the Billboard Top 200, which even I have to admit is no easy feat. It wasn’t long before he was selling out arenas nationwide. Yeah, I didn’t get why millions of people flocked to this but it was only a matter of time when, in classic youth culture, another hack comic was going to be hugely famous. Somehow, like many comedians worldwide, someone thought it would be a good idea to put Dane Cook on the big screen and let his popular persona shine on film for viewers everywhere.
Before long, Cook transitioned into acting. He had minor roles back in the 90s way before anyone knew his name. You may have caught him playing a wannabe superhero in the Ben Stiller action comedy, Mystery Men, and opposite NBA bad boy, Dennis Rodman in the action vehicle, Simon Sez. Both of those movies freakin’ blew and expectedly, neither part was memorable. Dane would then spend the next several years solely with his live act while maintaining bit roles when he could. My personal first taste of Mr. Cook came in the 2005 film, Waiting… where he played an unkempt chef. In a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Andy Milonakis, he managed to get the least amount of laughs from me.
As luck would have it, in 2006, due to the strength of Retaliation, he procured a starring role in the comedy, Employee of the Month. No, not the independent black comedy with Matt Dillon that was released two years prior, no, this one starred once-pertinent pop singer Jessica Simpson and Dax Shepard before he found his comedy niche. Cook played a slacker named Zack who works in a wholesale store similar to Costco. He soon finds himself competing with Sheppard’s character to become a model subordinate to win the affections of Simpson. It was as awful as you’d expect. It was also crushed at the box office since it was released the same week as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Yeah, you’re not winning one off the power team of Marty and Leo.
Cook would somehow maintain his high profile for at least another year and went on to star in yet another romantic comedy with one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous ladies at the time, Jessica Alba. Good Luck Chuck was released in 2007 and was probably one of the worst films that year. This time, Cook portrays a cursed, womanizing dentist who discovers he has an unorthodox ability where women find their soulmate after sleeping with him. Predictably, he falls for Jessica Alba and wants something more with her so he abstains to sleep with her for fear of her leaving.
His success in romantic comedies would end in 2008 with My Best Friend’s Girl co-starring Jason Biggs and Kate Hudson. Do you really want to know the plot for this one? Really? Take, Cook’s character, agrees to date his buddy’s ex to make him realize what she left behind but he winds up falling for her. UGH. It was pretty forgettable and soon and not the best use of Lizzy Caplan.
Now, to be fair there were two, exactly TWO movies where Dane Cook played a major role that I actually enjoyed. The first being the Steve Carell 2007 indie-drama, Dan in Real Life where Cook portrays Carell’s brother and the 2008 thriller, Mr. Brooks. I enjoyed both films quite a bit actually despite Cook’s presence. He did his fair share of mugging in the latter but didn’t ruin it for me.
2008 was probably the last year that Cook was in the mainstream’s radar and he soon went back to just doing standup with the occasional direct-to-DVD film sprinkled in. Shortly after his fall from fame, he was accused of stealing jokes from Louis C.K. (which, if you heard, the bits, you would agree) which didn’t help his credibility at all. This was later parodied when Cook co-starred as himself on Louie in 2011. In 2012, he was set to star in the radio-themed sitcom, Next Caller, on NBC but it was canceled before it even aired. Probably for the better.
Did Cook deserve better? Nope, not at all. Will he ever be as famous as he was 10 years ago? I think you know how I feel.