Monday, November 29, 2010

Dane Cook on Aggressive Touring, Mid-Career Greatest Hits and New Comics

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Dane Cook: Smokin hot.
  • photo by Courtney Cook
  • Dane Cook: Smokin' hot.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Dane Cook will bring his rock 'n' roll, college-kid brand of comedy to The Idaho Center.

In the midst of an aggressive tour, and just days before the release of his greatest hits album --I Did My Best: Greatest Hits (Comedy Central Records, Nov. 22)—I was granted a few minutes on the phone with the stratospherically famous stand-up. As our allotted 10 minutes ticked into 17, Cook talked openly about suffering social anxiety as a kid, speaking out against bullying, playing arenas vs. playing clubs, unscrupulous club owners and who he finds funny.

You can read some of what Cook had to say about social anxiety in the Wednesday, Dec. 1 issue of Boise Weekly, and the rest of that interview is below:

Boise Weekly: This is an aggressive tour. You don't have much time off between dates.
Dane Cook: That's just the way this tour is unfolding.

And why is that?
You know, I find that we all kind of need the days off to recharge, but for me, I guess I can compare it kind of to sports. It’s almost like you’re in the playoffs, so you don’t want too many off days because you feel like you’re sharper and you're invigorated. Your adrenaline's up. I definitely get that great rush just kind of moving state to state on the bus. We’ve got some pretty good creature comforts but I love getting out there and it’s just show, after show, after show. It's really how I kind of came up in comedy, too. I was very aggressive and where some of my peers were performing a few nights a week, I wanted to perform six nights a week. I guess 20 years later, I still kind of adopt that same philosophy.

On this tour, the shows are all in forums, coliseums or arenas. Do you prefer those big, huge, energetic crowds vs. the club shows now? Or do you still like to do those once in a while when you can?

Get the answer to that question and many, many more after the jump.

On this tour, the shows are all in forums, coliseums or arenas. Do you prefer those big, huge, energetic crowds vs. the club shows now? Or do you still like to do those once in a while when you can?
I definitely find a great kind of value in both. Really I don’t feel too much of a difference, because for me what it’s really about is finding that connection and moving people, expressing myself. You can do that in front of you know, 20 people at a comedy club that doesn’t expect you to walk in the room. You can do that in front of a few hundred people on a weekend in that club and you can do that in front of thousands or even tens of thousands of people.

I think that the larger shows speak more to the kind of comic I wanted to be. I wanted to emulate guys like Steve Martin who did these large-scale arenas really made it about an event. Some people say it’s rock 'n' roll comedy. I say this is event comedy. This is a night where I want you to be driving home saying, “You know what? That’s something I’m not going to see every day, but it exceeded my expectations.”

I always have expectations, I know the fans have expectations, I want to exceed my own expectations and theirs.

Why a greatest hits CD right now? You’re young and obviously probably still have at least another 20 or 30 years in this business. Why your greatest hits right now?
I started doing stand up in 1990. You know, the first 10 years were really those kind of road dog years, trying to find yourself and trying to find a gig that would actually pay you when you finished. I can’t tell you how many [times] I'd come off stage and say, "Where’s the owner?” They'd tell me, “Oh he left about a half hour ago.”

Do you ever go back to those places and say, “I want my 20 dollars?”
(Laughing) Well, you know at this point, if I still need that 20 bucks then I’m done.
I do go back. There are a couple of stomping grounds that I’ve stopped in throughout the years. Definitely for me just speaking to the question of the greatest hits, the first 10 years were you know, on the road. For the last 10 years, I’ve put out several releases and some comedy specials. And I really wanted to kind of close a chapter and answer questions for several fans, new fans that e-mail me everyday saying “Dane, what do I listen to? What do you suggest?” And so it was a way to say to new fans, if you are interested in getting into my comedy and my career, these are what I think are kind of the high-water marks, you know for myself and for my fans. And it's a thank you to fans that have been there from the start. And then I wasn't content to do it as a typical greatest hits, so you get unreleased material there that didn’t make it to the last discs. I went through and listened to all the old stuff, which was really kind of an adventure on its own. So it kind of just closes that chapter on my first decade of recording. We’ll see what happens over the next 10 or 20 years.

You know, a lot of comics that I talk to—because they’re all doing club circuits—all of their comic friends are also working, so they don’t get a chance to see each other perform. Is there anyone in particular who you try to follow? Maybe you catch every Comedy Central special? Comics you know are going to make you laugh every time?
There are and I’m pretty fortunate to say those guys are with me on my tour. I’ve always been pretty fortunate to get who I think are kind of like the next guys coming up, or guys that are building their fan base. I had Bill Burr on my tour last year; I've had Mike Epps, Whitney Cummings and Nick Thune. And this year is the same thing. I’ve got guys like Al Del Bene and Ben Gleib, who’s on Chelsea Lately quite a bit, and then special quests popping in. So the guys that I love to watch, I’m watching every night. They’re opening for me, and not only are they opening and killing it and having great sets, but my fans are not comedy prudes. They’re not the kind that are just cheering, "Dane, Dane, Dane." They’re comedy fans. So I feel like I’m helping out and exposing these comics to a legion of very dedicated fans.

What’s the ultimate sort of prize for you, career wise. Is there a particular award, is there some kind of recognition or acknowledgement that when you hit it, you’ll think, “Man, I am big time; this is what I wanted?” Or is it more of day to day, you’re just happy to be doing what you’re doing?
I think it can be both. I mean I definitely know that the thing about me is I’m pretty self-competitive, if that makes sense. I’m not a person that is really trying to slam dunk over someone, but I do set up a lot of obstacles internally for myself. I think I come from a family, a long line of people who kind of do that. We set up personal challenges and goals. We play a lot of solitaire, know what I mean? So that being said, I can tell you that I have had a myriad of those moments: standing backstage at SNL, moments before Don Pardo is going to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Dane Cook!” That was unbelievable. That was an ocean of emotion just washing over me, and a moment that I had dreamed of since watching SNL since I was a little kid. There I was standing there behind that beveled glass, waiting to be brought out in front of the nation. It’s tough to put into words, what that was, what that moment was.

I just got goosebumps.
Yeah, I still get them, I get them right now just thinking about it. So moments like that, or playing Madison Square Garden or playing Carnegie Hall, sharing moments with my mom and dad when they were watching their son play in front of 20,000, 30,0000, 40,000 people. There have been quite a few moments in my life that are highlight moments. And although there’s some pretty dark and some pretty low times in my family’s history that I can look at and say, you know, the pendulum swings both ways. When it’s in the light, I absorb it, I take it. And when it goes the other way, I depend on great people around me. I have great family and incredible friends but the pendulum swing is like somebody in my audience tonight, their pendulum might be in the dark spot and I never forget that. And so you come into my show and I want you to walk out with nothing but incredible thoughts that you’ll be quoting and laughing about kicking your friends that were like “Oh, I don’t really know if I want to go.” I want you to be able to say, that was a night that, much like for me, will be memorable.

I just have one last question. A lot of young comics are kind of finding their way via YouTube as opposed to the dark smoky clubs, and that really kind of road-dog life you were talking about. Good or bad?
Both. Good in the sense of to be filming, writing, putting a group of people together, capturing something and moving people. And telling a story is obviously great for one’s evolution. The scary part is on the other side. What I’m starting to see is a troubling pattern: you get that instant, kind of mass audience, and then they’re insatiable, asking what’s next? And your “what’s next,” because you’ve been doing it for such a little amount of time, it might be a long ways off. People are fickle and they’re not willing to wait. And so you see a lot of these people that are probably being hard on themselves and saying, “Gosh, I feel like a YouTube flash- in-the-pan because I had these few million people [watching me]. How do I get them back?”

The difference between being somebody who spent, say a decade before even television really embraced me was I started gathering that crowd on Myspace or Friendsters or whatever it was at the time and then Facebook and Twitter. You know I can attract a crowd with a crowd but then I’ve got a plethora of material and I can keep your attention. I’m a well-oiled machine at this point. And so I always tell this kind of next group, “Make sure that you not only have the content but that you continue to find ways to immediately keep people connected to you because they will move on. They will find the next 15-minute guy.”

I think that it’s a great thing because a kid can write something at 15 years of age, film it and share it. I had so many things I wish I could’ve done that with when I was you know, 15-years-old. And I can also say I’m glad a lot of this stuff in those early years didn’t make it out there because it might have defined me in a way that doesn’t really speak to truly where I am supposed to be. It’s tricky. People don’t want you to change so you put up something that attracts everybody’s attention and then you say, “Oh that’s just one thing. I’m really this guy.” And you don’t know how to handle it when people go, “That stinks. We don’t like that guy, keep doing more of those silly blah blah blahs.”

I think there’s a new strategy out there and I will be watching and embracing it and seeing how the next group of guys does it.

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