November 6, 2009

This Is the Guy Who Brought Me Back...?

Hi there.


So it's been a while since I've written in this thing. Since the day after Obama got elected, in fact. That'd be a whole year. Whoops. Since people have asked, though, and since I've been feeling an urge to write more lately, I'll try not to let that happen again. Anyways, back to it...

It's been a very active year, both in my life and in the world in general. There have been endless amounts of fodder for me to stuff into this blog's proverbial cannon and go on about. The last days of the Bush presidency faded away and were replaced by the start of the Obama years. (Which, almost a year in, hasn't started off in the smoothest manner possible. We'll get to all that in future posts, though.) Michigan football crashed, burned, started to rise again, and is now sort of hovering there. Great films came out. Landmark moments in pop culture occurred. Some redneck kid in Colorado captured the hearts -- and cameras -- of America by not getting into a balloon.

So out of all of this, what is it that brings me back to dust off this forum and rant on about something?

Dane fucking Cook.

For clarity's sake, an explanation of how this came to my mind's forefront: Last night, I was on my way to see Zombieland with a friend (GREAT movie, by the way; super entertaining, very funny, and reminiscent of when movies could just be fun), and had to walk past Madison Square Garden on the way. The block(s) surrounding the Garden has a funny way of taking on the look of the person(s) performing
We feel the same way, Dane.
inside that night, sort of like how a chameleon changes to adapt to its surroundings, or Madonna changes to not seem old and irrelevant. When the Knicks or Rangers play, there are jerseys as far as the eye can see, for example.

Last night, I kept seeing repetitions of certain looks. Popped collars. Greasy, gelled man-coifs. Razor-lined, intricate facial hair. Girls with that "not quite there" look on their faces. All I remember thinking was, "Why do I seem to be seeing so many douchebags?" And then I looked up at the sign outside the Garden:

Dane Cook


See, Dane Cook is not funny. At least not funny-funny. Not in the way that Caddyshack or Ghostbusters is funny. Not in the way a solid stand-up who takes time to layer and craft his jokes is funny. Cook tells loud, fake stories, and prompts most of his laughter through gut reactions. He's a hell of a performer, I'll give him that, and I'm not saying that he can't be/didn't used to be funny; I'm pretty sure I even have his first CD in my iPod somewhere, from back when he was just an up-and-coming comic touring colleges, before he grew into this... thing that he is now. It's just that his jokes aren't jokes. He aims for relatability (not really a word, but you get it), mixed with the occasional sound effect/pop culture reference. His jokes are funny the same way a jump-scare in a horror movie is scary.

But more annoying that his actual material are his fans; this legion of obnoxious, Ed Hardy-attired, perma-tanned knobs who have elected Cook their king and court jester, all rolled into one scruffy package. They love that they can somehow see vestiges of their own ordinary lives in the tales that he spins on-stage, and can then constantly repeat bits of ill-remembered lines wherever they go, making up for their lack of creativity or a true sense of humor with something that somebody else said. If you're around the same age as me, I'm sure you've been to a party in college where somebody dropped the "Someone shit on the coats!" line while tossing their jacket into a bedroom. Or the car alarm bit whenever a car alarm actually went off somewhere in the distance. Or any other of dozens of his greatest hits that they can all sort of sing along to whenever the opportunity arises.

Below you'll find a sampling of one of Cook's recent specials from the last time he was at the Garden. Forget the fact that his material isn't all that funny and has been covered ad nauseum by plenty of comedians and shows in the past (I'm pretty sure even the guys who did Epic Movie or Dance Movie, or whatever those awful parody movies are called, have covered the Oprah "You get a (fill in the blank)! And you get a (fill in the blank)!" joke by now). Instead, pay attention to the crowd. Listen to the way that they don't even seem to be listening to his fucking jokes. Listen to how they cheer and "Whooooo!" like they're at a Nickelback concert, or a frat party.

Between the jackass fans' whooo-ing and Cook's self-satisfied grins/chuckles at his own jokes, I can't take the guy. Here's another one, replete with more endless, mid-"joke" cheering:

That's not comedy. It's the equivalent of being cheered after breaking a record for longest keg stand and acting like it took some sort of gift to achieve it.

The other thing that kills me about the guy is how he blatantly steals from other comics. It's one thing to not be really funny, but it's a whole 'nother to try to be funny by taking material from an actually funny comic. Consider this little bit of evidence, jokes that Cook stole from Louis CK, one of said actually funny comics:

All of this just grates on people like me. See, I belong to this sad little subset of pop-culture enthusiasts who really like comedy. We appreciate the effort it takes to put together a joke or a turn of phrase that is not only truly intelligent at its core, but immediately funny on delivery. We aspire to be comedians or (in my case) comedic writers someday, and we look at thoroughly funny comics as examples to emulate. For me, guys like Patton Oswalt (my favorite), Mitch Hedberg (RIP), David Cross, George Carlin, Jim Gaffigan, Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, and Daniel Tosh (among others) are what comics should be. These guys really seem to love and excel at comedy, and what they do sometimes resembles a pastiche of what came before them (artists of every ilk have to credit some sort of influence, after all), but it's never outright theft.

Dane Cook will fade into obscurity one day just like any other craze, especially since his career has to be supported by the attention span of our wandering generation in order to stay relevant. I don't really think that his movie career's going to be much of a fallback, based on what I've seen, but who knows. Until then, I'll just have to keep longing for the day when the streets around Madison Square Garden aren't slick with the grease from errant hairdos. At least Springsteen's in town this weekend...

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