On the hottest day Los Angeles had ever known, Dane Cook would not be bothered with a restaurant menu. Sitting down for dinner last month in an Italian cafe on the Sunset Strip, Cook told the waiter he'd like to have a "chicken situation," which, not to be confused with "The Situation," translated into a grilled chicken breast, put on a plate alongside any pasta and "some sort of sauce." Cook may be a comedian who has thrived by making up his own slanguage, but he's also very Hollywood and has been for years, despite the Boston heritage and sports gear he often wears. Then again, perhaps he's still the same guy he's always been. The same kid who worked at Burger King, who learned at an early age that at the BK Lounge, you can always have it your own way.
Twenty years after his BK days, Dane Cook is very rich and very famous, and about to embark on yet another stand-up comedy tour of North America's arenas.
Cook is so rich and so famous, in fact, that he abruptly cancelled the first few stops on his tour — which now begins tonight in Syracuse — because he had to deal with the legal aftermath of his half-brother, who recently pleaded guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from Cook while acting as his business manager. That's millions as in $3 million, which was the amount Darryl McCauley had the gall to forge on a single personal check that threw up all sorts of red flags to trip him up in the end.
But Cook is nothing if not resilient.
He has overcome that setback much as he has the backlash to his fame, by plowing forward. The guy who proved the power of social media by building a fan base of millions on MySpace and convincing them to buy his comedy CD in its first week of release has plowed forward. Cook has more than three million fans on Facebook, half that many people following his Twitter feed @danecook, and figured out how to get fans to pay to watch him on UStream.
So where does he go from here?
In what has become almost an annual appointment for us, Cook sat down with me to talk about where he has been, and why he's jumping back on the road after just finishing a North American arena tour last year.
"I think it was close to a million people came out, and I gotta tell you, I was blown away by that, because, to be honest with you, I thought with the economy, the way it was heading. I mean everybody said I was crazy to do that tour when I did, anyways, because it wasn't like, here's a promoter and here's a chunk of money and go out and whatever, I bought that tour. I basically rented those arenas. I don't think people realize that sometimes. I think that people think that it's some kind of in-house deal. Truly, it was like me gambling on myself to go out and give shows for the fans and put on that kind of caliber show that I knew people wanted after having seen Vicious Circle and seen Rough Around the Edges, you know, it's like, wow, I wish I could see something like that. And so I went out, and did that tour. I was blown away and flattered by the amount of people that came out, and I felt like, when I was finished, I was like, alright, I think I'm ready to put the mic down for a while. I kind of saw this two-year thing, where it was like, I'm going to step away from comedy altogether and focus on — I've been writing a book."
And doing more movies.
"Yeah, even a couple of movies, I've been working with a great team of guys. I'll get into that in a second, but it was really — more for me, the tour was like, let's step away from all the stuff that I've kind of been doing. I was on a certain rhythm. Some of it I liked. Some of it I didn't. And it was like, let's go out, hang with the fans, have this great 20-year anniversary of comedy, share it with fans, and let's disappear for a little bit. Let me get some people off the team, that maybe aren't participating in a way I would like, get some fresh blood and figure out where we're going to take this whole thing now. But I ended up in the clubs almost every night with some new ideas, and fresh perspective on a couple of things, and next thing you know, six months later, I've got a new hour. And I want to go back out. And the movies I'm being offered. I did three films this year. All indies. Because the bigger ones were awful. Really not funny. And the indies were interesting and scary. Not like anything I had done before, or that people had seen me in. So it was really, I look at it as, minus the stand-up that I'm going back out to do, it was really about picking a new direction, figuring out some new ways to tell stories."
Speaking of telling stories, I saw you tell a story in Montreal at the Steve Martin Gala, and I know you're still working on it here in Los Angeles, about watching the TV show, Disappeared. It struck me that this is the kind of story that I could hear another comic telling at The Moth storytelling series. Have you ever tried dipping into that pool?
"I've been invited. I know Jeff Garlin pretty well. And Jeff has invited me down to a couple of shows that he has put on, but, I just, I never had the time. I never really had the time to go do it. This year went by a lot quicker than I could have anticipated, but that would be something that would excite me, to get out and try something like that."
I ask because living in New York, it seems to me that the trend in New York comedy is toward more and more storytelling-based comedy, and I wonder if you feel that kind of validates the work you've been doing over several years. When you first rose to great fame, some people were knocking you for not being set-up, punch, set-up, punch. And now more and more people are telling longer stories that have jokes peppered through them, but are stories.
"It's interesting, because in this day and age of 140 characters on Twitter, that it was actually my guess that we'd see more Steven Wright type guys. The Mitch Hedbergs. Who are real consolidated and concise, kind of have that Seinfeld, almost the haiku of jokes. I felt it was going more in that direction. Listen. What you said is kinda true. It's a nice nod, I guess, to be like, alright, I was doing something right in the eyes of people I respect and admire, and you know, might have put my feet to the fire a little bit. But even during that time, I never thought I was doing anything that was — I came up watching Bill Cosby's "Himself." I think we may have talked about this before. It's like Bill Cosby "Himself," Eddie Murphy, and Pryor, these guys that a lot of people look up to, they weren't joke, set-up-punch guys, either. So it was always a little bit of it. Is it nitpicky because yeah, I had stories, and I wasn't necessarily a set-up-punch kinda guy, a joketeller, in the old school, classic sense. But I never really looked at it as I'm doing something so unique. Or I never felt alternative doing that. I just felt like I was emulating people that I admired, who didn't really let you hear the joke. They were just kind of telling stories. So, now, to hear that, is a little bit of validation. It's not a gold star on the head moment, but it's, listen man, it's always nice to be appreciated by other hard-working people — your peers — and maybe not just hard-working. Anyone who chooses to do this for a living and really commit to it, and what that really means to like, most normal people, most "squares" wouldn't get that, but being in it, to have other people recognize the sacrifice, to have them say, that works. Yeah, that does feel good."
While I was in traffic, I got to read the LAist interview with you.
"Good to know that you're reading while you're driving."
Only at red lights. Only at red lights.
"I only posted that like nine minutes ago, and you've already read it."
There are plenty of moments in L.A. traffic to stop and read. But it mentions Aziz Ansari, whom you just met. It strikes me as funny on a couple of levels, one because he's going through that rapid rise to ascension/backlash, although probably only a backlash within the comedy community, which is a weird thing in itself. But I'm wondering what you think of the fact that what helped Aziz rise to such a famous level was creating a character that mocked a high-energy comic.
"Right. The Randy thing."
He claims it's not really based on you, but at the same time…
"I saw Funny People for the first time about two weeks ago on cable. I sat down and said, I'm going to finally figure out what this is all about. And you can always tell when someone is having a little bit of fun with you. But I watched it, and this actually reminded me more of some of the Def Jam guys. I've never had music. I've never had sound effects, and stuff like that, playing with a guy behind me. He did one little trick, it was like an old-school comic trick, and I've never used that. And I can say this because he's doing a character. Plus, I'd heard him say at one point or another that it wasn't based on me. I think people wanted it to be based on me because of the high-energy element, but once again, it's like, if someone's being high-energy and saying that's a Dane Cook thing, I kind of look at that as that's a compliment. But meeting Aziz and understanding what that…it may be difficult, I may have said this in the article, so I hope I'm not repeating, but I think what some of those guys are experiencing now is that they sold people a certain bill of sale, like, fuck mainstream, and yet they play into it. Andy Kindler is another guy. I've taken so many knocks from Andy. I think Andy's brilliant. But Last Comic Standing is the height of selling soap. You're selling soap on a network."
And selling soap with your manager!
"Yeah, exactly. As much as behind the scenes, I'd heard 'Andy likes you' and 'it's nothing personal', and I've met Andy, as well. I think there's identity crisis with some of these guys right now, because it's tough. I think a lot of the alt crowds base their fandom on like, you're not doing the standard comedy club set, you're taking me on your unique journey which isn't traditional. And so now, the guys like Zach (Galifianakis) and David Cross and Aziz, these guys have all found mainstream success. They've surrounded themself with mainstream talent agents, and some of them are my lawyers, and I went into my business manager, and they said so-and-so just left, and I never would have thought we'd have the same people managing our money. And it's got to be difficult when you build your fanbase on a certain presentation, and then you're doing talking animal movies."
I know David Cross got chided for that, and then defended it by saying, he needed to pay for a house.
"And you know what, no harm no foul. I get it. Because it's a business where we want to try different things. You want to have different fans, and tell different stories in different ways. I've never been against that. I'm not a prude. And I'm not like, 'Ha ha, look at you now.' Because we all have a family to take care of. But if it's your principle to go after certain people, what people like David Cross need to say is, hey I'm going to defend what I did, but maybe I was a little hard on other people. I never told my fans, I'm the way, this is comedy. I said this is what I do, if you're a fan of mine, I hope you like to take risks, because I take a lot of them. I'd like to change. I'd like my comedy to change. I'd like to mature. I'm not interested in being a character. And I can, 20 years later, put my head on my pillow and go, the principles I put up 20 years ago, I'm still living them. So maybe some of these guys are dealing with that now, where their fans are like, what the fuck, man, we helped you to get there, and now you're pandering for so-and-so, by advertising for so-and-so, on this show, and that movie. That's a tricky position to be in."
Let's get back to you for a second. I know from watching you work out your new set that "Isolated Incident" was not an isolated incident. You've become much more comfortable just standing with a microphone in front of a small crowd of people. Did you feel like you learned something from the whole "Isolated Incident" experience?
"Yeah, because what Isolated Incident was, the title was representative, not on a technical level, but on a personal level, of what I went through — a shitstorm nightmare personally."
"And professionally. Yeah, yeah! Everything at once. From cancer, you know, before my mother got sick, the 14 years before that I'm not going to say were roses. I had struggles much like any performer, and fears. But 2000, when I broke through, to like '05, was like 'Wheeee!' It was great. And then when everything started to become not-so great, I was already starting to look, I want my comedy to change with me. I'm not a kid in my 20s talking about 20-year-old things anymore. And so, those moments informed me, and as I've gone through several life-altering things, I wasn't going to fake it onstage. I wanted to again, not being a character has allowed me to voice different opinions on things. I can still go up on a Tuesday and be mellow, laid-back and tell some stories, and then on Friday night, I can rip it up and improvise, try some new bits, and Saturday, it can be something different, because my fans are so very different. I'm not speaking to one kind of fan who likes one kind of comedy. And doing my tour, and bringing along people like Whitney Cummings or Nick Thune, Al Del Bene, having Bill Burr on my show, Mike Epps. They accepted everybody. They weren't specifically yelling for me, or being rude, or 'When's Dane coming out?' My fans are comedy fans, and I think comedy has shifted enough, and I've had so many styles of humor that I've presented, that they just dig comedy. It's great watching those guys find success through my larger shows. That's one of the highlights of the whole tour. So just trying to grow and change. Did you ever see that George Carlin stand-up, 1967? Where he basically stands with a cardboard cutout of himself, have you ever seen this? It's wonderful. He's standing with a cardboard cutout of himself, being like, one of his characters. I don't know what show it was on now, but he was basically saying, 'You know this guy? It's me. But not me anymore. For like two minutes, he explains that that guy is gone, and it drops out of frame and then he's like, 'Let's get down to business.' I remember seeing that and being like, how incredibly brave, how incredibly scary, and almost like saying, how everybody should do therapy because it's good for you, I think every comic should throw away their best art out the window. Their best painting, whatever their best dance is, they should at some point at all toss it all away, to prove to themself, you know what, I'm not just represented by that one piece that I did. And I think that I was influenced by that Carlin moment, and I remember Carlin saying in an interview, I'm not Picasso. But I'm not Carlin, I'm going to make a comparison, which is, if we strive to be better, he's the greatest. Then, damned if you do, damned if you don't, but these last couple of years was me dropping the old cardboard cutout. And really, again, if I'm repeating myself, I'm sorry. I had received an email from a fan. I've probably talked about this quite a bit, and realizing the more I bring it up, how much this fan wrote me, really changed my trajectory. He wrote to me and said 'I felt like you were talking to me in high school. I felt like you were talking to me in college. And I feel like you're talking to me again now.' It was like when I was talking about my mother at the Laugh Factory, reading those words 'you're talking to me again now,' I feel like I could change. I didn't have to be the same thing anymore. I can shed. I can take more risks. And that email from that guy, I'm still talking about it, was massively powerful. Because I will tell you, Sean, I was afraid to change."
Most comics are. When they find something that works, why change?
"Right, but then when you find something that works, and you succeed with it, and there's people wanting to build fucking sitcoms around it and everything else, that one moment, when you say, no, no, no, I'm not sure if I'm done yet. It was definitely scary, and not to be too maudlin about it, but after the fear I had of dealing with my mom and dad, it was like, dude, this might be a sign, this is the time to take those chances, because nothing's going to be as hard as that. Maybe it was their parting gift to me to say like, 'Never be afraid Dane to try some new stuff.' Try to entertain people in a different way."
Do you feel like you need to have a moment with the cardboard cutout like Carlin had, not so much for your fans, who are already with you, but for everybody else who might have a pre-conceived notion of who you are and what you're about? Or does that not even matter?
"I don't really care about everybody else. In terms of how they…I don't go into the stand-up comedy clubs and go, 'How should I be now for other comedians?' I think some people thought that with Isolated. Well, if you really do your homework, just look at what I've endured, and then you'll see, if I'm up here just being physical, and trying to find whimsical and observational, that would be a lie. You'd know what was going on in my life if you just peeked a little closer, and you'd be like, that guy, that's an actor. That's an act. And I didn't want to be an act as a comedian. I still want to be an entertainer, heightened, flip a switch and turn on some kind of razzle-dazzle. It's like not so far, where I was like the sad clown, where I'd leave the stage, I talked about that, couldn't delete my mom's number. Looking at people's faces as I'm telling those stories, the first few times I told those, and them seeing a very different Dane Cook, was incredibly liberating, and then that email, and many more like that was, it's OK, man. Some people bailed. Some people didn't like it. And some people have come back around. So it's always changing now. People like you, hate you, every moment of every day."
And you even have more material now about, not so much embracing the haters, but dealing with them, onstage in your set.
"Yeah, I was talking about it the other night. One of my biggest haters died."
I heard you talk about that at the ComedyJuice show at the Improv.
"I've only been talking about it a few times because it only just happened recently. But wow. How weird. A guy who has been writing me hate mail for 10 years dies, and it affected me. I miss him. In a really obtuse way, I miss that guy. It's weird."
I was at a show recently where I heard Janeane Garofalo talk about wondering how she's going to feel when Dick Cheney dies. She said it's OK to be happy, it's OK to feel something when this person that you hate dies.
"You know what it is, though, Sean? Knowing you're moving people in some way is, it's incredible. I suppose it's why somebody like Andy Kaufman found the thrill in going against the grain. And making uncomfortable moments. I want to make you feel something. And maybe it isn't always laughter. You know, it's like, some of the films I got to do this year, I got to play roles that are going to make people feel very different things from what I'd been invited to participate in. It just feels like it unlocks another part of the creative brain. So now I look for more of that in my stand-up. Not that you're looking for the negativity. I'm not. But it always just kind of reminds you that you're not vanilla. If nobody's saying anything, that's really scary. If it was just like, you're enjoyable. And then nobody else had an opinion? I think that'd be far more frustrating, at this point. At first, the ego and everything else years ago, makes you think, why doesn't everybody love me? I worked hard! Don't you mean that you dig me? But then you realize it's the farthest thing from that, and you realize people are dissecting you, and interested in me somehow. Whatever their emotional makeup is. I don't hit. There's something about what I'm doing that they're interested enough to watch and listen, but whatever their internal makeup is, I don't connect with them through humor, but I connect with them. Maybe part of the frustration and negativity and hatred or whatever, is because they feel that, too. There's an it factor about that comedian or performer, and I'm drawn to it, but I'm not, so why do I care? You know?"
I even get that, too, as I write words and throw them up on the Internet. Just knowing that, you want to know that people are paying attention. Even if it's not always good.
"Just moving people. Moving people is better than any paycheck I've ever received. Those emails that say like, I've had the best laugh of my life today, great. Those emails that say what right do you have to exist? Moving people somehow is the best form of payment."
And you said onstage you keep all of those.
"Everything. I keep every email ever sent to me. Ever. I have folders in my Mac email account, fan photos, fan emails, unique weirdos — I was speaking to Roosevelt the other day through my spiritual — you know, crazies."
You're working on a book. But that's more of a straight memoir?
"It changed a bit, because a publishing company threw me a lot of money a few years ago and said, we want a book. We want your Brain Droppings, or Sein Language. And I started to deliver, it was my comedy, written out, and I was like, what am I doing? That wasn't me. I know I just made a lot of money, so I just gave the check back to them. I gave the money back and I started over completely. I said, I think I want to write, and the stuff that had been going on in my life, I started to want to tell the whole story of how I did this over 20 years, and how certain things impacted me. Because now it's so much more dramatic, because of how certain things have transpired, with my stepbrother, and my mom and my dad, and connecting with Bill Cosby, befriending Steve Martin. It's almost like I'm in the Wizard of Oz. Everything that you could dream of, on this path, that could possibly be, with movies and TV and being with beautiful women all over the world. I wanted to be in Motley Crue, but a comedian. I did it. I'm doing it. And then all the darkness that actually comes around behind that. So I've started writing that version. But because a lot of things aren't closed yet, especially with my stepbrother, it's like, I've had some blockage lately. Because there's part of me that wants to close that chapter completely and then I have a feeling that things are going to flow a little bit easier. But I'm three-fourths through it. So it's really only the ending, or the end-beginning. There's been some great books. I've read Sarah's (Silverman's) book, "The Bedwetter." I thought it was wonderful. She's awesome. I've read everything. You name a comedy book, I've read it, checked it out, just tonally to see what would fit me. And it started to feel like, what about a memoir with a little bit more of my comedy in there, almost like "Born Standing Up" was a memoir."
You mentioned having all of the emails and the photos, and I know you've shared some of the fan photos, even those would make interesting books maybe.
"I've thought, for instance, of a SuFi coffee-table book. There are nights when I open up my emails and think, 'Could I get in trouble for this? Whatever this is that you're sending me? Are there laws?'"
Because you don't know how old she is.
"That's when it's scary, because you never know what someone is going to send you. But I was also in a pretty long relationship through the last few years. So being 10 months really single single, kind of like on my own for the first time since everything broke through. I was in two long-term relationships with a little bit of a break in the middle where I had some flings with some interesting people who shall remain nameless."
You had some Good Luck Chuck montages.
"I had some fun. But yeah, I feel like I'm in a very different place in my life, and it has felt like this year was the start of a new direction."
I'd be remiss since we're in West Hollywood not to ask you about Los Angeles versus New York. What is it about being in L.A. that suits you more than New York does? What did you find in L.A. that you couldn't find in New York?
"The Laugh Factory. The Laugh Factory was…there was the Comedy Cellar in New York, which I adore. And Estee and everybody was so inviting to me when I got there. But I felt like when I was in New York, anyway — I know it's changed quite a bit — there was a gang that was rolling through there that I definitely just didn't feel I was a part of. And I also was feeling very limited in New York. That it was only stand-up. I think I had a voiceover agent at that time, too. When I came out to L.A. to do a series, and thought I'd go back to New York, I started performing at the Laugh Factory and almost within a couple of weeks, I had a couple of guys coming up to me, saying, 'Hey, I'm a producer, trying to get this thing off the ground.' And I found that I was meeting more artists and people that were, I was just having some really interesting conversations with people. And I thought was OK, maybe it's, I was also very lonely out here, too. And I thought, maybe it's my responsibility to stay here and learn to write. It just hit me like that."
This was after that short-lived series you had on TV, Maybe This Time?
"Right, with Betty White and Marie Osmond. It was like '97. I had just finished the stand-up contest in San Fran, and came here, because they discovered me up there, did the series and thought I'd go home. I had another TV deal with ABC/Disney when they first merged. I had the TV deal with ABC, did the TV show, and then ABC merged with Disney and they offered me another deal. They said they really liked me and wanted me to be here. Kelly Lee at the time, who was a very important person in my life, really helped me find the people at ABC, and I thought, I should probably be here anyway, because if I'm going to develop something, whatever that means. But it was really, sitting in my first little crappy apartment that I had out here, feeling like, I can go back to New York. I know I can snake out of this and go back there and put the money in the bank, and come out here every couple of weeks, blah blah blah, lip service. But I was sitting, and I had an IBM ThinkPad. I can remember the moment this happened. I was staring at it. I was horrible writer. Horrible typist. Everything. I realized that I had ideas, but I had no way of really translating them. How many people can you sit with and go, here it is. Here's what I'm going to do. And draw for them a picture. It's not just to an audience, but also producers and collaborators. You have to have things on a page, like first thing that I will tell people coming out here is say, I have so many ideas. Can I physically hold it? I need to be able to touch it and see the entire thing, as written. And I couldn't do that. And I knew that if I went back to New York I wouldn't do that. I'd hang out with Bobby Kelly. I'd bust balls and learn how to acclimate to that group of guys. And it would be phony for me. But I was lonely enough to know that I probably would finally just like join the gang, let the hazing begin and try to earn my spot."
Although when I heard you talk to Marc Maron, you said you didn't want to do that.
"Right. Because I realized I'm meant to stay out here, and I'm meant to learn how to write. And this was a little bit of me deciding, really for the first time ever, that it's OK to be alone. Just be scared for a bit. Just be terrified. Because I went to New York and I felt that initial impact. But then there were these cronies, and everybody's hanging out with each other, it was just distracting sometimes themselves, and I just didn't want to do that."
And did you not feel the same welcome at the Comedy Store and the Improv when you came out to L.A.?
"Yeah, I did, I always felt welcomed, but Jamie (Masada) was just like, 'This is your club.' Which really blew me away. Because Jamie's reputation, especially at that time, was like, if you're not Jamie's client, you don't perform here. You know, manager or club owner is like, ewww, that's the worst thing you can hear when you're not in. It's just like ostracize yourself. But that first night, when I came offstage, I thought it was bullshit. He said, 'You're family. I see something in you. You're a good guy.' And I was like, is this guy going to try to rape me? But I really learned through time that that was a special place for me. Every comic has that stage. Everybody's got that one place where it's like, I don't know what it was about that place. And there was that other place, Dublin's, which was there at the time, so there were two places for me, The Laugh Factory and then across the street, Dublin's, free show on Tuesday nights, that like (Dave) Chappelle and a lot of these guys were coming in and working out in. Double magic. Two places that were allowing me to spread my wings. And then Jamie just through time was, he really is family. That's a guy who has done things, and come through for my family in ways that I never would have imagined. I love that guy, and I love that club. So I felt like, I need stay here. I need to help this club. This is my home. I'm proud to say that when Jamie needed me, I brought customers in, and when I needed a stage for an hour and a half right now, tonight, because I want to work this special out on a Tuesday, he was like, don't light him. He does what he wants to do. New York, three shows, I couldn't do that. Get off. Two minutes means two, and three minutes means we hate you. I couldn't do it in New York. Even though there's more stage time in New York that you could bounce around on, I could build an entire hour special here in a way that I couldn't do in New York."
What do you think about Bob Marley doing 40 hours, then, at the Connection in Maine?
"I just heard about that. Is that a world record?" Yes. "Incredible. Did he do it for a charity?" Yes. "Even better." But I know there was a time when you and Chappelle were going back and forth. "But not for a world record." No, for the club record. "It wasn't even really for the club record so much as it was for me, anyway, as just saying I did it. It wasn't going to be a parry, thrust, thing over years. If he went and did a minute longer than me tonight, good for you, Dave."
What is it about being onstage that long, though? It seems counterintuitive for a performer, or for an audience, would be able to hang in for that long?
"I knew why I did it. It's because I'd always wanted to know everybody in the crowd. And there were 48 to 53 people left, and I said, this is the night. My comedy will be taking people's lives, dissecting it and asking questions like a talk show, and I will find their darkest moment and I will get to it. I built it like that: we're going to have share some bullshit, and you're going to have to share some of your funniest moments. And it was wonderful to do that. By the end of the show, I took a group picture. I made everybody come up onstage with me. I have a picture of that crowd. Because I knew everybody, by the end of those seven hours, I always wanted to be able to do that. Say I knew that entire crowd."
You could put that DVD out and call it "Crowd Work."
"Harland Williams already has an album out called 'Crowd Work.' I always look up titles."
I remember talking to you the week that "Retaliation" came out. Do you ever think back to that week and think about how monumental it was that you got your fans to go out that first week to buy it?
"Yeah, absolutely. It rocked me. When I got that call, and it was like, dude, whatever, 94,000, Number Four Billboard charts. Sitting on the Internet, answering every instant message, answering every email. I used to call people and do comedy for them. I used to call people. They didn't believe it was me. I'd say, 'Give me your number.' I'd call people, fucking do jokes."
I remember you were very vocal online telling fans to buy it on day one.
"I knew it was going to change my life if they did that. I didn't know it was going to be Number Four Billboard, all of that, but just amazing. An incredible. Overused word, but flattering. This is where it's going to get interesting. I just got elected, the President of Comedy."
And when you're President, you have the opposition, and they want to impeach you.
"Haha. Definitely. Interesting thing. When you create something, whatever it is, film or TV, and it doesn't work, or when it's not received the way you hope it's received, and yet how later, how defining those moments are, where you go, you're really glad things turned out that way. Because if that had been something else, who would I be now? There's something to be said of, I'm right where I'm supposed to be. It's the same way, in 1997 and then again in 2006, I said to Lorne Michaels, I'm not interested in joining SNL. I'm going to stick with my fans and build my own thing. Because I respect you in how you built this, I'm going to build my SNL. This year is the first year ever I can say I have my gang and we write things together and we're being challenged and we're tailoring things to my brand and my comedy. I wouldn't be doing any of that if something had broken through a few years ago. I might have just been on whatever machine this place likes to put you on. But, let me be nice to myself. By hitting doubles, you're still in. You've done some noticeable work. You've had some stuff that was shaky. But you're still here, 20 years later, 10 years later, you're still here. And now I'm sitting with this gang, asking, where do we want to bring people? I wouldn't trade that in to go back and have any of those movies be different. And when that movie comes on late at night on cable, I watch it."
My Best Friend's Girl is currently in heavy rotation right now. You had a lot of ownership in that, too.
"I'll tell you something that's been really rewarding about stepping back the last year and a half. Best Friend's Girl, Good Luck Chuck, Mr. Brooks, primarily those three, but also Dan in Real Life and Employee of the Month, I've had this "Van Wilder" effect the last couple of years. Because that movie helped Ryan Reynolds exponentially by when it finally hit cable. Much the same way "Ace Ventura" helped Jim Carrey. And to have five movies churning constantly. People go, 'I never knew, when did that come out?' I can see it. The data is right there in the emails. The next thing that I do, is the same way I set up that moment where I said you have to go out and support the CD, you have to go out and buy it next week. That's kind of what's been happening the last year and a half, is people discovering stuff that they never knew that I did, and it's built up a whole new fanbase. By disappearing, and working with my think-tank, and a gang of guys that I want to see them succeed, and they want to see me succeed, it's like, it's starting to get exciting again. I'm back in the gym, man. It's like I'm getting back in shape for that next moment. And I'm happy for the first time in a long time. Not happy in a hey, here's a break from the stress of life. I'm happy. The worst stuff's behind me. There's a couple of things to tie up but I'm back to just being Dane Cook, creative guy, don't feel bad for me. For a while I was like, aw you poor thing, but that's removed. It's just like, I'm another comic again, and I like that. I'm just another performer. It's good to be back."
I know. I got to see you mix it up several times in the past week, with all different types of club crowds.
"I tortured a crowd at the Laugh Factory the other night."
Calling them mediocre is always a good sign of that.
"Oh, yeah, unleashing hell. It's funny, because I brought up Steve Martin, and to have a camaraderie with him. Just to learn from him, in ways that I was learning when I was 15. Whether it's music, or he writes theater — and I'm fielding an offer to do Broadway right now — I'm going to just start taking myself in unique directions. A lot of it is just because of my influence from having befriended him, and looking at people like him, whom I admire for sticking through it, through the dark times, the down periods. I think I've had that. My Empire Strikes Back is over, and I'm into the Return of the Jedi mode."
And you have your team of Ewoks.
"No, no. They are definitely Wookiees."