Cambridge-born comedian talks the past, future, and getting deep on Clubhouse
UPDATE FROM THE BOCH CENTER: The DANE COOK show scheduled for the Wang Theatre on Saturday, October 30, 2021 has been rescheduled to a new date on Saturday, April 23, 2022. Your original tickets will be automatically transferred to the new date April 23, 2022. For patrons who cannot attend the new date, refunds are available via point of purchase. To contact Ticketmaster customer service, please call 800-982-2787.
Some comedians are famous, others are infamous. Few comedians fall in both categories like Dane Cook.
To Dane, it doesn’t matter which camp you’re in, he’s learned to keep on trucking on to the next comedy show and appreciate all he’s been given and everything he’s worked for.
It’s too easy to find some controversy or dramatic event in a comedian’s past, some their own doing, others put upon them. The Cambridge-born Cook, who grew up in Arlington and moved to NYC to pursue his career after not being able to get booked here because local headliners at the time refused to follow him, has been through both scenarios, and is ready to move on. He has apologized for insensitive jokes, opened up about his financial debacle with his older half-brother Darryl, and received apologies from the comedians who’ve claimed he’s done them wrong. Some of that matters in the public eye, to others it doesn’t. He’ll forever be a hilarious comedian to most, or a joke thief to others. Cook is seen as a hard-working innovator by many, and a hack by others (many of whom are jealous they’re not on his level, in my opinion).
While the Employee of the Month star has opened about all this in the past, we rapped about the ways he’s dealt with difficult relationships, while Cook offered advice on how to handle those situations, and spoke about how he’s excited to get past the “COVID pause.”
He’ll be home, performing at the Boch Center Wang Theater, at the end of October.
How did you weather the great Facebook and Instagram fallout of 2021?
When social media goes down, my brain goes fantastical and I start thinking solar flare has hit. It’s going to be 20 years of electromagnetic pulse that’s affecting all of our devices. Do I know how to build a fire from flint and some shards of wood?
Personally, I got a kick out of it because it is interesting to see how many people kind of lose their mind when social media disappears for a minute.
One would think you would be one of them since you’re so active on it and you built your career because of it.
Yeah, but not on a Monday. If it goes down on a Thursday or Friday, those are good ticket sales days. The algorithm later in the week is more robust. But Monday morning, I’ll take a few extra hours to lolligag on a Monday afternoon.
You’re coming back to Boston to the Boch Center Wang Theatre to record your new special, Tell It Like It Is, that you were touring for Pre-COVID. How different is 2019’s Tell It Like It Is, as opposed to 2021’s Tell It Like It Is?
Well, okay. So a couple of things, you can nix the, Tell It Like It Is title, because even though there are some elements from the Tell It Like It Is tour, for the most part, the special is made up of the year before’s material that I had cultivated. And now of course, because so much time happened with the pause and doing material this year, it’s actually kind of an advanced hodgepodge of what essentially would have been three tours. I’m sort of cherry picking the material from those three shows. Like, What do I want this next foray to be? So, I don’t have a title that I’ve decided on quite yet. Cause I wanted to do this special in March of 2020. The pause also gave me time to add some things. A happy accident to put it quite minor, but nonetheless exciting to finally be putting it up in front of the cameras.
You’re very well known for being very connected to your fans through social media, being ahead of the game of technology and utilizing it to your advantage. And that’s why I was highly impressed when I listened to you a couple of months ago, talking on Clubhouse about loss and tragedy and the death of your parents. Was it important to you to have that conversation as a way of dealing with some of the trauma in your life, or was it more of, I know other people are struggling with some of the same things and maybe I can lend a hand with my experiences to them?
Yeah. I mean, certainly, a bit of a bit of both. I grew up loving standups, but I also really respected them when they would share their personal life. Maybe their struggles, maybe some of the things that showed the other side behind the humor. To me, it was always a bit false to only have an attitude, or what I looked at as a facade of just humor all the time. I felt more connected to funny people when I also realized some of the things that they overcame. So, 30 years into my standup comedy career I can look back and say a lot of the highlight moments off the stage have been intimate relationships that I’ve allowed people into my life and people have allowed me into their life to share beyond just things that are comedic.
I find that Clubhouse conversations like that come easier because I don’t shy away from that. I am a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person. And I’m grateful my fans chose to come in and listen. They’re not unsettled by the fact that there’s not a punchline at the end of everything. I rather enjoyed those conversations.
I remember a couple years ago seeing American Typecast, which is a short film you co-created with Monib Abhat. Was it important for you, as someone who has a lot of success and pull in the industry, to help lend your voice to what Middle-Eastern Americans and other people of color face in the entertainment industry?
As a storyteller wanting to share stories that were outside of my own experiences, that collaborative effort with somebody like Monib, who I’d known for a number of years, and that story had been sparked from a lot of hardship on his part, in his experiences out in Tinseltown. I felt like it was a natural process with him, but as we both identified this is a unique story in partnership because of our backgrounds and how we’re linking arms. It became even more, I guess the mission statement of Duffel Bag Entertainment was let’s bring more people different from us into the mix and continue to tell stories that are even beyond just the Middle-Eastern experience.
And the thing that was so positive about that is that until COVID paused us, we had been meeting with Viola Davis’ company and Trevor Noah’s company, and building up friendships and relationships to this day that have been sparked by American Typecast. And then those people understand we have something that we want to put forward that that we think is critical, which is it’s important to tell stories that have not been told, but it’s also imperative that we encourage and embrace each other and tell those stories.
Similar to standup comedy shows that become a night for one kind of comic and one kind of fan. To me, those are not the shows that are most alluring. The most alluring shows are, there are nine very different people from nine different walks of life. And we all bring a little of our audience by the end of the night, everybody feels like we’ve built new relationships and you get to laugh with and at each other. That’s truly what great storytelling can do.
What’s the one question you’ve always wanted someone to ask you in an interview that no one’s ever asked?
If anything, my mind just goes to my relationship with my younger sister and just how important it was for me. Nobody’s ever asked me if I am a role model to somebody. I always wanted to be somebody that my little sister could look at as if there’s a path forward out of a youth filled with a lot of hardship, that I know that we both experienced together. I think a lot over the years, focus got pulled into other elements of my family. And so for me, one of the greatest accomplishments in my life is just the relationship I have with her and watching her thrive in her photography and in her life.
Be part of Dane Cook’s newest, still unnamed comedy special taping at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in his hometown. Tickets available now.
Deadair Dennis Maler is a comedian, actor, writer, & podcaster who has been heard on radio stations throughout the country including SiriusXM, DC101, The Party Playhousewith Jackson Blue and more. He has been featured on comedy festivals throughout the country, founded BostonComedyShows.com, is the Comedy Editor for DigBoston, and hosts the iTunes podcast So What Do You Really Do? He’s funny, loud, abrasively social, and allergy free since 1981.