A Semi-Defense of Dane Cook
Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy
There’s been a bit of a dust-up after Alex Blagg, a comedian who pens the daily blog for VH1’s Best Week Ever, received a message via Dane Cook‘s myspace account. Alex, who does delight in making jokes at the comic’s expense, was asked “Why all the cynical bullshit?”
Alex didn’t budge an inch and called the sender, if it was Dane, a “joke-stealing jerk-off.” This brought a long reply from “Dane” that can be characterized by this excerpt:
“Go ahead sweetness write back with your well oiled quips — call a friend maybe they will help write it. Or better yet do what you ALWAYS do and take out your lack of worth on Dane Cook and others that work hard, contribute and get their goals — the ones that CAN’T FIGHT YOU because they are too busy and have too much to do to even notice you.”
(Note the use of third person there) Alex, of course, put all of this together into a Best Week Ever blog post. If the sender’s goal was to stop the “cynical bullshit”...
After a Radar story on the whole matter where his publicist asserted that Dane did not know who wrote the message, Dane put a note on both his website and myspace blog describing how he believes someone pretended to be him, possibly hacking into his page. (Which has happened before, his whole profile was deleted in May of last year and replaced with pictures that sound akin to goatse and lemon party.) He encouraged his fans to ignore haters and instead
Go to ANY SOLDIER and write someone in the armed forces. Don’t blog back tonight. Do something that feels positive and benefits these people’s lives. These soldiers would love to be opining on a blog site about their favorite comedians but, oh yea, THEY ARE GETTING SHOT AT and defending their fellow soldiers from people lurking around them ALL DAY AND NIGHT TRYING TO KILL THEM. “Hi, I’m perspective nice to meet you!”
(Short aside, I’d love for the soldiers to be opining on comedians on a blog too, preferably mine. Let’s bring them home.)
I have to admit I get where Alex is on this. It’s a little fun to find that you’ve annoyed someone - I remember being more than a little excited at discovering Larry the Cable Guy was annoyed by one of my interviews questions in his book. But, I kind of feel a bit more in the right in that I was never trying to make fun of him. In fact, my interview with him, was as one reader said “so respectful.” So while I’m glad Alex is having a good time, I think some of the arguments detractors make against Dane Cook come off a bit cheap.
The biggest evidence most people point to is that Dane Cook is a joke thief, using an mp3 which mixes three jokes by Louis CK and Dane together to show the similarities between the performers. And I kind of hear it and I kind of don’t. Louis CK’s said after hearing one of Dane’s similar bits that “this kid is stealing from me.” I trust his opinion, but I’d still love to hear Dane’s side of the story.
Those jokes aren’t really Louis CK or Dane Cook anyway. None of them feel uniquely theirs and in some ways they all play on common experiences. I know I’ve had the moment described in both jokes where I was about to witness someone get hit by a car and felt powerless to stop it. An experience can be fair play and two people can separately find the same distorted logic within it. This happens a lot with current events jokes. How many jokes about using Mexicans to build the wall to keep out immigrants did you hear? The same joke was told everywhere from the Daily Show to Carlos Mencia. Human beings aren’t so unique that this couldn’t happen with personal events as well.
And in some ways imitation is how a comedian develops. So many comedians’ bios mention that they first came aware of comedy by memorizing Bill Cosby’s routines or Woody Allen’s albums or a Richard Pryor set. In many cases, they’ll actually perform those comics’ jokes when they’re starting out. Mimicry of others helps them find themselves. At the Chris Rock tribute at The Comedy Festival, Mario Joyner pointed out that comedians borrow from each other all the time and sometimes it’s the guy who gets on stage first who gets to claim ownership. None of these necessarily directly apply here, other to say there’s a lot more grey than black and white when it comes to being a joke thief. The evidence makes me wary and there well could be fire where there was smoke, but I don’t think three jokes is enough to condemn Dane Cook’s career.
My biggest problem with Cook is that he seems to have a perception that anyone who criticizes him is a hater. (Although the virulence of the criticism, sometimes frothing, may make that feeling seem justified.) People can have a response to his work and say something sincere and critical and not be a “keyboard assassin.” Just because I’m not going to buy a ticket for the “Dane Train” doesn’t mean I want it to crash and kill everyone on board. Comedy is an art form and my ridiculous goal with Dead-Frog is to try and raise the awareness of it as an art without being boring or pretentious. I want to help get more good shit in front of people. The only way to do that sometimes is to share what I think could be better. This with us or against us mentality is disappointing and plays into a lot of detractors thoughts that his fans are cultist.
(I should note here that Alex is a friend of the blog. I don’t know if Dane is.)