Maybe it's not Dane Cook's fault. At this point, he's gotten so popular among the (easily pleased) college set -- who laugh hysterically and fawn at every overly-articulated utterance -- that he's lost touch with whether or not his material is any good. All he has to do is get up on stage and say pretty much anything and he's met with roars of laughter. He doesn't even have to try anymore.
That's the overall feeling I got during Cook's second stand-up special, Rough Around the Edges. Recorded in the round at New York's Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people, Edges finds the spastic comic riffing on his childhood, television, pregnancy scares and a host of other observational routines. Sure, certain routines have the air of familiarity; a bit on TiVO, for example, was already done better by Patton Oswalt on his first album, Feelin' Kinda Patton, because Oswalt had a point of view and a twist to the joke (TiVO as special needs child). Cook's routine pretty much boils down to "What's the deal with TiVO?" But he's as energetic as ever, pacing around the stage and going big enough to play to the back row at a venue as big as the Garden. Watching it with the sound off, it's pretty much business as usual for Dane Cook.
More of the Same
The big trouble is that the same thing goes with the sound on. Cook has yet to really grow or change as a comic -- I guess if it ain't broke, he's not looking to fix it. But I've never seen solid evidence as to why he's so beloved, and Rough Around the Edges failed to convince me again.
There's no denying that lots of people find Cook funny -- they're there on tape, laughing at every setup just as much as every joke. But the whole thing is on autopilot, and the constant cuts to fans rolling in the aisles is only helping to mask that fact. If Cook were performing the exact same material -- word for word -- inside a small club with only a handful of people in the audience, I think his act would sound a lot more like what it is. The Emperor has no clothes.
- Original Premiere Date: 1/11/09