Monday, May 18, 2009

Dane Cook -- turning a corner?

(my apologies for the rough video)

Here is a transcript:

… We’re not supposed to say the word "gay" anymore. It’s hurtful. But the commercial really bugs me. Because if you’ve seen it --- It’s two girls shopping in a department store and one of them puts on a shirt and she’s like, “Hey do you like my shirt” and the friend’s like, “It looks kind of gay on you” – and then Hillary duff comes out of nowhere and is like, ‘You shouldn’t say that!”

Oh thank you Hillary duff!

Sometimes when I find myself in a life conundrum, I think, what the fuck would Hillary Duff tell me to do with my business ---- or even Haley duff?”

I think the word we need to remove from our everyday vernacular is the word “raped.”

I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It’s like, “Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!”

I’m pretty sure if I talked to a woman who’s been through that horrific situation and I said, “What was it like you know being raped?" She’s not gonna look at me and go ,”Have you ever played Halo?”

I have to say I was a little blown away by this bit. Dane Cook is not a favorite in the feminist community and for good reason-- his track record is not exactly progressive, woman-friendly or (some may say) even funny.

But this piece of his show made my jaw drop. This is an argument feminists have made for some time and here he is dropping this into a comedy routine that he knows is watched (primarily) by young, adult male fans.

I kept watching the special and actually found myself enjoying parts of it-- I was especially surprised how he could be moving and funny when talking about losing both his parents to cancer.

I read this review of the show which summed it up nicely

On IsOlated INcident, Cook covers the election of a black president and what that means for race remarks, the passing of his parents, hate mail, the overuse of the word "rape," role-playing with his girlfriend and some standard observational stuff about ordering a sandwich in a restaurant. Some of it is new territory for Cook; he's never really done political humor before, and it shows. The jokes he makes about politics and race seem written less because he has something to say on the those topics than because it's the kind of stuff that other, edgier comics do. It feels a little like he's checking items off a list.

Cook fares a little better when getting personal, talking about his parents death from cancer. It's more open and honest than the comic has ever been, and it segues into a story about an angry email he got from a non-fan. That's the first time I've heard Cook acknowledge and confront the fact that there are a lot of people who don't like him. Of course, the punchline to the bit is that Cook is victorious and still more awesome than everyone -- a recurring theme in his act. I don't think I've ever heard him be self-deprecating. I guess it's not on his checklist.

Still, ISolated INcident is the best thing Cook has done in his incredibly successful career. He seems to have worked up actual material and jokes, rather than just relying on inventing catchphrases or being overly articulate and letting the roars of all-approving laughter cover up everything that's missing. If this were Cook's first special and not some back-to-basics stunt, I would say that Cook shows promise and is a comic to watch. Instead, I get the feeling it's a an exercise; a test Cook is giving himself to prove that he can do it.

To some extent, Cook is a victim of his own press. The promotional material for ISolated INcident tries to sell us on the idea that Cook has always been a risk-taker (he hasn't) and that he's totally reinventing himself on his newest album (he isn't). If INcidentwere an indication of where Cook's career is headed, I would find that promising; though far from perfect, there are some genuinely funny moments to be found. Sadly, I suspect it's just a one-off -- a press-grabbing detour before going back to his stadiums full of screaming fans.

So what do we think-- whether or not you enjoy his style of comedy, does Cook hit a positive feminist note for calling out casual use of the word "rape" or is he the same old jerk?

I have high hopes for him because lord knows he holds sway over many adolscent male minds (and I'm not just talking REAL adolescents... I mean the 20-something men who still act adolescent too!)

Dane Cook is far from perfect but I have to admit, some of his jokes have made me laugh before. If he could make his act both funny and smart... that would be something to see...


carrie said...

dane cook is awesome! you can go to and preview a part from isolated incident. it's funny as hell.

Bianca Reagan said...

Sometimes unfavorable people can say insightful things. That is all. :)

Monster Intern said...

I personally find myself drawn to Cook because of quick glimpses of his humanity that escape. I feel he hides this more than necessary, but things like the loss of his parents and how he deals with that and is unafraid to show the public how he feels is the reason I think he has gained popularity. Of course, the sad thing is he also feels obliged to return to adolescents by playing the frat-boy humor far too often (Good Luck Chuck was a prime example of this humanity mixed with just... atrociously and often uncomfortably childish humor). As an artist, I think he is still learning how to put down the social mask of what is expected of him as a "man" (I use that in quotation marks because as a man, I can say that what is expected of me be damned, I try to do what is RIGHT, and I consider that to be far more "manly" than some of the other things associated with my gender). I think his humor and his acting career could both benefit by him focusing on his sincerity-- most of what you can say against him is, I feel, moments where he is being insincere to himself, or, if he is sincerely like that... than sincere to normal human development (i.e. growing up).