Dane Cook brings laughs to Metro

As far as kings of comedy are concerned, they don’t come a whole lot bigger than Dane Cook these days.

To help validate this point, one needs to only look at Cook’s tour schedule and the venues in which he is performing. Virtually all of Cook’s dates prior to arriving for his Atlantic Canadian debut at the Moncton Coliseum on Tuesday are being held in arenas: he performs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the HSBC Arena in Buffalo; the list goes on and on. In fact, Cook will be visiting and performing in more than 25 cities over the course of the next month before his tour concludes in Reno, Nevada in December.

Indeed, Cook has achieved a level of stardom in comedy that is the closest he could get to being a rock star without actually playing a musical instrument.

Cook relishes the opportunity to travel to places both old and new, stating that he and his crew do their best to make “every place we visit home for the time we are there.”

He says, “The good thing about undertaking a tour of this size is that we get to visit a lot of places in a short amount of time. But the bad thing is that it is a pretty aggressive tour in terms of the amount of shows we are scheduled to perform. After we wrap up one show, we basically get on the bus and travel overnight to our next destination.”

Asked what fans can expect from the material in show being performed at the Moncton Coliseum, Cook affirms that the vibe of his show is much more upbeat and positive than the last tour he did which he says was rather “heavy and dark.”

“The material from my last tour stemmed for a lot of the things that were happening in my personal life at the time that just happened to be heavier in tone,” he says. “I had both of my parents pass away from cancer within a year of one another and it just seemed to loom over my material at the time.

“This new tour is much lighter, more jovial and actually reminds me of the tour I did for Harmful If Swallowed (Cook’s debut CD/DVD, released in 2003). I love the physical, absurd type of humour and stories and I am back in that place it seems. The tour has been fun and cathartic so far; I’m enjoying the fact that after 20 years, I am still kicking around in what is definitely a tough business.”

The business might be tough but you wouldn’t know it by looking at Cook’s career: he’s sold more that two million records in the U.S. alone, appeared in close to 20 films since 1997 and his website regularly receives more than half a million hits on a monthly basis.

The culmination of his success sets the stage nicely for Cook’s next release, his sixth album in the past seven years:

Cook’s I Did My Best: Greatest Hits will be released on Nov. 23, featuring some of Cook’s most popular routines of the past 10 years along with never before released material.

“The fact I have a ‘hits’ record coming out is a little strange in itself,” he admits. “It reminds me that I still feel like that 18-year-old kid in 1990 who was just getting started in comedy.”

When it came to compiling the material that will make up his newest collection, Cook says he went back and listened to the material that made up both his records as well as his comedy specials over the past 10 to 11 years. To his pleasant surprise, Cook uncovered a significant amount of unreleased material, which he claims has been the fun part of putting his hits release together.

“I think this compilation will highlight some of my favorite moment of the past 10 years but it also serves to close a chapter of my career. It is a ‘thank you’ to fans, a welcome to new fans that ultimately says ‘let’s see where we go from here.'”

Cook says that one of the most interesting projects he has undertaken in the past few years was a tour that he and two fellow comedians undertook where the trio traveled through Iraq performing for US Army members stationed in that country. The tour was filmed for a documentary-style feature that he says will be released at a future date.

“When we went to Iraq, we made a conscious effort to get to places where troops weren’t getting shows. There’s so much hoopla about so and so visiting Baghdad then as soon as the cameras are gone, so are they,” he says.

“We ended up filming what I feel are some of the proudest moments of my life. We never even went to Baghdad! My father was in the military and had served in Korea and taught me that it was important to give back to my country and this was how I could do something. Doing those military shows for our troops was such an incredible experience.”

With his choice of career, Cook admits there is a natural tendency to have people wonder if he is constantly “on” but is quick to admit that while he can crack ’em up while on stage, his persona off stage is a stark contrast to this.

Generally, he says, people are very surprised that the comedian tends to be a little shy in one-on-one scenarios.

“I am actually kind of nervous when I’m meeting fans during a meet and greet or something like that but I’m right at home in front of 10,000 people.

“Strange, isn’t it?”

Cook will also be the first to admit that he doesn’t know when his success will start to fade but until that time, he is going to be the first to enjoy the ride.

“My past experiences helped me realize that if your dream comes true, you can’t question things. It’s like being the only survivor of a plane crash saying ‘Why me? Why did I live?’ I have never ever forgotten that what I do is about the people that have come to see me on any given night.

“Things might go up and down and some times might end up being leaner than others but I have enough interests, including TV and film that I just want to keep myself busy and stay creative any way I can.

“I just want to entertain people and help them forget about their problems for the span of a couple of hours.

“I definitely feel like I am at the healthiest and happiest I have been after some of the darkest times of my life.

“Things are very good.”

Article published in November 5, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript