Since Dane Cook began enjoying the success of his sophomore album, 2005′s double platinum-selling Retaliation, comedy fans have hit many a message board with anti-Dane sentiments while more than a few critics have filled many column inches expounding on what a hack the Boston-area native had become.
Despite Cook having 15 years of solid stand-up experience behind him at the time, too-cool-for-school wannabe comedy hipsters found it an opportune moment to slag the country’s most exciting comic.
And now, with the release of his latest, Rough Around the Edges, no doubt many more will take this time to assess why Cook doesn’t deserve his success: his jokes don’t have punch lines; he just screams a lot; he’s too good-looking. Whatever.
The deal is this; Cook does scream, his jokes typically don’t have traditional punch lines — especially his newer material — and yes, his looks, no doubt, helped him get cast in no fewer than six movies since his last album (with two more out by 2009).
But none of that takes away from this: Cook is a tremendously funny man, a skilled comic and is the type of entertainer even the contemporary greats will never become. And Rough is a shining example of this.
While Cook still drops the occasional quick joke, word flourish or call back to past albums — he opens by telling the thousands at Madison Square Garden that he was just backstage and “someone shit on the coats — to get an easy laugh, Rough largely takes over where Cook’s 2006 HBO special Vicious Circle left off; that is to say, there are lots of well-crafted stories and extended observations that lend easily to repeated listening.
His bit about he and his siblings begging their father to take them to Benson’s Animal Farm (“You could pet a llama and feed it nuts. You could go on The Zipper and smash your goddamn teeth out of your face”) is not only funny, but is also slightly dark — something Dane doesn’t get enough credit for being onstage. The story ends after his hung-over father reneges on a promise to take them one Sunday, bitterly telling the kids, “Benson’s not going anywhere.”
The place closed in 1987; Dane never went.
Cook responds in his typical quick paced, sturdy delivery. He decides when his father is old and needs to be rushed to a hospital, “I’m gonna take him into my car and drive him to an empty parking lot, and I’m gonna go, ‘All right, Pop, we’re here.’ He’s gonna go, ‘The hospital’s nowhere near here.’ And I’m gonna, go, ‘This is where Benson’s used to be!’”
In a bit that could’ve easily been written by brilliant cringe master Jim Norton, Cook takes blue a little further. When his fictitious pregnant girlfriend calls and requests that he meet up with her to chat, he suggests, “Why don’t you meet me at the top of a set of stairs?”
He also gets hilariously graphic when talking about a Web site that lists registered sex offenders in your area: “You click on a dot and it shows you a little picture, and then under the picture — stats! Like a rapist’s baseball card. And if you collect all nine rapists, there’s a puzzle on the back. There’s a rickety-van puzzle on the back with a clown holding a glass dildo.”
As the title of the new album somewhat obviously suggests, this new album is a collection of some of Dane’s edgier, if not funniest, material. So forget about the gloss and glam, the red-carpet strolls, the getting-to-act-opposite-Jessica Alba and all the other tangential accolades that have deservedly come Cook’s way.
Listen to Rough for what it is: a high-energy, excellent comedy album written and performed by one of the most talented comics of our time.