After his wildly successful, but often gut-wrenchingly personal Isolated Incident Tour, the comedian comes back to Atlantic City a happier man.
Dane Cook is stepping back from the dark side.
Cook spent nearly 14 months on the road with his Isolated Incident Global Thermal Comedy Tour, which hit Atlantic City on Labor Day 2009, and often laid himself bare for audiences. He talked openly about losing his parents and other personal tragedies.
But when he rolls into The Trump Taj Mahal July 2 and 3, he won’t be making that journey again. Audiences can expect a new, happier Cook.
“Especially compared to where I was a year ago, which I feel was some of my darkest stuff coming out,” Cook tells Atlantic City Weekly in a phone interview from his L.A. home. “When the tour ended, I felt I was really ready to let go. I had talked about so many of these dark intricate moments — talking about cancer, or losing my folks or things in my personal life that had taken a foul turn. It was almost like, ‘All right, therapy is over.’ And I knew that what came next would be lot lighter.
“So I think that’s what people are going to see and I’m hoping that the maturity is now meeting the lightness. You know just having light in my life,” he says. “And not being afraid to get back to being a bit sillier and with the observational stuff, just lighter. So it’s great to just be going out there and saying, ‘You know what? I’m balanced in my life and I’m happy and I’m in better shape than ever.’”
So when you’re about to come out with a new show that’s drastically different than your last mega-successful tour, where do you go to test it out? Cook isn’t currently touring and has booked only a couple of gigs this year.
But it turns out that Atlantic City is exactly the place Cook wants to be.
“For a few months after the tour, it was really about getting rest after 14 months and about 80 arenas,” he says. “So when I started putting this new hour together, a few months back, it was really my wanting to reach back out and go to a couple of the spots which I felt were absolutely embracing some of the new direction that I was taking with my comedy. It’s very important to feel like your fans want to grow with you. I mean sometimes they don’t want you to change and sometimes they want to jump in a new way.
“But I felt like there were a few spots on my tour that I was just really free to go in and play,” says Cook. “And in A.C., everybody close to home could go, [Cook is originally from New England], but it wasn’t like a hometown show. I was getting people from all walks of life, which is similar to my early New York shows where it’s just like a nice blending of all different people. Atlantic City is a great central place and an exciting place. It was just a great room and it was the first one I wanted to go back to.”
So a comedian who has brought back the arena comedy tour, playing some of the largest in the country, has found intimacy in the smaller rooms of Atlantic City. And the reward for fans is a chance to see Cook and his new act at its rawest.
“It’s really exciting when what is essentially just a bucket of jokes or stories and bits starts to have a point of view,” he says. “It’s like surfing, you know, you catch that wave and ride it all the way through. And in the last month I’ve really felt that this new hour is starting to reveal itself in a new exciting way.”
But however light Cook may take his comedy, there will always be a strong sense of getting to the real Cook underneath. Even Cook’s earliest comedic influences — Jackie Gleason, Johnny Carson, Steve Martin — touched him with their openness.
“I remember watching The Honeymooners with my pop and there was something about Jackie Gleason ... even as a young kid I was like, ‘OK, this guy’s funny and silly and he makes me laugh.’ But there was also vulnerability and even darkness. I was always attracted to people like that, even [with] Steve Martin I think early on I sensed there was a lot of Steve Martin that was rebelling against everything that he had built. Or even like a Johnny Carson, as I learned as I got older, that Johnny would tank things on purpose, just to get to the ‘What the hell just happened to me?’ moment.
“I always liked the realness that came with the performance, when they would step away from the act and almost be commenting on themselves or the moment. And I started doing that quite a bit in my own comedy, because I appreciated it so much. And I thought it made them more approachable and real ... so let the style be in something else and let the comedy be just as raw and ragtag as possible with a lot of me in it.”
That approachability, and also Cook’s constant attention to marketing himself, has turned him into the kind of success that many of his old-school heroes experienced.
Cook is seen as a master of using the Internet, Web pages and comedy recordings to brand himself and make himself a comedy superstar.
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