By Bobbie Oliver
There is a lot right with modern standup comedy, but Dane Cook represents none of it. You know how if you love onions, you can’t imagine anyone not liking them? Or if you hate onions, you can’t imagine anyone not hating them? Well, I hate onions, but I would rather eat an onion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the rest of my life than ever watch another Dane Cook DVD. But, 1,651,838 MySpacers disagree. And so do the 18,000 rabid fans that filled Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden to watch 132 minutes (yes, that’s two hours and twelve minutes) of Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle, the Dane-gerous Edition (I swear I didn’t make that up). Countless others, ok somebody counted but I refuse to look it up, have made the self-proclaimed “Superstar Comedian” Dane Cook’s comedy album, Retaliation, a top seller for 71 weeks.
Celine Dion will always sell more albums than They Might Be Giants. Dane Cook will always sell more albums than Patton Oswalt. Let’s face it, hack sells. But, then, how would the cool kids distinguish themselves from the posers if every talented artist made millions? Who said 1,651,838 MySpacers can be wrong? I do.
To be fair, I’m not the best audience for Vicious Circle. As a standup comic for the last 20 years, I’ve seen A LOT of comedy. I’ve heard a lot of jokes. I’m probably a lot like the judges on American Idol who want to slit the throat of the next ten year old girl who sings “Tomorrow” from Annie or kick the shit out the fifteen thousandth person they heard perform “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My favorite comedy is smart comedy. I like jokes you have to get. Hell, I’m a sucker for a joke period. Please, Dane, just one joke. Dane Cook wouldn’t know a decent set up/punch if it literally punched him in the face, which is exactly what I plan to do if I ever see him out in the clubs in LA. He owes me for 132 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
There are four types of comedians. There is the poor guy that no one thinks is funny. There’s the guy that comics love, but audiences don’t get. There’s the guy that audiences love, but other comics hate. And there’s the comic we all strive to be, that audiences love and other comics respect. Dane Cook is the third guy. Audiences love him, especially jocks and frat boys and the kinds of girls that can’t wait to pull up their tops for a “Girls Gone Wild” video. I am none of those.
But, there were 18,000 of them loving every minute of watching Dane perform in the round on Vicious Circle. I actually think doing standup comedy in the round is a great idea, but this was more of a stunt than the craft that is standup. During his set, three groups of people approach the stage. The drunken jock was handled pretty well, I think. Dane acknowledged him, picked on him a little, and then sent him away. The two sets of girls that approached the stage were told to “show us your boobs,” which they did, and “make out with each other” which they did. Can you imagine this happening in any other standup act? Ok, stop imagining two girls making out and pay attention.
Comics are usually a well-balanced combination of low self-esteem and cocky shit head. Dane Cook does not have a low self-esteem. Comics are usually people whose mother didn’t love them (us). Dane Cook’s mother probably told him everyday that he was the funniest, smartest, most talented kid on Earth. So did William Hung’s mom. It seems obvious to me while watching him perform that Dane Cook had a happy childhood, and frankly, I resent him for it.
Vicious Circle begins with Dane Cook coming out like a rock star with his spiky hair and tight jeans. Hell, even the picture of him on the cover is a cocky shot with him arrogantly pointing at the camera with an overconfident, smart aleck look on his face. I would like to believe that audiences look for something different in their comedians than they do their movie stars, rock stars, and supermodels. In those people, we want cool perfection. But, in our comics, we want to see ourselves. We want vulnerability. We want to know that we are not the only one who feels this way or does stupid shit. But, you’ll get none of that from Vicious Circle. No humility, no vulnerability.
The most important skill you can have as a comic is the ability to self-edit. Dane Cook has never edited one thing he’s written (or the bits he has stolen from the likes of the very funny Louis CK). Vicious Circle is 132 minutes of one long pointless rant, going on tangent after tangent and never delivering the punch. It’s a big shaggy dog joke that needs to be trimmed. Granted, Dane Cook is a good performer, I’ll give him that. But, a wordsmith he is not. He doesn’t craft his jokes; he doesn’t choose every word carefully and lay them out in a poetic melody like Shakespeare writing in iambic pentameter.
He is more Three Stooges than Richard Pryor, which is fine unless you are selling your comedy as standup. All throughout this DVD, he hops around the stage like a little animated bunny, punctuating every thought with a wacky face or funny sound effect. It’s like standup comedy for deaf people without the closed-captioning. It’s comedy for people with no sense of humor.
He’s basically saying, “look at me, look at me…just don’t really look at me.” I didn’t feel like I knew anything more about Dane Cook after watching this performance than I did beforehand. He does not let himself be known. Doing pure standup comedy is like jumping out of an airplane naked and skinless. But, Dane jumps fully-clothed with 10 parachutes from the 2nd floor of a very short building. Zero risk.
I watched this DVD with my 22 year old nephew who would be the ideal audience for it (you know, if his IQ were lower); someone who laughed whenever Dane said “blowjob” or made jokes about Halle Berry taking a shit. But, even he got up and left me after an hour, laughing at me for being obligated to sit it out to write this review. I have sat through many movies that were three hours long and never once looked at my watch. After five minutes of Vicious Circle, I was counting down the time like a prisoner waiting for freedom, swearing to never commit this offense again.
Then there’s the 10- minute encore of some horrible song he played on a guitar that the fans all seemed to know (he said it was on his website). Like the other 122 minutes, it was self- indulgent and self- important crap. And, might I also point out that his little “Su-Fi” hand symbol is clearly ripped off from Fishbone? If you ever see anyone make this symbol that is not wearing a Fishbone t-shirt, run away very quickly.
To put it simply, Dane Cook is not my cup of tea. But, hey, if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, then you’ll probably love Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go eat a raw onion and get this bad taste out of my mouth.