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Comedian Dane Cook enjoying personal, professional life after surviving hard knocks


If you’re going to see Dane Cook this weekend, you probably know he lost both his parents a year apart, or that his half brother was sentenced to prison for embezzling millions from him.

Either that, or you don’t own a computer.

Cook knows you know, and he can’t really complain.

The comedian famously blazed social-media trails of self-promotion early in his career, so he’s not the guy to get upset about the walls crumbling between an entertainer’s personal and private life.

When he talks about dusting himself off and getting back in the game, he even speaks of it in terms of the medium that made him famous.

“I realized it was really my responsibility,” he says. “The only thing that was going to push back the negative story on the Google search was to put up fresh content, so those first new pages are about the new experience.”

The “Under Oath” tour Cook started last summer is part of that new experience. The stand-up set he will perform in his first dates at The Venetian even finds a way to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes life dramas that have sometimes overshadowed his work onstage.

The main set is “all about the jokes, it’s all about escaping a little bit … not about the heavy stuff that happens outside. ‘Let’s leave most of the heavy stuff at the door and have a blast in here.’ ”

But, he says, he comes back for an encore that is “almost a different tone than the routine,” one that lets him “just talk to the audience” and thank them for his 23 years in stand-up.

It’s his way of “letting people know the me behind the performance you just saw is a real guy. Very affected, moved by the longevity I’ve had because of people caring about what I do.

“Not only do I have incredible fans, but because of some of the things that have happened in my life that have been so publicly put out there … there’s been people that have understood my story, understood the drive I’ve always had, the desire to create.”

At age 41, Cook says he has entered “Act Two really of my life and career.” A pop-culture backlash against his popularity has faded.

And a sitcom that was canceled before it ever aired was offset by what looks to be a movie franchise in voice work with the Disney movie “Planes.”

“It’s a great time in my life. It’s a great time personally and professionally. I feel very present,” he says. “Right where I’m supposed to be and excited about what’s over that next hill.”

In Act One, Cook went from being an almost underground comedian who played the Paris Las Vegas showroom 10 years ago with little promotion, thanks to his early grasp of networking with fans online.

Three years later, he was packing Mandalay Bay’s arena.

“I came up that way. I came up with sharing the journey as it went,” he says. “I was blogging before it was called a blog and putting audio up online before it was called podcasting.”

His fans became his “street team,” and he learned “there are ways to self-promote that is also art,” as long as you “do it in your voice.”

“It used to be about masks. Hollywood was about masks,” he notes. “Everything was about the glamour of this person that was seemingly high up on this mountain who would come down to entertain us and then would disappear back up into the clouds of Hollywood.”

Now, the Twitter era has pushed even reluctant performers into one-on-one familiarity with fans. “For our occupation, it’s great,” Cook says. “That’s just more information for a comedian to latch onto and share. That’s what we love. We love revealing and lifting up the carpet and what’s under the cushions of the couch.

“For us personally it’s a bit more of an obstacle course,” he admits. “You have to look at these things how you approach it as a performer how you handle your business, how you handle your personal life, what you share with people. In some ways it’s made things easier, in some ways it’s made things a little more convoluted.”

But Cook says his connection with fans helped him weather the backlash, which he says, “I think that just sometimes happens when you’re on a trajectory. When you’re kind of going up, up, up, people go like, ‘Wait a minute. This can’t last.’ And if enough people even jump on to watch it, the weight of that will pull you down.”

After his half brother’s conviction in 2010, Cook broke ties with his management and started “a new team.”

“I took a lot on the chin during some personal stuff with my family. It rocked my world. I went through some real grieving and some real genuine heartache,” he says. “That coupled with whatever the word on the street was about me … there wasn’t much fight left in me.

“When I came out the other end of that a couple of years ago, it was like, it’s solely my responsibility to get up and create something new. Nobody’s going to write a story based on something you haven’t done.”

And so, here he is.

“If this is the way you want to start an Act Two of a play or a film or a life, I am absolutely in the mix, man.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

 

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