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Cook’s Comic Outlook Lightens Silver Screen

By Reva P. Minkoff, Crimson Staff Writer

When one looks at comedy today, Dane Cook’s shadow looms large. TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2006. With his breakthrough comedy album, “Harmful if Swallowed,” on the verge of going platinum, Cook has made a huge leap from the days when he was selling that same album as a cassette tape on his website.

But in a nationwide conference call held two weeks ago, Cook showed that such wild success hasn’t gone to his head.

When asked what he would do if he were walking down the street when he knew no one was watching, he responded, “I would start dancing,” and said he hoped everyone around him would break out into a choreographed dance.

Frat boys who love to play his albums at keggers might also be surprised to know that he doesn’t drink.

“I’ve never had an alcoholic drink in my life,” he said. His drink of choice? Lemonade.

On the eve of his movie debut, “Employee of the Month”—in theaters today—Cook said he was excited to move into a different part of the entertainment industry. Cook says working on a film gives him the opportunity to tell stories in a different way than he can through stand up comedy. He spoke of hoping to attempt more dramatic roles.

“If it comes along and feels right, I’m not going to say no to it,” he said of a possible dramatic turn.

No matter what steps he takes next, Cook said he wants to be in total control. He spoke of how he has turned down movie offers in the past because he couldn’t see them going anywhere in theatres.

Cook maintained that level of control in conceiving of “Tourgasm,” a weekly HBO series that aired this past summer. The show focused on the drama that goes on behind the scenes on a comedy tour.

Cook said the show was his idea, and resisted labeling it as a “reality show,” preferring the term, “docu-comedy.” He added that it was intended to be viewed as a DVD box set, not as an episodic show.

Cook says the response he received for the show has been mostly positive—and that Tourgasm was anything but scripted.

Despite the frequent appearance of his one-liners on Facebook.com user-pages, Cook said he doesn’t try to come up with quotable material, given that it’s impossible to know what will catch on with the public.

“To go beyond being a funny person and bring things to another level, you could never plan or coerce that,” he said. “The fact that 1.5 million people comment me on [social networking website] MySpace, it’s just rewarding. I feel lucky. I never try to push it and I never try to figure out what ‘it’ is.”

If he has a philosophy, it seems to be that honesty is the key to comedy. “I think people are attracted to truth in a performer,” he said. He realizes that he is “living the dream,” and enjoying it and trying to make the most out of it everyday. He just hopes his fans will stick with him.

“I want to be around thirty, forty, fifty years from now,” he said.

—Staff writer Reva P. Minkoff can be reached at rminkoff@fas.harvard.edu.

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