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Dane Cook, this is your last chance...
on May 19, 2009
OK, so here's the deal. I had decided against my better judgement to go ahead and buy this album. I say against my better judgement because of his previous CD recorded in Madison Square Garden which was truly AN ABOMINATION of an album. In the past, I felt Dane Cook had some amusing material but I've never believed he's "like, the greatest comedian ever." I believe anyone who makes such claims to Dane Cook being the greatest ever or being some kind of comic genius, probably can't name very many comedians. But after the agressively bad third album, I'd decided to give Dane Cook ONE LAST CHANCE ... much the way I gave Slipknot ONE LAST CHANCE.
***NOTE: I'll not be buying any further Slipknot albums again, they have failed me for the last time. I don't mess around.
In Isolated Incident, you can sense that Dane Cook already knows this though. You see an album done by a guy who is on one hand confident of his own talents and yet is aware of just how overexposed and oversold he's been. You sense a man who realizes the hype machine has chugged on a tad too hard and it's time to scale it down a bit. Gone are the thousands and thousands of screaming ignorant fanatics packing the giant venue of MSG treating him like a rock star. This album is done in a small club in front of a few hundred, the way comedy albums should be done. And you can see an attempt at material that aims differently too.
On this album, Mr. Cook does try his hand at slightly more political and more personal stuff, a try at being more aware and more introspective ... with mixed results. The album begins immediately with some material on Obama. This material quickly had me wishing this was a Lewis Black CD instead. It hovers around the ideas of politics and race but it never feels like it really WANTS to try and scratch the surface or take any real risks. It's pretty safe stuff. When he goes on to address some of the particularly difficult episodes in his life the past two years, you see the same. He has seen the death of both parents. He has also seen a surge of "haters" hounding him rather savagely in the past few years, labeling him as a complete hack. And you can smell a potential wealth of autobiographical material just threatening to truly emerge and create a memorable album. But once again, it is a performance that just never fully matures and blooms into what maybe could have been.
When do you see material on this album receive that kind of thorough treatment? When he is talking about SEX of course. Plenty of time and focus devoted there. But as always, you sense a performer AND an audience that is operating under the pretense of embarking on a bold, edgy and dangerous adventure here yet the ship never really ventures into truly daring waters. In other words, the life jacket has come off but it's still with one foot firmly planted in the kiddie pool. If you buckled your seatbelts, you needn't have bothered.
Yes, Dane Cook has been subjected to some unfair barbs. He is a better performer than some give credit for. He is someone who believes in his own talents and he has a right to believe that way. He isn't the Ashlee Simpson of comedy, folks and we need to acknowledge that. But he simply is not one of the greats, nor will he ever be. But some of the hostility directed toward him I think is undeniably unfair and at times rather arbitrary: refusing to like him because he is Dane Cook. I WANTED this album to be good, in fact I wanted it to be great. It's not ... but it isn't bad either. I'm giving it three stars. Not a very enthusiastic three stars, but I know I'd be lying if I rated it lower than that. Dane Cook has the right to be here, there are plenty of performers who don't. He is an entertainer and he entertains effectively. He'll never be in the pantheon of great comedians, but that's OK, few others will be inducted in that club either. That's no excuse to deny him his place.