Comedian and actor Dane Cook is heading to the Palace Theatre on Friday, bringing with him what he calls a more introspective show.
The "Tell it like it is" tour, which kicked off on Wednesday, is his first solo tour in three years, something he’s been preparing for by looking back on his career.
Years ago, Cook was one of the most successful comedians in the country, earning upwards of $20 million per tour, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He was also one of the most controversial comedians. Cook was mocked by fellow comedians and critics alike; Louis C. K. and others accused him of stealing material, which Cook denied.
When he first started his stand-up career in the 1990s, Cook was in his early 20s, mostly performing at college campuses. This was when social media was just starting and Cook used it to network and self-promote, something that he was often criticized for.
“As a comedian there’s a lot of downtime. A lot of comedians would just sleep all day and then be up all night, everyone would be partying after the show. But I wasn’t a party person. I didn’t drink, I’ve never had a drink or a drug in my life. And when social media came along, I spent many, many years personally shaking hands with every single screen name that would come across my web page,” Cook said.
His comedy was reliant on delivery rather than clever material. Sometimes his jokes lacked punchlines and were focused more on his observations. However, he was successful among college students and his fans were widely typecast as college guys or fraternity bros.
But over the years, Cook said he’s changed and grown with his audience, which has been his aim from the start.
"I watched a lot of George Carlin when I was young and I love how he evolved," Cook said, “His mentality was changing and he allowed that to dictate his standup and I always wanted to do that.”
In his 30s, life got serious, Cook said. Both of his parents passed away within a relatively short time frame; he discovered that his brother, who he’d hired as his business manager, had embezzled around $18 million from Cook. Needless to say, his stand-up got a bit more serious. At this point in his career, he was selling out Madison Square Garden, acting in movies like “Employee of the Month” and making comedy specials, like “ISolated INcident,” and “Vicious.”
Cook’s success proved to be divisive, with some fellow comedians and reviewers lambasting him for what they called his mediocre routines and hyperactive stage presence. Other comedians, like Chris Rock and Jim Breuer, celebrated his material and energetic personality.
But, no matter how good or bad the reviews were, he kept on keeping on, always with the goal to exceed his fans’ expectations as well as his own.
“As I got closer to 40, it all shifts again and now you’re looking at things in hindsight and you start to see the error in your ways and celebrate moments you couldn’t even enjoy because there was so much going on,” Cook said.
That’s his aim with “Tell it like it is.”
“I was finding it was such a cathartic thing to share deeply personal experiences. Then I just started building funny on top of that. I still wanted to be able to inject some great observational topics and bake them into the routine, but at the same time I [wanted to tell] a cohesive story,” Cook said.
While he’s never been one to shy away from controversial topics, Cook said one thing that’s off limits for him is politics.
“The one thing that I’ve never been really interested in sharing publicly is political stuff. It’s not my forte,” Cook said, “I find that if I talk about politics, I get a lot more serious and I guess, intense in those conversations and it’s just not what I want to bring to a show.”
Instead, he’ll focus on finding the humor in some of his most difficult personal experiences and on “telling it like it is.”
Friday’s show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.50-59.50. For more information visit palacealbany.org.