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Comedian Dane Cook: 'I believe that the internet gave mediocrity a place to form'

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If you’ve ever seen, heard, or read about standup comedy, chances are you have an opinion about Dane Cook.

Cook built his fanbase in the early days of the internet, providing a predominately college-age crowd with unprecedented direct access to the comedian in the days before any asshole could have a Twitter account.

However, with success has come plenty of criticism, including people feeling the need to pick apart his comedy and his personal life.

“You have to have the thickest skin to be in this profession, or really anything public,” he says of his reputation. “I’ve had everything thrown at me, and to be honest I don’t care... People who are mean-spirited and want to tear you down because they’re having a bad day. I don’t respect them and I don’t give them any power over me at all.”

His ability to take the pile-on criticism is one of the reasons Cook is still a standup 28 years after he first took the stage. This Saturday, he'll head to Minnesota for two shows at Mystic Lake Casino.

For a comic as prolific as Cook, he’s been surprisingly quiet since putting out the 2014 special Troublemaker. During that time, he’s been mapping out the next phase of his comedy career, which is now underway.

“For quite a while I was focused on doing movies and television, so now I feel like this is the first time in years that I’ve been able to fully engage in my standup,” says Cook. “I decided I wanted to put out two new specials. One is going to be more personal, and the other will be more like what people have seen before with my observations on what’s happening around me.”

Next year, Cook says, he’ll be dropping these two specials back to back, and then heading out on a large tour more in-sync with the massive shows fans have become accustomed to.

“I’ve always loved the Rolling Stones, and I love how they got to that level where they can play anywhere they want,” he continues. “If they want to do an arena, or a shitty little club or a fucking tennis court, they can. About 10 years ago I decided that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to perform anywhere that gets me charged up.”

While Cook’s success owes much to his web savvy early days, he admits that 2018’s internet is a very different place than it was in the late ’90s.

“One of my proudest achievements of my career is that I built my fanbase myself,” he says. “I sat down at my computer and decided to build a website and send emails and all of that. And back when I started doing that in 1998 or whatever, the internet was a pretty fun place. People weren’t being inherently negative in comments sections or anything like that. Now, they say that mediocrity rules. And I believe that the internet gave mediocrity a place to form. That’s the saddest part for me.”

Trolls notwithstanding, Cook says that he believes this next chapter of his comedy career will be his best, and has given him the chance to reflect back on how he’s grown both as a comic and a person.

“I feel like I’ve really hit my stride as a performer,” he says confidently. “I’ve got kind of a Clark Kent-Superman thing now. I can talk about things that I think are funny and get laughs, but I can also appreciate the more personal side of what my comedy means to people. I’ll have people tell me that they met their husband or wife at one of my shows and that now they’re celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary. That’s beyond unfathomable to me that I’m able to have that kind of impact on people.”

IF YOU GO:

Dane Cook
Mystic Lake Casino
7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, October 6
Find tickets here