In 10 Words or Less
A darker, more intimate
Loves: Stand-up comedy, in-depth extras
Likes: Dane Cook
The Story So Far...
It's unlikely you haven't heard of Dane Cook, as few stand-up comics have enjoyed the meteoric success and incredible backlash that he has experienced. Over the years, he's packed arenas with his silly, high-energy comedy and has released several shows on home video. There have been DVDs that accompany his ultra-successful CDs, but there are only a few traditional stand-up concert films featuring him. DVDTalk has reviews of several titles he's been a part of.
Dane Cook has to be one of the most polarizing comedians working today, and, incredibly, it's not because his material is overtly controversial or political or obscene. It seems that his rapid rise to celebrity and success, earned him just as many critics as fans, and his critics are frequently as motivated and fervent as those who enjoy his comedy, if not far more obsessed. While I'm certainly not going to say his critics are wrong, because everyone has their opinions about comedy and some comics I highly respect have been vocal in their views on him. But despite that, I've never watched one of his specials or listened to one of his CDs without laughing out-loud at least once.
To this point, the climb of Cook's career has been straightforward, as he moved from comedy clubs, to TV specials, to massive arena shows, and his loud, aggressive and completely silly sense of humor has made sense for these venues. But for this special, he changed things up, playing the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, a famous, yet small club he started in, performing in front of an audience a fraction the size of his usual crowds. After a Goodfellas-inspired walk, he takes a sparse, dimly-lit stage, with just a rarely-seen LED ticker above him separating the look of his show from the average middle-act at the local Chuckle Hut. The location is matched in a change of tone in his material, as he introduced a set that is more intimate in spots and certainly "smaller," as many of the traditional stand-up topics fit a club better than the big physical bits he's done in the past.
The "club" material, including stuff about women's periods syncing up and race relations (told around the election of Barack Obama and celebrities adopting foreign children), is standard fare for stand-up fans, though he puts solid spins on it, with some funny word play gags about the overuse of the terms "gay" and "rape" and a relationship segment about silly hypothetical questions women ask of their significant others. A lot of his appeal is in the way he delivers the jokes, with a very confident stage presence and physicality that sells jokes that might otherwise only get a giggle. Here, he even does a bit of crowd work, chatting with the audience alongside the stage, but it's not his strong spot, and he doesn't linger on it. Cook leans toward the filthy side of things, naturally when talking about sex, which makes up the final 27 minutes of the 55-minute set, though somehow he even made a story about dropping his cellphone dirty. One tale, about the use of a remote control for a purpose that doesn't involve a TV, may be the most explicit thing he's ever spoken about on-stage.
The intimate nature of the show goes well beyond sex though, as he gets more personal, especially in two areas. First up, he talks about the deaths of his parents, both to cancer within nine months of each other. Though it's very dark material, it's damn funny as well, especially when he talks about his second-thoughts about deleting his mother from his cell phone (one of those bits his detractors can grab onto, as George Carlin did a whole bit about deleting people from phone books.) Then he moves on to his "haters," the critics who bash him constantly. From his attempt to Google himself to a brutal e-mail from an anonymous critic, this is the kind of material that truly humanizes Cook, as he opens up about how a large group of people feel about him, dipping his toe into self-deprecating humor. The only problem is, this is a relatively small part of the overall show. If he had more of this, it could have been a revelatory show, but instead, it's just a taste of a different superstar than the one we've known.
The stark black and white cover art on this one-disc release is wrapped around a white, standard-width keepcase. The disc has a slightly-animated, anamorphic-widescreen menu, with options to watch the special, select segments or check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but there is closed captioning.
The anamorphic-widescreen transfer here is solid overall, with a crisp, clean image and black levels that make the dim setting work fine on video. The limited colors are very nice, with appropriate vividness and a good amount of fine detail. There are no issues with dirt or damage.
Surprisingly, for a comic of Cook's stature, the recording offers only a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track, which does a fine job of keeping him separate from the audience in a mix that's staidly center-balanced, with no obvious channel separation.
"30 Premeditated Acts" is nearly an hour of insight into the evolution of the set that made it onto the DVD, as Cook sits down in front of a laptop with Craig Stuart Garfinkel (who worked on Cook's CDs) to look at footage from the 30 small shows the comic did as a warm-up for the special. Through this exploration, you can see how the jokes grew based on audience reaction. It's as open as an comedian has been about his process, and gives you an appreciation for how a comic forms his act. What's also cool is the inclusion of some hecklers and crowd-work gone horribly, horribly wrong.
"ISolated INcident" is an extensive interview with Cook, as he talks directly to the camera for over 27 minutes, discussing the special. In some ways, it's like a commentary on the show, as he reveals a lot of the behind-the-scenes info on the set and talks about the inspiration for his jokes. For anyone looking to find out more about the show captured on this DVD, including an interesting story about people removed from the filming, this is a great way to do it.
The Bottom Line
After building up to a stadium-level comedy career, this special catches a different kind of Cook, who's playing a small room with a quieter show, but it's still as entertaining as his usual gigs (if you're a fan of his, that is.) The DVD looks and sounds good, and offers up some nice extras, one of which is almost as interesting as the main special.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.