Dane Cook: I Did My Best: Greatest Hits

From the king of MySpace to “Step Brothers” punch line in the space of three years – there isn’t a comic in recent memory that has suffered a backlash as quick, and as malicious, as the one Dane Cook endured. Granted, some of the barbs pointed at Cook were not unfounded; his taste in movie scripts has been atrocious (his best film: “Dan in Real Life,” because he’s second fiddle to Steve Carell), and the quality of his stand-up material dropped precipitously once he had become a star. But let’s not forget something important: Cook found an audience because he could make people laugh. Fellow comics might deride his methods – Ron White once told us, a good two years before the backlash had gained momentum, that Cook’s act is “smoke and mirrors” – but he could make people laugh.

Listen to I Did My Best: Greatest Hits, though, and you start to see what White meant by smoke and mirrors. Cook’s best weapons are his sound effects and his voice. They are what make bits like “Heist/Monkey” and “The BK Lounge” so amusing (“Large fry, motherfucker!”), and without that unexpected chicken sound he does in the “Operation” bit, that whole routine is a tenth as funny. White mentioned one weakness in particular about Cook’s act, and listening to this, it becomes clear: there are no punch lines. Cook is also a lover of words, and sometimes he swishes them around a few times just because he likes the sound of something, when he would be better off moving forward with the routine. Lastly, there is the decision to make this set a double-disc affair. Cook may have released a lot of material in the last eight years, but very little after his first two albums is what one would call essential, and besides, this violates one of the cardinal rules of comedy: always leave them wanting more. The bonus tracks do not save the day, either. Heck, one of them is Cook announcing that he’s played in every state in the US. That’s not material – that’s just talking.

I Did My Best offers a more candid look at Cook’s rise and fall than Cook himself may have intended. He clearly has the innate ability to make people laugh, but a few actual punch lines would do him a world of good. Still, complaints aside, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell him: thanks for the candy. (Comedy Central 2010)

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