We recently documented the rise and fall of Dane Cook, a comedian who is inexorably linked to the culture of the mid-2000’s and the rise of the Internet Age. Dane has been out of the mainstream for a short while now (his website just shows a handful of tour dates from 2021), but MySpace’s favorite comedian is back on the stand up social media grind with a TikTok account that boasts half a million followers and hundreds of videos. Is it time for the original viral comic to make a comeback, or has the ship sailed on the Super Finger?
As we’ve previously discussed, Dane Cook was the first stand up comedian to tap into the viral marketing potential of social media. In 2002, Dane spent a massive $25,000 (over $40,000 today, adjusted for inflation) to build DaneCook.com, a one stop shop for his fans to find shows and connect with the comedy dynamo in a way that no comedian had even considered before him. While other comics mocked the move, Dane’s decision to drain his life savings and establish a web presence right as his career was beginning to catch fire paid massive dividends.
Dane is one of the most successful comedians of the last twenty years. His 2005 special Retaliation not only went double platinum – it was also the first comedy album in 27 years to hit top five on the Billboard charts. Sadly, Dane’s meteoric rise was followed by a vitriolic fall from grace as middling film performances and plagiarism accusations sent his career on a downward trajectory during the 2010’s.
His most notable public appearance in recent years was in May 2021 when he headlined the re-opening of the Hollywood Laugh Factory, an establishment from which Dane was previously permanently banned for cursing out a waitress. Words like “permanent” have different meanings in Hollywood, apparently.
Since appearing in a couple of small film projects in 2019, Dane hasn’t spent much time in the public eye, aside from podcast interviews and his posts on social media. However, social media is Dane’s sweet spot – his bread and butter, his old stomping grounds, his Madison Square Garden (incidentally, he’s one of very few comedians who has ever sold out Madison Square Garden).
Back in Dane’s day, he had a MySpace page with over 1.5 million friends. He was constantly active both on MySpace and AIM – which, today, is like saying you used to get egg creams at the soda fountain – and he used both platforms to create one of the first parasocial relationships with his youthful fan base. Today, he boasts around 700,000 followers on Instagram and around half a million on TikTok.
His Instagram content in recent months has mostly been clips from his various podcast appearances which usually feature stories from his hayday. The page shows tales about Lorne Michaels plugging Dane for his first SNL hosting gig and an explanation on why George Carlin is such an important comedian to Dane. His TikTok is more personal, often inviting fan engagement and duets while providing glimpses into the charmed life of a semi-retired stand up who sleeps on a mountain of cash the size of Everest.
We’re starting to see Dane follow the trends of the new Internet with more grace and savvy than you can typically expect of someone born three and a half decades before the invention of the smartphone, but we wonder if there’s potential for the OG viral comedian to utilize the new platforms in the same way that he deployed the first generation of social media when he began his ascent into superstardom. Every up-and-coming comedian in 2022 is on TikTok, or making reels on Instagram, or jumping in the replies on Elon Musk’s twitter to try to score some easy followers. Does Dane have something to teach this most recent wave of online dreamers?
Dane’s comedy has always been in-your-face, easily digestible, and endlessly quotable. In an era of content when every six-second audio clip has the potential for virality, we wonder if Dane could once again capitalize on the digital landscape and muster a comeback tour for a new generation of impressionable young fans. In his own words, “Those high school and college years, those are the years that you pick up whatever music, whatever comedy, whatever those entertainment moments are in that part of your life, you hold on to those moments forever. Those four years of college, that will always be your music. That band you wanna listen to for the rest of your life because it's gonna remind you of that time. And I believe comedy works in the same way as music…I think you have a greater possibility of making a fan for life, because you're now part of the fabric of their life, of their years."
The TikTok era of comedy is one that has been met with disdain and disgust by many comedians and comedy fans alike. What passes for humor in some of these mega-viral videos has comedy fans above the age of thirty fuming in forums and comment threads across the Internet. What better participant on a platform reviled by a generation coming to terms with the cruel passage of time than the comedian who was reviled by the same haters and humbugs some twenty years prior?
Top Image: Wikimedia Commons / Courtney Cook /
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