Dane Cook & Comedy’s New Political Correct Police

As annoyed as I was with the gender-Eddie Brill issue that had arisen in the last week, that is minute compared to my feelings concerning the backlash against Dane Cook for a set he had recently.  According to The Onion’s A.V. Club (http://www.avclub.com/articles/so-apparently-dane-cooks-standup-set-was-unusually,67943/) , Cook had a very vulgar and unamusing set at the Laugh Factory on Wednesday night.  And apparently it was so offensive that such vaunted comedy icons like Daniel Kinno (?), Ali Waller (?) and the heir apparent to Bill Burr, TJ Miller, came out with some harsh words about Dane Cook.  I have been resoundingly ripped by NYC comics for being a so-so appreciator of Louis CK, and I predicted (about 4 or 5 blogs ago) that if Dane Cook was getting ripped it would be hailed as a great thing (I fu*king told you!) Here are TJ Miller’s comments concerning the set he saw:

“Fucking Dane Cook is eating [shit] at the laugh factory. He bumped [Bobby Lee] and is being just mean… The hubris of this man unfortunately led to his fall, but I’m afraid he is a damaged man & well, that’s about it. He [is] certainly not a comedian… Watching him try and work through his own shit on stage when he is saying, ‘Go fuck a dirty whore. That’s the best therapy.’ #lord… Dane. You’ve been doing standup for so many years and you still believe it’s okay to bomb and talk about your issues? You. Didn’t. Earn This…

I remember hearing [about] someone named ‘Dane Cook’ in college on Napster. I heard Harmful If Swallowed after college… Then there was a backlash (there always is, it’s inevitable), but it grew. It was more than I could believe, and it was due in part to him… I liked him. His snake bit, a lot of sort of absurdist stuff. Suddenly he was on SNL, he was the ‘king’ of MySpace, [and] he was famous. Good Luck Chuck and Vicious Circle sealed his fate in contemporary culture.

And then last night, he got on stage and was vicious, misogynistic, cruel, and arrogant. He talked about not paying for an abortion. He talked about finding some whore to fuck to take out his anger at his ex-girlfriend. He talked about how girls would do anything for him ‘because I’m me.’ He got mad when people were texting. ‘Dane Cook is onstage,’ he said. ‘Have some fucking respect.’

Here’s an idea, Dane: have some fucking respect for the audience that gave you the chance to be what you dreamed of being, and don’t be mad at them because you fucked it all up from hubris and thirst for fame. Don’t disrespect the people that gave you a chance. Don’t do an hour of mean-spirited trash. And Dane Cook, certainly don’t ask anyone to feel sorry for you. If you are the person you were onstage last night then you are not a good person. And the way you talk about women is disgusting and pathetic, but really just hurtful. So Good Luck Chuck. [You] need all the luck in the world to realize you need to go to therapy & figure out how to not be a hateful person. Stop performing until [you] do so.”

Now I have not been a big fan of Dane Cook post the aforementioned Harmful If Swallowed (for God’s sake I have a Dane Cook spoof video launching in the next 24 hours so he is no sacred deity to me).  I think the demands made of him in terms of producing content were bigger than his capabilities.  I don’t think he is horrible or anything, but he is not in my top tier of comedians by any means.  But who the fu*k is TJ Miller?  I know he is an actor and a comedian, but these are not the words of a comedian.  Maybe in the current sense of comedian he is (TV and movie stars who do comedy for extra money and please crowds because they are light, fluffy and familiar from mediocre movies), but he is not from the old school.  I doubt you will hear Dave Attell or Bill Burr or Chris Rock criticizing a comedian for trying different things, pushing boundaries, using abusive language on stage, etc. Perhaps it was not funny.  Any comedian who has ever tried something new or daring or dangerous has offended people while searching for the right tone, the right words and the right sentiment.

TJ Miller sounds like a tool who does not understand that stand up is supposed to be (I hope) a bastion of free speech and a place to be free to take risks.  But The Onion is happy to blast this all over like he is some sort of knight slaying the dragon Dane Cook.  Cook was obviously working things out or trying new things on stage.  It does not sound like it was funny, but if an established stand up veteran with decades of work and millions of fans cannot at least be free to try new voices and material, then we might as well shut this whole sh*t down.  Unless Dane fought with people off stage or was hurling epithets to provoke a riot what he said on that stage should not be criticized except on whether it was funny, ESPECIALLY by a comedian.  When you are as big as Dane Cook (like it or not) you bump people because a Wednesday night show, which might be a big deal to younger comics, is his open mic. And at open mics sometimes comedians say and do things that seem wrong, on their way to finding the joke.  But I am sure TJ Miller already knows that.

Really, telling people to respect 20 years of comedy and not to text makes him a douche (perhaps the third person is a tad douchey)?  And he did a lot of time?  Oh, but when he was red hot, people in LA could not wait to be in seats for 5 or 6 hours to see him and Dave Chappelle try to break records!  There is no stand up that can be fun for 6 hours, but when it was cool, no one said sh*t about Dane hogging the mic or being self-indulgent.  I am not saying what Dane Cook did was funny.  It might not have been.  But what I am saying is that the TJ Millers of the world should respect stand up and shut the fu*k up.  Save the politically correct and sensitive guy talk for the dumb groupies who thought you were hilarious in She’s Out of My League.

I am a nobody in stand up, but I at least know how the game is supposed to be played.  The process of creating stand up comedy requires fu*king up on stage in a myriad of forms.

But I did enjoy Cloverfield so good job there.

  • onus spears

    I think he also hogged a bunch of time on the mic, and bumped other comedians in order to perform his alleged foulness. If you are going all “Old School” on TJ Miller, IMHO, mic hogging is enough for people to think that Cook is a tool, and an asshole. The fact he hogged a mic to blurt such garbage was the “rub” that got everyone pissed-off. He used his fame to bump comics and then shit on them, fuck him! He’s been a hack from day one, only popular among Walmartians and trailer park gas-huffers with no front teeth, AND cock eating studio execs.

  • greg

    I wanted to take you seriously but its hard to read some rail against a person lobbying for political correctness when they won’t even spell out fuck themselves.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      But that is my choice. If I was telling someone else not to type it then you might have a point.

  • Myq Kaplan

    J-L, you say “I doubt you will hear Dave Attell or Bill Burr or Chris Rock criticizing a comedian for trying different things, pushing boundaries, using abusive language on stage, etc.” What about Marc Maron confronting Gallagher about racism and homophobia? Is that different from TJ here calling Dane out on misogyny? Marc is certainly of the old guard like those folks you mentioned.

    Also, aren’t we all about freedom of expression? TJ isn’t stopping Dane from saying anything, but you think TJ shouldn’t express his thoughts? Is more speech good speech or not?

    PS For the record, I know TJ and think he is a funny comedian and a good dude. I also have enjoyed much of Dane’s comedy that I have seen.

    Let’s fight!

    1. J-L Cauvin

      As far as Maron is concerned I think that episode felt like a little bit of a witch hunt or was a little more provocative than his usual interviews and I think (if I am remembering correctly) Maron admitted as much on a subsequent WTF. Of course if Gallagher had answered “I am exploring new areas to me and it might be getting a little messy as I try to find a new voice,” Maron might have had more criticism or at least more questions, but I don’t think he would have gone TJ Miller-scorched Earth on him. And perhaps with more prying Maron would have gotten a satisfactory “comedy approved” answer or in the alternative, satisfactory proof that Gallagher’s new found comedy was coming from a place of hate and prejudice. But I thought Maron, as opposed to Miller, approached from an inquisitive, rather than accustory position, though Maron clearly had some pre-conceived opinion of what Gallagher was doing (this is all of what I think I remember since that WTF was many months ago). So I do think it is different to a small, but significant degree.

      Yes I am for freedom of expression, but TJ Miller’s statements were not made as a routine, but rather as a serious rebuke of another performer. Everyone is entitled and free to speak their mind and have an opionion, but what I read from Miller sounded to me like a political correctness lesson from a suburban mom who had never been to a stand up show (perhaps more clubs should warn patrons of possible offensive material if people are not prepared – the way Carolines has done for Paul Mooney in the past). I think comedians should as a matter of principle be given a very wide latitude to explore speech and ideas on stage. And I do not think that should be negotiated or toned down to appease people’s sensitivies. The same way judges are always concerned with regulation and law “chilling” free speech, I think the more traction and positivity opinions like TJ Miller’s are given, the more chilling effect it could have on stand up. And even though I think he is allowed to say what he said, I think TJ Miller’s ideas on what stand up should be are a lot more harmful to stand up than whatever Dane Cook was saying on stage.

  • bz

    “Dane Cook is on stage.” No one who refers to himself in the 3rd person really deserves this much of a defense. No matter how much I agree with the abstract arguments, this is about a concrete subject: Dane Cook, who ceased being a craftsman looong ago, especially if you ever put yourself through “Tourgasm”. Every minute of that show was an endurance trial for the non-lobotomized. The man’s nothing but flailing arms, ego and hairgel.

  • Adam Sank

    As always, JL, you’re dead wrong. The fact that someone is a comedian — and a famous, successful one at that — doesn’t give him the absolute right to act like a douche and not get called on it. Stop treating stand-up like it’s some holy fucking religion. At its best, it’s art. Most of the time, it’s merely performance. But it’s not the divine right of kings, and it’s not immune to criticism.

    Cook did the exact same thing one Friday night when I was performing at a gay midnight show at the L.A. Factory. I know, I know, who gives a fuck about Adam Sank and his fellow homo comics when Dane Cook wants to perform? Fine. I get it. But really? Midnight? At a gay show? When it’s already tough enough getting people to show up? He couldn’t have done a set earlier that night when the club was packed with a mainstream crowd? Fine.

    But he went on for 45 minutes, and it was truly awful. Not awful because it was new — which, I’m sure it was — but awful because it was lazy and self-indulgent and offensive.

    Now, there’s nothing wrong with being offensive per se. Some of the greatest comics of all time have shattered taboos, challenged authority and forever changed our culture by shocking and offending. Bravo to them.

    This was not that. This was a bitter, angry person taking a big smelly shit on the crowd — and a bunch of unknown gay comedians — simply because he could. He was like those terrible open micers who think telling AIDS jokes and ranting about their girlfriend’s “smelly pussy” is groundbreaking, edgy comedy. It’s not. And Cook knows better.

    Kudos to TJ Miller for being brave and telling the truth about what he witnessed. That, to me, is the essence of stand-up.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Obviously his etiquette to other performers was a minor part of this post. Even if I accept that he is a rude douche that still is the minor issue here. I would hate to be judged by some things I have said on stage at open mics especially when I was working out some very personal material. But I suppose in our anti-bullying culture I guess stand up will have to get in line. TJ Miller might as well have thrown in a “support the troops” this statement was so lacking in bravery. Wow – he stood up to a once famous, now resented comedian and told him he is a shitty person because of a bad set! When are we awarding TJ Miller a Presidential Medal of Freedom!? There’s nothing you wrote that is not already answered by the post already written so I guess we agree to disagree.

  • Adam Sank

    Why is everything about (mocking) the anti-bullying movement with you? You’re obsessed with it, and it’s completely irrelevant here. If anyone could be painted as a bully in this scenario, it’s Miller, not Cook.

    Nobody’s calling Cook a bully. We’re calling him a douche.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      If I was as “obsessed” with everything every comedian seems to accuse me of being “obsessed” with I would have no time to hate all the things I hate. Not irrelevant. I think that these comments are even part of a legitimate stand up comedy (let alone being praised as “brave”) discussion demonsrate that comedy is well on its way to becoming an 8th grade at a progressive middle school.

  • Adam Sank

    So basically, anyone who disagrees with you about anything is oversensitive, immature and threatening to the very existence of comedy. Good to know.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      On this topic? yes.

  • Adam Sank

    And by the way, the anti-bullying movement is as laughable and ridiculous as the civil rights movement was. Gay kids kill themselves every day. I was so systematically tortured on my middle school bus that the school — not my parents — moved me to a different bus in another town for my own safety. So fuck you and your thinly veiled homophobia disguised as righteous indignation at a society gone soft.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      First off the anti bullying movement is bigger than the “it gets better” push so I am fairly certain that the gay community does not have the exclusive rights to the anti-bullying movement or ad campaign. Perhaps my comments dug up some unfortunate memories for you, which was not my intention, given that I was not in the least thinking about the anti-bullying movement as a gay rights issue. But you should be careful about throwing out labels at people so flippantly, especially when they carry as much weight as they do. I am trying to be civilized about this, but I resent you turning my blog into some sort of personal campaign that was neither explicitly or implicitly brought up by me. My last two blogs that you have commented on you have brought up the fact that you are gay and although it had some tangential relevance to the Eddie Brill post it really had no relevance here. So I am telling you I had no intention of insulting you or demeaning any personal experiences you have had, which I did not think I had to say. Per the entire post I am annoyed that I even need to approach an apology for you misconstruing jokes, opinions and snarky comments I made because of your own life experiences. So as much as I would like to be symapthetic to whatever feelings were stirred up in you, you are the one who cursed and hurled a very dangerous label my way without justification.

  • Myq Kaplan

    When the Tracy Morgan thing went down, Louis CK was one of the people on the side of “let’s hear what Tracy actually meant and has to say about this, and not just demand he apologize.” He called it a wasted opportunity, under the auspices of the idea that one should always err on the side of MORE speech…


    So let’s not waste the opportunity here.

    J-L, you said, “And even though I think he is allowed to say what he said, I think TJ Miller’s ideas on what stand up should be are a lot more harmful to stand up than whatever Dane Cook was saying on stage.”

    Unless the government starts censoring people, then I don’t honestly see how stand-up could be harmed.
    I don’t think TJ was being “politically correct,” I think he was speaking his mind about how he felt about what Dane was saying and doing.

    Dane can do whatever he wants.
    TJ can respond however he wants.
    So can we.
    What’s the danger?

    No one can make a comedian not say what they want to say.
    But like the poker scene in “Louie”* shows, it can also be useful to consider what relevant parties think about things that we say. It’s always our choice, but having opposing viewpoints heard isn’t a bad thing, is it?

    You say you’re for freedom of expression, but that’s not (nor should it be) limited to the stage.

    (I’ll say this–when jokes are quoted in print, there can be misinterpretations by those that weren’t there, but I think that that’s a separate issue.)

    * And I know, J-L, that you don’t revere Louie like everyone else does, but how do you feel about that poker scene?

    1. J-L Cauvin

      Truth be told I would not have been so dismissive or angry at what TJ Miller wrote (I am for everyone being able to express what they want), had I not felt so much support, both tacit and expressed, for TJ Miller as some sort of hero of comedy. The Onion’s coverage certainly had the “naturally this is correct because we all think Dane Cook sucks to begin with” tenor to it. As with laws and cases regarding First Amendment issues, often regulations are shot down for the possibility of “chilling” free expression. In other words laws that sometimes don’t outright ban speech can still be unconstitutional if they have the intended or unintended effect of silencing people for fear of retribution. I feel the same way about this. Perhaps if TJ Miller were not as moderately high profile as he is his comments would have just been one guy’s opinion, but because of who he is, his words are carrying more importance and have been carried to more ears (or eyes since it was written). So despite my vitriol I am fine with him expressing his opinion. In fact I guess I should be happy about it because it allowed me to rant on something I think is important to comedy. However, I find it, in the context of Tracy Morgan and Eddie Brill, to be a disturbing trend that may lead to a real sanitizing of comedy (so although it is not the government doing it there seems to be both from without and within attempts to examine comedy through a non-comedy lens). So in the very least I would hope someone that calls himself a comedian, especially one that wields a decent reach in the entertainment community, would be more discerning and circumspect in his condemning of a fellow comedian’s act.

      I guess I need to be very happy that Louie, given his influence, said what he said concerning the Tracy Morgan incident. And I suppose his influence, if he spoke up for Dane Cook, would then overshadow whatever press TJ Miller got. But I would hope that comedians would not need to have an internal debate on what words and sentiments are acceptable, especially when we are basically discussing comedy at the open mic/working it out phase. And then he went well beyond the “this material is inappropriate” into judging Cook as a person based on his material (or lack thereof).

      I only vaguely recall the poker scene. Perhaps I will search for it.

  • Adam Sank

    Right. And when Newt Gingrich calls Obama the “Food Stamp President,” he’s not being racist or trying to appeal to the most racist elements in our country. He’s just making a point about entitlements.

    JL, you have every right so say anything you want on your own blog (and elsewhere). But at least own your own biases. If you say something that’s patently sexist, don’t get your panties in a knot when someone calls you on it.

    And whether you acknowledge it or not, when you write something like: ” I would hate to be judged by some things I have said on stage at open mics especially when I was working out some very personal material. But I suppose in our anti-bullying culture I guess stand up will have to get in line,” you join the ranks of those assholes on Fox News who complain about the war on Christmas.

    Because of course we don’t live in an anti-bullying culture. We live in a bullying culture. Bullying is the norm for any kids (and not a few adults) who exhibit difference from their peers. Which is why the anti-bullying movement is vitally important. (And sorry, but it is a gay movement. Do some reading.)

    This is not about my being gay. This is about my intolerance of victimizers who play the victim card. And if I seem unduly harsh or accusatory toward you, it’s because I expect more from you.

    In the interest of what I hope is a salvageable friendship between us, it’s probably better if I just stay off this blog.

  • Mojo

    Adam…. get over yourself.

  • Myq Kaplan

    J-L, when you say “I find it, in the context of Tracy Morgan and Eddie Brill, to be a disturbing trend that may lead to a real sanitizing of comedy,” isn’t the Brill situation the opposite? He wasn’t criticized for what he was saying on stage, rather the opposite–he was criticized for his off-stage words that appeared to be sweeping generalizations about a whole group of comedians. You say above that the Onion had a feel of “it’s okay because Dane Cook sucks anyway,” but aren’t YOU also saying something like “Eddie’s words are okay because women suck anyway”?

    And regardless of whether you agree or not, isn’t the accusation against Eddie that he was booking too many men (and probably more specifically, straight, white, middle America men)? Such that I don’t see how you can compare this situation as one that is leading to comedy being more “sanitized”; if anything, the complaint is geared towards the opposite.

    ( Additionally, check out this article if you haven’t:
    http://weblogs.variety.com/on_the_air/2012/01/eddie-brill-was-probably-not-fired-for-being-a-sexist.html )

    In the world of standup which today contains Attell and Norton and Burr and CK and Stanhope and Silverman, I don’t think we’re in any real danger of the sanitizing that you fear. But I think it’s a fine conversation to have.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      The Brill situation is definitely a different situation and issue than the Dane Cook/TJ Miller scenario, and cannot quite be defended the same way. But I found the uproar from within the comedy community (or at least the divisiveness) annoying because I felt Brill was saying about comedians was unfairly blown out of proportion (tough to say given that it was in the NYT and concerned a booker for one of the two biggest comedy platforms). He expressed a personal opinion about what he observed in comedy. If he is biased, then so is most of the comedy viewing public. The fact that 9 of 10 top comedy earners in 2010 were men, the fact that outlets that are unabashed supporters of “females in comedy” supporters like Laughspin.com have had 27 of their last 30 top albums from male comedians says something. I know the response to this is “is bias any better just because it is held by a large number of people?” and no, it is not. But because Eddie Brill did not say “women aren’t as funny,” then I do not understand the problem. Even in your list of edgy star comedians you named one woman. If pressed I am sure you could name more, but I think once in a while people need to realize that saying “Most of the best comedians right now are men,” (best meaning financially and critically) is not the same as saying “Women can’t be as funny as men.” And yet I feel like both things are treated with equal severity in the comedy culture now. And has even one person bothered to analyze the one woman Brill put on in 2011? Perhaps there is something in her act or writing that might indicate a bias towards a certain voice and not necessarily gender.

      And I think you are probably right in your assessment that I have nothign to fear re: sanitzing of comedy, but it’s worth noting that all those comedians are of an older generation of comics.

  • Myq Kaplan

    Saying “most of the best comedians right now are men” is factually accurate, yes, but doesn’t tell the whole story, because also true and relevant is “most of the comedians, period, right now are men.” It would be like saying “most of the best doctors are men” in a time when women were doctors at a much lower rate than men. And that’s the reason why my list of edgy folks contained one woman off the top of my head, because of the fact that there ARE more men in the game.

    Has anyone made this comparison? You saying “most of the best comedians right now are men” is like saying “most of the richest people in America right now are white.” It doesn’t tell the whole story of what that means, culturally or historically.

    Also, when you say “It’s worth noting that all those comedians are of an older generation of comics,” are you trying to imply that younger comics are more likely to fall victim of the sanitization that you (don’t) fear? Because I could name a number of younger comics who say all kinds of horrible wonderful things as well–Shane Mauss, Nikki Glaser, Sean Patton, to start with… but the reason I named the older guard is because they’re the ones subject to the most scrutiny, due to their being more in the public eye…

    The reason we’re hearing about what Dane and Tracy said is because they’re famous, so in that respect, I would say that less famous people are given MORE leeway–anyone down a few levels can say whatever they want without it being broadcast all over the media. (Of course, the lower down you go, the more scrutinized you might be by BOOKERS, but that’s a separate issue, I’d say.)

    1. J-L Cauvin

      On a previous blog regarding Brill I was called blatantly sexist (or said my statements were blatantly sexist) for making the “The top comedians are male right now” statement (and I even made it in the context of “there are many more men in comedy” argument so pardon me for bringing my full compliment of defensive blog reactions.

      My previous post (or two) on Brill speak to this stuff.

  • T.J. Miller

    Hey J-L. Listen to my “You Made It Weird Podcast” if you want to, I doubt you do of course, seems like you’ve already made a decision on this issue. But I’m a comic first, I’ve been doing stand-up and improv since 2003, started doing film and television in 2007. So don’t call me an “actor trying to make some money on the side.” I headline colleges but MOSTLY clubs nationwide. I was in Myrtle Beach. I do Appleton Wisconsin. I have an hour special on comedy central that took me 8 years to make. AND it’s not very good. So there. But don’t tell me that Wednesday night at the Factory is a big deal for me and not for Dane… here’s what it is: I don’t GIVE A FUCK WHAT NIGHT IT IS. NEVER TRASH THE AUDIENCE. It’s disrespectful to other comedians and the audience, especially for 1.5 hours and that’s it. That’s my opinion. I’m not right. Dane’s not right. we just have opinions of comedy. My guess is, and my man Myq might have my back on this, is that comedy for you is only about you, and that’s fine. that’s your choice. I disagree with this point, but maybe, just maybe (and I take comfort in the fact that you won’t hear this, because if you did you could evolve and find success), that’s why I’ve been in so many mediocre movies and why I can bring my friends on the road and give other comedians the opportunities they deserve and why my opinion is noticed rather than not. But probably not. Probably I’m some comedy cop politically correct unfunny wannabe comic who does’ know how the game is played. Probably that. The good news is when we meet if that ever happens it’ll be pretty awkward and not JUST because we both go by initials. Much love man, you’re name is harrrrrd to pronounce.

    Also I fucking can’t stand chinese women.

    1. J-L Cauvin

      On your recommendation I actually listened to the Pete Holmes podcast. It did answer or serve as a response to several of the things I wrote (but I did write it 5 days before the interview posted). I think you acknowledged on the podcast that you levied a lot more criticism of Cook’s content than his treatment of the crowd in your tweet rant (and I also noted the Onion’s role for elevating it into something bigger than it should have been). Obviously I took a harsh tone in the post, but beyond some harsh words for comedic effect we obviously fundamentally disagree on this issue. I understand that you can say what you want, but as someone with some standing in the business in the age of Twitter I think it is important that there be a nearly absolute defense of on stage free speech in a society that feels increasingly concerned with policing the language of stand up and comedy (Don Imus, Tracy Morgan come to mind). Other than the Kramer type outbursts obviously that are not comedic in content or intent. Oh well, thanks for replying.

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