Dane Cook's gifted storytelling leads nowhere

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      At GM Place on Thursday, June 4

      Arenas have never seemed to lend themselves to comedy. They’re too big. Fans would be obnoxiously hooting and screaming at the object of their devotion throughout the show. All subtlety is lost. After Dane Cook’s gig at GM Place on Thursday night, it now seems possible to enjoy standup in a stadium. That didn’t happen on this night, but it’s still possible.

      Cook and his openers Al Del Bene and Robert Kelly performed in the round on a square stage before an excited crowd. But it wasn’t the hoot-fest you’d expect: people were actually listening and responding appropriately with laughter. The sound was great, and the large screen captured every nuance. Or at least it would have, had there been any nuance.

      Del Bene was the highlight of the night. In a short 10-minute set, he showed more solid joke-writing than the other two combined, admitting he’s excited about his first child, a “blank hard drive to load my thoughts into”. Kelly’s crude act consisted of farting and sex jokes, paving the way for a very raw Cook.

      Cook made his first Vancouver appearance about 10 years ago at Richard’s on Richards when he was a largely unknown young comic from Boston. He talked about toys we had growing up and he had an infectious enthusiasm. He was an extremely likable performer and I made a point of watching out for him to see if his career would take off. I didn’t have to watch for long because he soon became omnipresent. At which point I stopped watching.

      The tattered millionaire is still an engaging presence on stage, but his act on June 4 (essentially what you’ll hear on his latest recording, ISolated INcident) was positively Shakespearean. That is, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

      Take away his prowling, posing, and urgent “check this out” delivery, and there’s not much left. A gifted storyteller, he’ll take you on a emotional journey, but it leads nowhere. The subject matter was uninspired (women’s trick questions to men, masturbating, and porn) and he went an awful long way to get to what were supposedly the punchlines. In a bit about deciding which numbers to delete in his cellphone, he comes across his dead mother’s. For old time’s sake, he decides to call it. “And then I thought, ”˜What if she fucking answers?’” Okay. Let’s go with that. No? All right, then. Next.

      In a long set-up to another joke, he talked about writing a suicide note just to put things in perspective for himself. The big payoff is that “a suicide note written by someone who’s not suicidal is called an autobiography. I’m on chapter 67.” That’s it. Keep moving. No more jokes to see here, folks.

      His go-to devices are what-if scenarios (women’s menstrual cycles synchronize so”¦ What if guys had something like that? “What if I got an erection and every guy in here slowly got an erection?”) and coinages (the female version of a cockblocker should be a twat swatter, the female version of jacking off should be jilling off).

      After anecdotes about a particularly big load he ejaculated once (“like the finale of a fireworks display”) and using a TV remote control to satisfy a young skank (“she was so dirty her crabs had herpes”), Cook ended the show with a disturbing recount of a role-playing sex game wherein he lurked outside his girlfriend’s window and made threatening calls to her, telling her repeatedly he was going to rape and kill her and bury her body at the beach. While he eventually emasculated himself by showing us his girlfriend was still boss, it was an uncomfortable ride.

      During a 10-minute encore, he piled on the pathos and spoke of his deceased parents and discovering on the Internet how hated he was. He needn’t worry. The top dog will always be the subject of jealous attacks. The key is to give them as little ammunition as possible.