ShoWest Breakout Performance: Dane Cook

“It’s my first ShoWest. I’m a virgin,” says Cook, honored with the confab’s Breakout Performance Award.

But this virgin is no novice. He has been paying his dues for nearly a decade. “I feel from my first ‘Letterman,’ in 1997, there’s been something every year I’ve been striving to develop in new ways,” he says. “In 2005 the heat turned up,” thanks to his first HBO comedy special.

Last year’s “Dane Cook’s Tourgasm” series on the cable network gave him much exposure. Or, as Cook himself explains: “It put me in front of more eyes. That was a turning point. But several years back, Variety did their New Faces,” including Cook on the list. “I’ve been here in Los Angeles nine years and I still hear I’m the new guy. As long as I’m breaking out into something, I’ll take that moniker any day of the week. It feels good to be (some) fresh air in a new genre.”

The Boston-born comic-turned-actor has three pictures due, all of which will showcase Cook in ways last year’s “Employee of the Month” did not.

“Mr. Brooks” teams him with Kevin Costner and Demi Moore. “Certainly it’s a departure,” says Cook, calling it “a creepy thriller in the ‘Silence of the Lambs’ vein. I play a really deviant guy, Mr. Smith. I’m nothing like this guy in real life, I’m a positive go-getter, and this is a quitter who just wants to take the easy route. I had to hunker down and use those same standup tools of observational moments in life and put them in the character.”

Cook knew he scored when halfway through a recent screening a friend told him, “I really don’t like you in this.” According to the actor, “That made me very happy.”

In August comes “Good Luck Chuck,” a romantic comedy with Jessica Alba that highlights Cook’s particular physical comedy. He hopes “Chuck” will be for him what “School of Rock” was for Jack Black.

And September brings the Steve Carell starrer “Dan in Real Life,” with Cook cooking in a dramedy he compares to “Little Miss Sunshine.” “It’s from a real place and not a broad comedy, though it could make you laugh,” he opines.

That’s why Cook calls his ShoWest honor “a validation. It says, ‘OK, here’s a guy Hollywood can’t pigeonhole.’ “

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