Those who have yet to be absorbed into the cult of Dane Cook fans will likely be left mystified as to his appeal upon viewing this tedious comics-on-tour reality show — a half-hour vanity project that proves HBO can not only be TV, but bad TV at that. A popular comic, Cook and a trio of his chums crisscross the country by bus, bonding and showcasing snippets of their stand-up acts. Any further resemblance between this and a series is purely coincidental.
HBO has made a substantial investment in Cook, signing him to a multifaceted deal that includes not just “Tourgasm” but also a concert film and plans for a scripted series. Those subsequent projects might showcase him in a more flattering light, but talk about putting a worst foot forward.
Credited as an executive producer and director on this maiden project, Cook fills the role of tour headliner, joined by other performers at various stages of their career. Along the way, they kill time riding horses, rough-housing and generally being obnoxious, while critiquing and occasionally trying to help with each other’s material.
Cook is billed as “the leader,” a slightly more positive designation than those affixed to fellow comics Gary Gulman (“the conflicted”), Robert Kelly (“the instigator”) and Jay Davis (“the newbie”), the last being the only moniker that makes sense. That said, watching Davis butcher the same joke week after week begins to grow tiresome and a little painful.
If the idea was to capture the life of a traveling minstrel, the series itself is a disjointed mess, mixing montages, direct-to-camera interviews, candid footage of the boys trying to sleep and adoring fans lining up for autographs. Nor is there any sense of place as their rock group-style bus motors from town to town.
Any sympathy toward the participants, however, is obliterated by the fact that they are almost uniformly boring at best, and irritating at worst. Even the arguments and disputes that emerge have no clear foundation, essentially materializing out of thin air. And while the name sounds provocative, there’s not even a hint of sex (isn’t that half the reason people tour?) until Cook’s girlfriend arrives in episode three. Anyone for “Dane Cook’s Egomania,” perhaps?
HBO was doubtless looking for a quick-hit production to capitalize on the deal that the pay net inked with Cook in March — and a relatively low-risk one at that, scheduled to follow the comedy block of “Entourage” and “Lucky Louie.”
As for the comic himself, great success might await him with his myriad TV projects, but all he’s really done here is disprove an old adage — demonstrating that it’s possible for a single Cook to spoil the broth.