Dane Cook on How Social Media Has Changed Stand-Up

Stand-up comedy remains one of the simplest and unadulterated forms of entertainment: a comedian, a mic, and an audience.

In his 25+ years of performing, Dane Cook has seen the art evolve. Comedians are now found online instead of small clubs. Small clubs have become arenas; Cook himself is part of this year’s Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival. The comedy tour kicked off last weekend, with Cook scheduled to appear in the six final shows at the end of the month.

“I’ve wanted to do it since it’s incarnation,” Cook told Variety about his participation. “I was looking for dates to both enhance and fine-tune the material I’ve been working on the last couple of years, but at the same time tour with some friends.”

Despite his headliner status and name recognition, Cook understands the importance of distribution.

He was one of the first comedians to leverage social media, attracting a huge following on MySpace in the early- to mid-2000s. He put up his material on file-sharing services, which was quite revolutionary at the time.

“I was sharing my stuff on Napster and LimeWire and Kazaa or whatever the download service of the day,” Cook said. “I didn’t feel threatened by people having a piece of my comedy.”

Even back then, Cook knew he had to monetize his act. “There’s trepidation because everybody needs to pay the rent,” he explained of those early days. “When you’re a new band or a new comic, there’s a fine line because you have to make a living and you have to monetize it in order to continue to do it.”

“But I’ve never shied away from sharing the material,” he added. “If people take some footage and they want to put it online and share with their friends, I don’t mind that. “

However, instant publishing via apps like Instagram and Snapchat have changed the game. “When it’s brand new — most people, comics specifically, will say this — we just want to work that new stuff before it’s out in the world. It takes our spirit out of it [when it’s shared prematurely] because people are seeing it haphazardly delivered.”

Social media has also opened comedians up to criticism, and not just from the occasional hecklers in the club.

“This isn’t just fans anymore who are joining your Instagram or following you. It’s people that want to incite frustration from you. This is part of it,” Cook explained. “When you’re on the internet, what you share … it’s ‘Siskel and Ebert’ to the infinity degree. Everyone has a comment. Everyone has a review. Some people are coming from a shattering harsh angle and some people are going to come at it with love.”

Cook continued: “It’s great to be able to be in someone’s pocket so to be speak. To know they can pick up their phone and easily look at some of your comedy. I don’t know if it’s healthy to share everything. You gotta keep some of that mystery.”

Cook feels that some of that mystery is lost when audiences can binge watch a comedian’s entire career on YouTube or Netflix. It’s far different than watching them perform live and in person.

“They all want to feel like the show is for them. And I respect that, of course up to a certain point,” Cook says of live audiences. “It’s still theater, it’s still a performance and the audience is a spectator and not a participant. And yet in this day and age, people feel more and more like it’s a collaborative effort. People watch videos [online] where the most popular ones are where someone is yelling out or someone is getting involved.”

“Certain audience members believe they’re ‘helping’ or that they’re the Bob Zmuda of the show,” Cook explained. “They’re supposed to be planted and have something ready for you to spark interest in.”

Hecklers can be incredibly disruptive to shows, and even pose security risks. Amy Schumer engaged a man making sexist comments from her show last week, but eventually ended up ejecting him from the show.

“I thought Amy handled that brilliantly as she can in any kind of situation,” Cook said. “If a hiccup happens, the best case scenario is do what she did and take it and elevate it and use it to your strengths.”

While Cook’s strengths are in comedy, he isn’t afraid to expand his acting chops. He recently wrapped production on the indie “American Exit,” and is part of Starz “American Gods” ensemble.

“I only work on things with ‘American’ in it,” Cook joked. “To get on a set and be collaborative with people … I get such a charge from it,” says the comedian, who’s used to working alone. “It’s as exciting in a different way than stand-up is to me.”

Before catching him on screen, fans can see him on stage. In addition to the Oddball Comedy Tour, Dane planning his own tour for next year and is collaborating with McG’s Wonderland on a self-titled TV show.

More Digital

  • Apple Plans to Fund Podcast Exclusives:

    Apple Reportedly Plans to Fund Original Podcasts

    Apple has plans to open its checkbooks for podcasts that would be exclusive to its podcasting apps, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The investments would help the company defend its market leadership in an increasingly crowded field, and fend off competitors like Spotify, Pandora and Luminary. News of the plans sent Spotify’s stock down more than 3%; [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

  • Recording Studio

    Cloud-Based Music Mastering Platform Landr Raises $26 Million

    Cloud-based music mastering and distribution platform Landr has raised a $26 million Series B round of funding. The new founding round was led by the Sony Innovation Fund, microphone manufacturer Shure, state-owned financing corporation Investissement Québec and Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Warner Music, Plus Eight Equity Partners, Slaight Communications, YUL Ventures and PEAK Capital Partners [...]

  • NBC News - Quibi

    NBC News to Produce Two Daily Shows for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi

    NBC News has joined Quibi’s ambitious bid to build a mobile subscription TV service. NBCUniversal’s news division plans to build a custom set at 30 Rock where it will produce daily morning and evening newscasts, seven days per week, for Quibi, the well-funded mobile video startup from chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman. The [...]

  • patreon logo

    Patreon Raises $60 Million in New Funding

    Membership services startup Patreon just got a major cash infusion: The company announced Tuesday that it has raised a $60 million Series D round of funding led by Glade Brook Capital. Existing investors Thrive Capital, Initialized, Index Ventures, DFJ, Freestyle Capital, Charles River Ventures and Otherwise participated in the funding round as well, which brings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content