Dane Cook bust out onto the entertainment scene in the early 2000s offering a zest and enigmatic energy that hadn’t been seen in comedy before. As a stand-up comedian from Boston, fans witnessed his career blossom, peak, then take a downward slope into an obscurity outside of pop-up gigs at various clubs around the country. Cook’s journey had setbacks, box office blunders, and relationship rumors for days. Throughout his time in the spotlight, Dane fought off negative press in regards to allegations of joke thievery, hatred by other comics, scandalous relationships, family drama, financial woes, and many more issues. Dane was known for quite some time as a stud, a rarity among many comedians. But seemingly overnight, this hotty has become a naughty and lost the eye of women— at least those around his own age. Dad-bod Dane has replaced the hunk that captured our hearts and our laughter throughout the last 20 years.
Here are 15 photos from Dane Cook’s beginning and peak to career lows and bleaks to show that he’s given up the dream of mega stardom.
COOKING UP COMEDYDane Cook began performing stand-up fresh out of high school in 1990. He moved to New York City from Boston in 1994 where he continued his pursuits but had a hard time breaking in, feeling intimidated by the New York comedy regulars. In 1997, he made his first televised stand-up appearance on Late Night with David Letterman where he did jokes about Speak and Spell and the games Monopoly and Simon. His big break came in 2000 and stand-up fans began to get a glimpse of Dane Cook with his Comedy Central Presents half-hour special.
Dane’s body movements, hilarious premises, and interactions with the audience and surroundings led him to his rise in popularity,
signing a contract with Comedy Central records in the process and going platinum with his first CD Harmful if Swallowed in 2003. Fast forward to 15 years later, and this Hollywood hunk became dad-bod Dane who takes selfies with his teen girlfriend. Who would have thought?
GREAT DANEThe Massachusetts native was riding high in his stand-up career and big personality with having his 2005 album Retaliation top #4 on the Billboard charts and having a successful HBO special with Vicious Circle, filmed at the TD Garden in his home city of Boston. Dane has said how he enjoyed creating big ideas to share with audiences and making them laugh and it certainly paid off as his stand-up career rose to selling out arenas and stadiums all over the country, much to the envy of other comedians or “comic’s comics,” something he dealt with his entire career. He had a level of charm that connected with audience, especially women and college students. With a strong fanbase and strong showing in tour sales, Cook was destined to be a mega star. That is, until his career flopped and he starting spending all of his time taking selfies with smoothies like a basic.
SATURDAY NIGHT DANEOn December 3rd of 2005, Cook hosted Saturday Night Live, a show he had auditioned for earlier that year but lost to Will Forte. Cook grew up as a big fan of the show and it inspired his larger than life persona. Everything seemingly worked out in the favor of both comedians as Forte had a very successful run on SNL with memorable characters such as MacGruber, and Cook got to pursue work that an SNL cast member usually wouldn’t be able to due to their gruelling schedule. Cook’s successful debut led to him hosting again the following season on September 30, 2006. During his appearances, he did impressions of Jay Feely and Saddam Hussein in addition to performing stand-up as his opening monologue bit and appearing in the digital short “Cubicle Fight.”
CHICKEN OF THE SEA, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTHIn 2006, Cook co-starred in Employee of the Month with Jessica Simpson. Out of his film roles, this might be Cook’s best known as he played Zack Bradley, a box boy competing with Dax Shepard’s Vince Downey for the title of “employee of the month” and the affection of the new employee played by Simpson. The film became the number-one requested movie on AOL and earned $28 million on a $12 million budget.
Dane and Jessica hosted the 2006 Teen Choice Awards and he was linked to dating the singer-turned-actress as they were sighted out and about in Hollywood.
The two kept saying they were “just friends,” but onlookers saw differently as they were spotted out canoodling and having what some called a “strong attraction” to each other.
Things apparently fizzled between the two just like the reviews of the movie, which has a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
BAD LUCK BOX OFFICEWhile his silver-screen co-stars got better, his film career — much like his choice in shirts — seemingly got worse. Cook starred in 2007’s Good Luck Chuck, a film about a successful dentist named Chuck who is cursed — anytime he sleeps with a woman, she marries the next man she dates and he becomes popular with single women for this reason but is forced to continue searching for his one true love in an attempt at breaking the curse. He acted alongside Jessica Alba, but despite their individual s*x appeal, the two were nominated for a Razzie for “Worst On-Screen Couple” and she was nominated for worst actress. Movie critic Roger Ebert described it as “potty mouthed” and “brain damaged” and The New York Times described it as a “dim little s*x comedy”.
FROM COMEDY TO CALAMITYDane needed some type of turn-around in his film career after lukewarm responses to a majority of his film work. Cook took on more serious roles in the likes of Mr. Brooks where he played a blackmailing photographer who wants to learn about serial killing. The movie garnered mixed reviews and did well enough at the box office with Dane getting decent critical praise for his performance.
Cook also walked away with some knowledge from his co-star Kevin Costner who told him, “When you take big bites out of the universe, the universe takes big bites out of you, and you’ve just got to accept it.”
In 2008, Cook starred in My Best Friend’s Girl with Kate Hudson whom he considered his worst on-screen kiss later reporting he felt she “ate a feast of onions before [their] scene.” The movie went on to get very poor reviews, seemingly cursing the comedian with bad showings in romantic comedies.
A FEW ISOLATED INCIDENTSDespite his drop off in box-office movies and s*x appeal, Cook’s stand-up was still doing seemingly alright by the time Isolated Incident was released in 2009. Cook filmed the special at his home club of The Laugh Factory in Hollywood for 100 fans, a departure from his previous specials which were filmed in major arenas. He displayed a more calmer demeanor while talking graphically about the likes of s*x and exes intertwined with stories of his parents. The DVD featured a documentary about Cook, humanizing him to a certain degree, but he was still vilified as an arrogant jerk and was the ire of many other famous comics and fans of comedy. Around this time, he was also facing harsh criticism for allegedly plagiarizing the stand-up of others, including Louis C.K. and Joe Rogan who pointed out similarities in much of their material.
COOK VERSUS CKIn 2011, with little fanfare, Dane appeared on FX’s Louis as himself, addressing the rumors of joke thievery. The scene was a visceral display for both comedians and Cook praised CK for writing the entirety of dialogue. There were three jokes in particular that Dane had allegedly lifted from CK’s earlier work but CK himself wanted to let the situation go and said, “I’m not going to court over a bit called ‘Itchy A**hole’.”
Cook, who claims to suffer from anxiety, felt a strong backlash from his fellow comics for the brash style that once helped bring him to prominence
and later discussed that if anything, he might have similar premises to the likes of CK but would never steal since he had never stolen anything in his life. Predicting some form of criticism during his rise, he had warned his family that “something is coming” knowing that hate is part of the territory of fame.
CONTROVERSIAL COOKIn 2012, the headline maker Cook caused even more controversy following the tragic Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting. Cook made an awful joke about the tragedy, trying to make light of the shooting by trashing The Dark Knight and said, “I’m pretty sure somebody in that theatre, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, probably was like, ‘ugh, shoot me.'” It caused a mixed reaction of groans and uncomfortable laughter from the audience. Naturally, the quip was recorded by a fan in The Laugh Factory crowd and was put on Youtube. The club was still reeling from the Michael Richards racist outburst from earlier that year and needed someone to do damage control for Cook’s statement. Dane chose to backpedal his awful commentary, leading to him issuing an apology via Twitter and sending condolences to the victims and their families.
GIRLS, GAMBLING, GROANLater that year, Dane had a midseason sitcom premier for a six-episode run on NBC titled Next Caller in which he played a foul-mouthed alpha-male radio DJ paired with an NPR style super feminist played by Collette Wolfe.
The network felt that by episode four, they realized the series wasn’t going in the direction that they wanted on a creative level and pulled the plug, not even airing the remaining episodes.
Dane was part of the ensemble cast of Guns, Girls, and Gambling playing a corrupt sheriff in search of a stolen mask. If you’re looking at that movie title and scratching your head, you’re not alone. This was a straight-to-DVD situation which also featured the likes of Chris Kattan and Christian Slater, and the LA Times reviewed the film stating, “It’s like a losing hand at cards, it could have been a winner, but just isn’t.”
DANE COULDN’T FLY HIGH In 2013, Dane was the lead voice actor in Disney’s Planes and subsequent sequel Planes 2: Fire and Rescue which came out the following year. A seeming spin-off of Cars, it unfortunately didn’t have the Pixar brand to help it and it was critically panned, scoring a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dane played the role of Dusty Crophopper, a crop-dusting plane dreaming of racing around the world but was hopelessly afraid of heights.
Animation was a new height for Cook, but clearly wasn’t his best foray, at least in terms of movie choice, even with the animation giant of Disney behind it.
Although both Planes films did well at the box office, they were critically panned. Maybe even more surprising is that Jon Cryer was originally slated for the lead role, but dropped out and was replaced by Cook, avoiding this animated crash and burn.
TRAGIC DANECook took a hiatus from stand-up in that timeframe since he had to deal with personal tragedies — both of his parents dying of cancer within 9 months of each other, his half-brother/business manager stealing $12 million from him, and he suffered from depression.
He would try to talk himself through it on stage beforehand but never truly took the time to grieve the loss since his career kept rising, but felt that he was fortunate that his mother, whom he considered to be his best friend, got to see him do so many great things.
His strained relationship with his father was being repaired at the time he told Dane that he too had cancer and he past away six months after Dane’s mother. Cook went on his first tour in 2 years and it was remarkably smaller, replacing the likes of stadiums with smaller theatres, seemingly accepting his position in the entertainment world.
PARTYING WITH CELEBSIn 2015, a 43-year-old Dane Cook was linked with then 22-year-old pop singer Miley Cyrus during her wild-girl phase. After breaking up with Patrick Schwarzenegger, the eldest son of Arnold, among allegations of him cheating, Cook sent Miley a personalized note saying,
“Don’t you ever let someone treat you like a yellow Starburst. You are a pink Starburst.”
Cyrus claimed to have an affection toward “funny men” and various sources reported to tabloids that the two “longtime pals” were hooking up, and the self proclaimed “lover to over 100 groupies” started to make headlines for his penchant for younger women. The lustful bliss between the two didn’t last long as Miley would later get back with her former beau Liam Hemsworth, to whom she is now engaged to.
FACECOOKAs 2016 came around, Dane’s screen roles became limited to one-off appearances in the likes of Workaholics and American Gods and more critically-panned films such as the space epic, 400 Days. His stand-up tours weren’t getting as much buzz as they had before, limiting many of his live performances to club appearances around the country but continuing a strong social media presence on Twitter and Instagram, just as he had with Myspace a decade later.
He knew how to network among users better than most comedians, and led to plenty of loyal fans who still help him sell out the aforementioned club shows to this day.
Currently, Dane has 3.44 million Twitter followers and 670 thousand followers on Instagram, with his formerly-amassed 2 million Myspace fans growing up and out.
HEY NINETEENIn April of 2017, Cook posted a photo on Instagram with back-up vocalist Kelsi Taylor, seemingly bolstering the relative unknown’s career. The two allegedly began dating around a year ago and have a 26-year age difference. Cook repeatedly noted how talented the young woman is and how much he loves her personality.
Now at 45, the screen roles have dwindled for dad-bod Dane and he has been making headlines for dating the 19-year-old Taylor.
Cook has seemingly put on the comfort weight as the relationship blossoms, with the two frequently canoodling on their respective Instagram accounts. Time will tell if she can help the aging comedian shape up or if this will be another case of a Hollywood ship out.