Dane Cook: Troublemaker

More trouble than it's worth.

By Louis Balzani
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You’re a fan of Dane Cook’s older material and you’ve been begging for more since 2009.

For better or worse, Dane Cook is back. After bursting into the mainstream in the early 2000’s, Cook dialed his energetic act back for his underwhelming Isolated Incident special in 2009. Since then, some acting and voiceover stints kept him busy, but now he’s returning to the mic with a brand-new, full-length stand-up special called Troublemaker. Funded, written, and directed by Cook himself, the special aired on Showtime with plenty of accompanying media hype. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the grand return to form that fans may have expected.

Troublemaker explores many of the themes Cook discussed in the past. Unsurprisingly, it plays to Cook’s greatest strength: a casual, conversational attitude with very relatable subject matter. Much of the extensive long-form storytelling he leveraged so well in the past gets cast aside in favor of shorter, more focused bits connected by a central theme; here, it’s usually relationships. He jokes throughout that the special will “wreck” the relationships of so many people in the room, but the material is neither sharp nor revealing enough to provoke such a reaction. Some of it skews fairly crass and insensitive, but anyone who’s seen the comedian’s work in the past won’t be surprised by this.

That said, there are some genuinely funny bits, such as sending an edgy text message and how depression affects guys, and Cook turns a handful of heckler interruptions into highly enjoyable diversions. Yet, for every joke or routine that lands, there are three or four that don’t. Every so often, Cook will even interject self-indulgent quips like “I know, right? Funny stuff.” or “I’m laying on the floor for you people.” to try and drum up more applause and laughs. He gets plenty of love during the set, but it feels like he’s always reaching for more.

Troublemaker essentially boils down to a more restrained version of Cook’s past specials, and it’s weaker for it; even the dynamic and slightly jarring handheld cinematography does little to inject life into the proceedings. Lots of fans have fond memories of the comedian’s wild antics on a brightly-lit circular stage, literally surrounded by screams of adoration. The energy was infectious. Now, with this more traditional and reserved approach, it feels as though some of the fun got lost in translation. Diehard fans will likely enjoy the 80-minute set, but few others will share that enthusiasm.

Also, stop trying to make shitbum happen, Dane. It’s not going to happen.