Dane Cook talks new comedy special Troublemaker, airing on Showtime this fall (Exclusive)

Dane CookIt’s been four years since Dane Cook released the intimate Isolated Incident DVD, but it’s not like the veteran comedian has been lounging around. Last year, he set out on his successful Under Oath theater tour and starred as the lead voice in Disney’s Planes. Cook also just wrapped filming on the Sci-Fi thriller 400 Days – out in theaters next spring – and will be heard once again voicing Dusty Crophopper, this time in Planes: Fire & Rescue, which hits theaters July 18. And in the midst of this whirlwind of activity, Cook filmed his latest stand-up special, Troublemaker.

“I had never done a theater tour before, never actually got a chance to play some of those really beautiful houses,” Cook tells Laughspin about the time he spend on the road during the Under Oath tour. “I was at the Fox Theater [in Detroit] on its 85th birthday and it was one of the most incredible venues I’ve ever been in. It was just amazing. And it was on that night that it all came to me— that I need to record a couple of these shows. I really wanted to share this excitement that I was feeling from that particular tour.”

So that’s what Cook did. He scheduled two nights of shows last November at the Venetian in Las Vegas, put up his own money and created Troublemaker, set to premiere on Oct. 17 on Showtime. Over the weekend, I chatted with Cook about the genesis of his new special, his love for psychological thrillers and more. Check it out!

How did Troublemaker come about?
I was reflecting on where I’ve brought my fans in the past, in terms of what kind of shows I’ve done. I was kind of looking back at everything I did over the last 10 years and I asked myself, ‘What would be exciting and fun now?’ Where do I want to bring my fans? And how do I want to challenge myself. I’ve had opportunities and offers from outside sources to step in and produce but I really wanted to do it entirely on my own. I wanted to not feel like there was any pressure to please anyone else’s bottom lines or whatever goes along with the business of comedy.

So, I put my own money into it, my own time, effort and energy into it. I got an incredible producing crew with Josh and Sharon Oreck, who I’ve been fans of. They came in and they whipped the crew together and got what I needed within a few weeks and we did it, we did the show. It’s so exciting, man. I’ve never had a project start and be completed without anybody else impeding, not that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ve worked with tremendous partners over the years but it was just a whole different feeling doing it on my own and bringing in Josh and Sharon and having them sharing in my experience. I look forward to doing it again in this way.

When did you shoot the special?
It would have been last November— on a Friday and Saturday night. And it was kind of funny because I’ve done shows where you’ve had multiple chances to kind of get it, where we’re going to do a couple shows over a couple of days. I think with somebody else’s money you kind of feel a little more, ‘Alright, I don’t have to to sweat this. I just have to do what I do.’ But then the Friday night show ended up being a bit of a disaster just on a technical side. The crowd was decent, I felt good but you couldn’t have asked for more mishaps. I mean anything that could have gone wrong on Friday night did and I found myself sitting Saturday morning realizing like, ‘Wow, okay so I can’t use Friday night. There just wasn’t though useable enough stuff and now I have one more chance to get this.’ And if I don’t then I basically have the most expensive home video that nobody will ever want to see. The pressure was there but Saturday night was just as delightful. I was thrilled and knew at that point that I wanted to share this in some capacity.

And you were only doing one show a night, right?

So you really had to nail it on Saturday.
Yeah, it was like now I really need to make sure everything is on point behind the scenes so that I’m in the right headspace for Saturday. And all the preparedness paid off because Saturday was a good time.

How would you describe the material on Troublemaker?
What I’m excited about and where the title even came from is a lot of the material is really me letting people know like, ‘Okay, here’s the deal. I’m going to come in, whether its relationship stuff or whatever, like just starting right off the bat, we’re going to take apart your relationship tonight; this isn’t just kind of making fun or goofing on married life; this is really coming in and kind of taking a sledge hammer to it and when that happened on stage on these particular nights and especially on Saturday, the relationship I had with the crowd that night— there were some really great back and forth moments with the crowd. I invited a certain kind of energy to the show and I wasn’t afraid of letting the spontaneity take me over, and not being so locked into what the set was.

And I think by doing that, I had some really great kind of caustic and kind of sharp barbs with people in the crowd. And then when I was finally watching it, it was like, ‘Oh man this is really exciting because where I’ve come now especially since the last special, which was four years ago, this really was me not being afraid to put in a lot of that early East Coast comedian in me, meaning I’m not afraid to kind of roll the sleeves up. Some shows back then were a brawl. Sometimes it was you not being afraid to get in there and kind of say it like it is. And I know that’s common with many comics to get up there and say it like it is but with me this is really about me not being afraid to let the showman come out and let the real offstage attitude seep in. Those two things really swirled around over that tour and on this show it just made for a unique step in the growth of my comedy and I really embraced it. The fans dig it and the people I’ve shown it to like it and obviously Showtime likes it. They were like, ‘Wow we’re looking forward to showing this next stage of your comedy career.’

You’re also working on a Sci-Fi flick called 400 Days. How did that come about?
It was a movie that Matt Osterman wrote. He popped a couple years ago when he wrote and directed a film called Ghost from the Machine which turned out to be a darling at a lot of these film festivals. So Matt wrote this movie and he came to me earlier in the year and I read it. I love psychological thrillers, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of something like that and this, this is a psychological thriller with a SciFi element to it. But this movie is just really smart. It keeps you on your toes. So I sat with Matt and he offered me the role during our first sit down. He was like, ‘I really want you to play one of the astronauts’ and I said, ‘Listen, this is the kind of material my company is looking to produce, I’d love to partner up with you.’ And he was immediately like, ‘Man that would be awesome.’ So I’m executive producing it and I’m in it with three terrific actors, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman and Brandon Routh.

It’s based on these real space simulations that prepare people for long distance space travel. Matt wrote it based on these experiences; he was watching documentaries where these guys were going into simulators for three, four, five hundred days. I play one of four astronauts who go into this space simulation and pretty soon after, once we’re in there and things seem to be kind of by the numbers, something happens— something pretty major happens inside of the simulator. And there’s going to be fighting and who’s against who and you’re kind of being led down that primrose path but where it gets really smart and unique is what happens once we get out of the simulator which is a whole other turn in the story. It’s smart, and it’s fresh and it’s got great edge. I think Matt wrote something that we can all be really proud of. We just finished it, hopefully it’ll be ready in about 10 weeks for us to take a look and we’ll see where we’re at.

I didn’t realize you were that far into filming.
Yeah, well it was super quick. We filmed it in LA so we didn’t need to go very far and then we managed to put together a 26-day schedule that was somehow right on time. We finished it right on the day. I loved the experience I had shooting Mr. Brooks in 2007. As much as the comedies are great – I’m developing another comedy film that we’re going to do in the fall and then there’s a TV show – this little drama means a lot to me. These are the kinds of things I like to do away from comedy so I’m really excited to see how this comes together.

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Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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