Rough around the Edges: Live from Madison Square Garden
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Reviewed by David Medsker
Hot on the heels of Cook’s third movie this year (“Dan in Real Life”) comes his third album, Rough around the Edges, recorded at one of his Madison Square Garden dates. It is a golden opportunity for Cook to shut his detractors the hell up once and for all…and he completely blows it. The self-proclaimed silly bitch is nowhere to be found, replaced by someone who is equal parts lazy observationist and horny teenager. Don’t look for those plagiarism rumors to go away, either; two bits contained here are eerily similar to the work of a certain Pixar voice actor who, for the moment, shall remain nameless.
The tone for the entire routine is set in Cook’s first line, when he claims that he just walked through the backstage area, and “someone shit on the coats.” Jokes, unlike rock songs, are only funny the first time; once you’ve committed a bit to tape, that bit is to be retired immediately. Cook violates this rule not once but twice, later dredging up the “chief” and “gaylord” part of his “Chicken Sagwich” routine. Once he stops referencing himself, he manages to unfurl a couple relatively amusing bits about Civil War flute players and a more effective way to get people to donate money to charitable causes. The remainder of the album is dedicated to sex; he even does a bit about the ramifications of a broken condom after a bit on herpes. Talk about your buzzkills.
Much has been made of Cook’s alleged thievery of Louis C.K.’s material – put their names in YouTube’s search engine, and you’ll drown in a sea of very convincing anti-Cook propaganda – but it appears that Cook has set his sights on Patton Oswalt this time around. We’ll grant Cook that the first suspect routine, about a disobedient TiVo – something Oswalt covered on his 2004 album Feelin’ Kinda Patton – is one that has only so many punch lines, but that actually speaks to a larger problem. Not only is he covering well-charted territory, he’s covering it years after the sell-by date. The bit about having unsafe sex and dealing with the consequences, however, is most curious. Oswalt does a routine on his (hilarious) new album, Werewolves and Lollipops, that has almost the exact same beats and punch line as the routine Cook does here, from the subdued, somber moment in the middle to the jokes about kicking the girl in the stomach. Coincidence? Who the hell knows, but it doesn’t look good.
Haters be damned, Dane Cook was once a very funny comic, and has the potential to be funny again. The problem is that he appears to be so obsessed with his popularity that he has forgotten what made people like him in the first place. From a creative perspective, Rough around the Edges is a fall from grace of biblical proportions. That’ll happen when you’re thinking more about how much money you stand to make from selling out Madison Square Garden than the jokes you plan on telling the ticket buyers.