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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dane Cook vis a vis Marc Maron (UPDATE added)

Marc Maron had Dane Cook on his most recent WTF (episode 85). Like all WTF episodes, it's a must-listen. Marc isn't afraid to ask the big questions although he has a tendency to distance himself from them a little bit. Kind of a, "I don't think this, but..." hedge. But still, his podcast is the best thing out there. And by 'there' I mean internet, radio, TV, you name it. I haven't missed a second of any of the 85.

I was looking forward to the interview because I remember a long and spirited discussion he had about Cook with Janeane Garofalo on my show, What's So Funny? back in 2006. My memory of it was that he had no respect whatsoever for Cook, but it's been four years so my memory might have been off. But when Maron said to Cook on WTF, "The only thing negative I ever said about you – ever – when anyone brings you up is that, I'd say, 'That guy doesn't really bother me. I don't know why everyone is angry at him. He doesn't really bother me. He's an empty vessel full of fuel.' That's what I'd say," I decided to go back and re-listen to his appearance on WSF?

He did use the "empty vessel full of fuel" line back in '06, but he also had some other choice words, like "he stands for nothing, he stands against nothing. He does not speak of any dark places in his heart or mind; he does not speak about the hypocrisy in the culture that we live in, and he does not speak of himself. So what he is, I have no idea, I have no idea. He's a cipher. He's a big ball of confidence that is meaningless." And "He is all about extending his narcissism into dollars and making these people feel like they are part of something bigger. And I think he feeds on that. I think he's no different than Anthony Robbins in what he's putting out in the world: that confidence should be rewarded over talent or insight or thinking."

When Janeane called him a hack, Marc disagreed, saying, "No, he's just bad." He went on to call him "mediocre" and "a high-energy boring person".

It's interesting that on Marc's show, Dane told him he was basically a big ball of insecurities. When I suggested that to Marc back in 2006, he didn't see it as a possibility. Here's the transcript of the part of the show where we talked about Dane Cook. Again, this was back in 2006 and maybe Maron's opinions have softened since then:

Guy MacPherson: The new whipping boy in comedy seems to be Dane Cook. Andy Kindler did several sets trashing him. Is it somebody like him you’re talking about?

Janeane Garofalo: No. When people are critical of the type of comedy Dane Cook does, they’re not trashing Dane Cook; they’re trashing the type of path he’s chosen. And, actually more than that, the audience that thinks it’s hilarious. So it’s not Dane Cook, the man, somebody’s going after.

Marc Maron: It’s what he represents culturally.

JG: Yeah, it’s a representation of--

GM: But it’s his act, too.

JG: Right, but I think since you don’t know Dane Cook, the man, it’s hard to go after him, and that’s probably not what Andy’s intention was. What he’s commenting on is there’s thousands of young people going insane over what seems to be... ‘mediocre’ isn’t even the word. I don’t even know what to say about that material.

MM: An empty vessel full of fuel.

JG: That was in some article.

MM: That’s mine.

JG: Oh, that’s yours?

MM: Yeah.

JG: Oh, I thought that when people were reading that quote they were reading some writer.

MM: No, no. No, I thought that up.

JG: Oh, I didn’t know that was yours.

MM: Yeah.

GM: Well done.

MM: Thank you.

JG: You know what I mean? But he as a person might be a fine person. I have no idea. It’s like Gallagher. Not that he’s like Gallagher but it’s that same type of... When you see Gallagher’s audience on those videos of Gallagher smashing a melon, people going insane.

MM: But at least he [Gallagher] comes from a tradition of street performing. He’s just a busker.

JG: Yeah.

MM: And the thing about Dane Cook is that this guy is representing to the youth of this country, if there’s a disconnect between the legacy of comedy that I am part of, that who I see as my grandfathers and fathers in this business of the history of comedy, is that he stands for nothing, he stands against nothing. He does not speak of any dark places in his heart of mind; he does not speak about the hypocrisy in the culture that we live in, and he does not speak of himself. So what he is, I have no idea. He’s a cipher. He’s a big ball of confidence that is meaningless.

JG: And he’s a hard-worker. I’ll give him that. That boy has built from the ground up, brick by brick, the Dane Cook Corporation.

MM: But I’m tired of hearing that.

JG: No, no, no, I’m not saying it has anything to do with comedy.

MM: But people say that about everybody, like, “Yeah, he sucks, but man, he’s a great self-promoter. If only you could do that.” You know what? But that shouldn’t be part of my damn job. How much time does anyone have in a day? How many times are you gonna update your MySpace page or respond to every idiot that writes you an e-mail?

JG: No, I know. That’s what he does, though. And you, yourself, I think, said it. People think that they’ve connected with him as a friend. He answers all the e-mails, or he has a staff that answers the e-mails, and these college kids for years who’ve been following his career, they think they know him and they’re friends with him.

MM: But I answer my e-mails and I didn’t mean to say idiots. Because every time I get an e-mail from a comic or somebody who has a question about comedy and through the radio show I developed a great following of great people who were interested, curious people and I will respond to all of their e-mails. But I think that that is different. Fortunately my fan base is small enough that I know most of my fans and we have that kind of relationship. But I will say this, that I think it is a lie. I think what Dane Cook does is he is all about business. He is all about extending his narcissism into dollars and making these people feel like they are part of something bigger. And I think he feeds on that. I think he’s no different than Anthony Robbins in what he’s putting out in the world: that confidence should be rewarded over talent or insight or thinking. And I think--

JG: Well, he certainly isn’t the only one doing that then. But what I’m saying is--

MM: Scientologizing is what it is.

JG: He, I’m sure, would tell you he was very funny. Guys like him tend to think they’re very funny. They’re very confident.

GM: But maybe he’s just masking his insecurity.

JG: It could be but I don’t think so.

MM: I’m not going to give him that, either.

JG: There’s a lot of comics like him who are real... A lot of hard work and a lot of bravado and a lot of confidence that serves him very well. And they tend to think of themselves as very funny. And then the truly very funny comics, like a young Albert Brooks, for example, when he was doing that genius work.

GM: I love him.

JG: And he would be interviewed and he would be like, “I didn’t like that...” You know what I mean, he would do nothing but second-guess himself.

MM: But kids don’t want to hear that anymore.

JG: No, I know. What I’m saying is, there is a big difference in the personality types of these type of comedians, of a young Albert Brooks and a young Dane Cook, right? And a huge different audience completely.

MM: But the whole culture is different. In the seventies, comedy was dictated – was dictated – by Jews and analysis. And it was dictated by insecure Jews. The entire culture was more sophisticated, was more intelligent--

JG: That is not true. That is absolutely not true. You can go back to the archives, Marc, and you can see some hacks on Carson in the seventies.

MM: Of course. Okay, fine, fine.

JG: And on the road. And when I started doing stand-up in 1985, there was no shortage of road hacks who had been doing it for years.

MM: But I’m saying intelligent comedy. I’m saying that in my recollection, even people like Albert Brooks... Okay, let me give you the line that I wrote about that in terms of... If you are a talented person and you are not successful, there’s probably something inside of you stopping you from being successful and sadly it might be your talent.

JG: Huh?

MM: I just think that talented people, that truly gifted people, people like Albert Brooks, that bare the brunt of being sensitive enough to use their talent to explore the darker element of personality--

JG: And we’re not talking about Mel Brooks, by the way, as much as we love him. We’re not talking about Mel Brooks; we’re talking about Albert Brooks.

GM: Albert Einstein Brooks.

JG: Albert Einstein Brooks, that’s right.

MM: The amount of self-doubt that comes from being a good cultural critic can be paralysing. That’s all I’m saying.

GM: What about the fact that he’s just out there entertaining people?

MM: Screw that. What are you talking about, Guy? That’s not part of it! (laughs)

JG: That’s what I was sort of saying.

GM: And there’s a wide range of comedic styles and hey, let him have it.

MM: I believe that.

GM: It’s a shame that that’s what is really popular but it’s a shame that Republicans are really popular, too.

JG: I actually don’t have a big problem. I was just trying to answer your question. What I was saying is it is perplexing to me. I don’t understand what they’re laughing at and I don’t understand what drew him to comedy.

MM: But he’s part of the same momentum.

JG: But the thing is, there’s tons of male and female comics since the dawn of comedy time who have been like that.

MM: They were funnier. They were funnier.

JG: No. Stop it. There has always been hacks. There has always been talent.

MM: He’s not a hack.

JG: He’s not a hack?

MM: No, he’s just bad. He’s almost like, if you’re going to compare him to somebody--

JG: So what’s a hack to you?

MM: A hack is somebody that does mundane material that you can’t even attribute to an author.

JG: Why are we even spending this much time talking about him?

MM: No, I think there’s something to be said. I think in terms of what he said about Republicans... Dane Cook claims to be entertaining people away from the pain of their world, that that is the nature of his entertainment. And I think he is so mediocre and such a high-energy boring person that he’s just really entertaining people away from other entertainment options, that there is a culture of kids out there that do not want to challenge themselves, that are not curious about things, that do not want to see darkness in anything, that believe that if they’re just proactive in their lives and positive thinkers that their life is going to be good. It’s selfish and I think the whole idea of self-promotion as being something that is rewarded is completely selfish and careerist in a way that frightens me.

JG: You’re so vehement about this, Marc, you’re giving him...I think we gotta stop talking about this because we’re giving it way too much heft. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t think he’s in any way thinking the way you’re thinking--

MM: I have the same problem with American Idol. I have the same problem.

JG: Of course. But I think Dane Cook would tell you he’s very funny. I’m sure he believes that. I’m sure he thinks it’s not just entertainment--


JG: Gosh, that went by so fast. And we spent an enormous amount of it on Dane Cook.

MM: But I think it was a window into some other things.

JG: Yeah, the audience’s window into your vehemence against that guy.

MM: I have nothing against him!

JG: You sounded as if you were particularly upset with him.

MM: I have no personal problem with him. I have a problem with the culture of self-promotion and being rewarded for being okay. I have a problem with that.

JG: Yes, of coure, but that is the majority of mainstream pop music and the majority of mainstream actors, the majority of mainstream politics--

MM: That sounds like a lot to be vehement and angry about.

JG: Yes. So that should have been clear. It sounded like you were really directing it at him.

MM: No, I don’t care about that guy.
You can listen to the whole episode on iTunes. It's episode 163. Or listen here.

UPDATE: The good folks at Canadian Content read this post and then linked it to a forum thread at about Maron's interview with Cook. And Marc replied to it. Here's what he wrote:
I will stand behind everything I said in the What's So Funny interview. I actually wish I would have had it during the Dane session. Because I couldn't really put my finger on why I was so stand off-ish and snotty and all the reasons are right there in that interview with Guy and Janeane. I spend a lot of time in relationship to my guest now. I am engaged in the conversation with them. I don't always have what I am thinking at my minds fingertips because I am listening.

It is all right there though. Thanks for posting Canadian Content. It was great to refresh my memory AND I really don't have anything against Dane personally. I do despise what he represents.


PunditFight said...

I actually really enjoyed this interview with Janeane and Marc and had referenced some of the things that were said here in my interview with Maron.

Notably the observations he has made since about Dane being "blindly confident" and an "empty vessel full of gas". I used the analogy of Dane's charisma and popularity to get Marc's take on political punditry.

Guy MacPherson said...

Glad you liked it, PunditFight. It was fun. And easy, since all I had to do was wind them up and away they went on their own.

Where can we hear or read your interview with Maron?

PunditFight said...

The link is here Guy, thanks for asking. It was done in 08'

The Dane observations Marc made in your interview, I used to pivot into a discussion about punditry

Maron quote excerpt -
"If art is suppose to be nothing more than disguised self help or some example of leadership in terms of making people feel better about themselves then I don’t know. I don’t have a real problem with Dane Cook, I do have problems with people who are just blindly confident without any real bearing and that’s really the only gift that they give.
Pundits it seems, there's a lot of time to waste on television..."

Unknown said...

very interesting post.