In October 2006, Dane Cook appeared in his first major starring role, a movie called Employee of the Month, a forgettable character in an ensemble where he and everyone else was overshadowed by Jessica Simpson’s cleavage. Dane Cook brought to Employee of the Month the same brand of comedy he did to his sold-out stand up shows. He was the kind of unoriginal bastard who still thought it was funny to yell “Freebird,” and, failing to elicit a laugh, would yell “Freebird” again at double the volume, spittle-screaming in our face until we finally submitted to the force of the decibels and laughed to make the pain go away. Indeed, the man became a household name for a short period of the aughts because of a “Chicken Sangwich” bit, a bit in which he refers to a “sandwich” as a “sangwich” no less than five times in less than a two-minute span. This is what passed for comedy in 2006, and what led to a brief but painful movie career, which began in October 2006 and flamed out in September 2008.
Employee of the Month was a blip — a bad movie that failed to make much of a dent at the box office — but by that time, it was too late. Dane Cook was in the system. Hollywood had already dared to make fetch happen. Like Sam Worthington or Alex Pettyfer or Taylor Kitsch, the wheels had already been set in motion and all Hollywood could do at that point was to watch the car crash unfold.
The first wheel came off in June 2007, when MGM paired Cook with Kevin Costner in another one of Hollywood’s failed attempts to resuscitate the career of Kevin Costner, who is pulled off of life support for a month every five years. In Mr. Brooks Cook’s character plays — appropriately — a wanking voyeur who blackmails Mr. Brooks so that Brooks will teach him about the art of murder. This was Hollywood’s half-hearted effort to illustrate that Cook could act, but it was an embarrassing performance in a trashy thriller that opened against Knocked Up and the second week of a Pirates of the Caribbean film. It was blessedly quickly forgotten, doomed to late-night repeats on premium cable channels.
In Good Luck Chuck, Hollywood arrived with its boldest effort to date to make Cook — Douche-tongued lothario, the Prince of Douchelvania, the Captain of the S.S. Douche — a romcom star! Cook played Charlie Logan, a man cursed as a young boy to perpetual “other guy” status — sleep with Charlie once, just once ladies and gentlemen, and the next person you meet will be your one true love! However, before Charlie could find his own true love, audiences had to endure 376 dick-and-boob jokes and witness a vile creature fornicate with umpteen bare-chested women. Good Luck Chuck made no splash at the box office and not only stopped Cook’s movie career before it could get started, it derailed the career of Jessica Alba and it may have also hastened the demise of the romantic comedy. In fact, one might be able to point to Dane Cook and Katherine Heigl as the reason why big studio romantic comedies are all but dead today.
By that point, however, Hollywood had already put all its eggs in the Cook basket. He had been signed to star alongside the then reigning queen of the rom com, Kate Hudson, in the hopes that Hudson could transfer her illusive, inexplicable appeal to Cook. Unfortunately, Hudson — coming off a streak of successes with Mathew McConaughey — was seen as so repellent after playing opposite Cook that her career stalled as well. She’s never been able to recover it.
In My Best Friend’s Girl, Cook plays Tank, an asshole to the nth degree, whose hobby it is to play the opprobrious rebound guy so that his dates will go back to their ex-boyfriends. He takes his set-up dates to strip clubs, propositions their mothers, and blares a song called “Pop that Pussy” in his car while smoking cigarettes and breaking up with his pretend pregnant girlfriend over the phone. He’s repellent. He makes you want to crawl inside your own ass. He is soul poison. In short: He is Dane Cook.
The movie bombed.
My Best Friend’s Girl failed to break $20 million at the box office (or 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and the Dane Cook train smashed into the side of a skyscraper, exploding into a million little pieces, thus ending, without fanfare, his short-lived movie career. In fact, he wouldn’t appear onscreen again for three more years, in a guest role on CBS’s Hawaii Five-O. The only notable role he has had since was in an episode of Louie, where he played himself. It was the best performance of Cook’s career. Fittingly, the episode featured an exchange between Cook and Louis about whether Cook had stolen Louis’ jokes about his itchy asshole.
For two years, from 2006 to 2008, Dane Cook was the itchy asshole of Hollywood, a footnote, whose name only surfaces these days when Twitter requires someone with whom to compare the sense of humor of Mike Huckabee.