With 20 years of stand-up work under his belt — leading to numerous and oft-quoted comedy specials, millions of albums sold and a steady run of gigantic sold-out shows — Dane Cook couldn't be any happier.
Until recently, that is, when his joy grew even more by scheduling shows at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, a venue he's dreamed about headlining for years.
"Is it OK to scream? Woohoo!" Cook blurted out during a recent phone interview. "I can't believe it. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time and I'm digging it."
That may seem strange, coming from a man who has packed Madison Square Garden, but it's all part of the next chapter of Cook's life. Though the comedian, 38, has spent the past few years performing in front of 20,000 to 50,000 people a night, he now has fresh material to deliver, so he wanted to simplify things by sticking to smaller-capacity venues. He'll perform Tuesday at Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena.
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"I want to go to places where people could use some entertainment in this economy and could do with a feel-good show that won't break their bank account," he says. "It's going to be good."
Along with new material, Cook says he will pepper in a few fan-favorite bits, something he always enjoyed watching his idols do during a live set.
Those who are hungry just for the classic bits can also pick up Cook's first compilation, "I Did My Best" (due out Nov. 23), which gathers up his most popular material.
Of course, apart from being one of stand-up comedy's biggest names, Cook has also gotten into acting, having starred in, among others, "Good Luck Chuck" alongside Jessica Alba, "Employee of the Month" with Jessica Simpson and "My Best Friend's Girl" opposite Kate Hudson. More recently he has shifted focus, completing work on a few independent films, including the drama "Answers to Nothing" and a crime thriller titled "Guns, Girls and Gambling," which also stars Gary Oldman, Jeff Fahey and Christian Slater.
"I'm actually more interested in getting into some of these very unique, independent roles that are giving me the chance to spread my wings in a way that you can't really do with the more mainstream fare," he says.
In other words, he doesn't always want to be the funny guy. Cook says he likes being thrown out of his element and keeping himself a little bit scared so that he never just "dials it in."
"Like in 'Answers to Nothing,' I play a husband who is having an affair on my wife while we're trying to get pregnant and I'm also a psychiatrist. He's having a moral dilemma of his own, yet he's helping people. It's an incredible place to be, working with great actors and just letting go."
With those movies in the can, Cook has reset his focus on stand-up — and after two decades of it is finding he's fallen in love with the craft all over again.
"It's kept me frozen in time," he says. "Twenty years has gone by like a week. I'm still the 18-year-old enthusiastic boy. It's as glamorous to me now as it was when I first started. I was hanging around a club the other night and I'm talking to these young up-and-coming (comedians), and they're talking to me like I'm some veteran guy. That's weird, but I'm still up there ripping it up with them. Once you have that fix, there's no better high."