Running on Empty

When Dane Cook appeared on FX’s “Louie” last summer as himself, it felt like the beginning of the maligned comic’s redemption. Here was the most-popular and the most-hated comedian of the past decade, confronting accusations that he stole jokes with the very guy he supposedly cribbed from. Cook was actively endearing himself to the comedy nerds, like me, who’d shunned him in 2006.

If Cook ever reclaims his credibility, it won’t be in stand-up. “I’ve taken it everywhere I’ve wanted to take it,” Cook told the Los Angeles Times last week. Instead, he’s focusing on film (a dramatic turn in “Answers to Nothing”) and TV (developing an NBC pilot).

Where does that leave Cook’s legacy in stand-up? There’s no question he’s had an impressive career — platinum albums, sold-out arenas — but, ultimately, his contributions to comedy are minimal.

I saw Cook in 2005, and while I laughed often, I can’t remember a single joke. That’s the problem: You remember what he’s like; you don’t remember what he said. Cook claims he took stand-up everywhere he wanted to take it. In reality, he probably didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.

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