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Comedian Dane Cook achieved what almost no one else has in comedy — he sold out Madison Square Garden. At the time, he was only the second comedian to do so (the other was Andrew Dice Clay).

Back in 2003, it was hard not to know who Cook was. His 2003 comedy album Harmful if Swallowed sold an impressive 1.2 million copies while Retaliation (2005) went double platinum and hit number 5 on the Billboard charts in another unprecedented moment for a comedian. After coming out of nowhere, Cook was a bona fide celebrity.

But then it seems just as quickly, Cook fell from public favor and disappeared into oblivion. He’s currently still working, still tweeting, and yes, still causing a bit of controversy. This is what happened to him.

Where did Dane Cook come from?

Cook was born on March 18, 1972 and grew up in Massachusetts as a part of a large, Irish Catholic family. In the past, Cook described himself as “quiet and introverted” in his youth, though he admits he was more of a “wild child” at home. He began performing standup at comedy clubs in 1990.

Cook brilliantly grew his fan base was by using the latest social media to spread the word, which at the time was MySpace. Once he started drawing bigger crowds, Cook started booking better venues. His big break happened after appearing on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend in 2000 and later getting his own half-hour special.

Cook also appeared in several Hollywood films, including a leading part in Employee of the Month alongside Jessica Simpson and Dax Shepard.

Many fellow comedians didn’t love Dane Cook

What happened to comedian Dane Cook? Pictured here is Cook smiling in front of a black background
Dane Cook | Greg Doherty/Getty Images

There were a couple of reasons why his professional colleagues weren’t enamored by Cook. First, there was some criticism that Cook didn’t actually tell jokes. Instead, he related increasingly bizarre stories about his life, but in his over-the-top, highly visual way of storytelling. Dane Cook was a performer, not a joke teller. He became just as popular for his enthusiasm as for his comedy.

Cook was great at drawing in younger audience members who responded well to his kinetic energy on stage. But there was one problem — plenty of comedians accused Dane Cook of stealing his material.

Did Dane Cook rip off Louis CK?

It’s a dirty secret of the comedy world — even the most highly respected names have borrowed material from other comedians. However, Cook has been accused of stealing many of veteran comedian Louis CK’s jokes. There are even side by side comparisons that prove Cook took a whole lot of inspiration from Louis CK.

For his part, Louis CK hasn’t publicly denounced Cook, though he did confront him about it on the show Louie.

Some of Cook’s material was no laughing matter

Cook has been a controversial comedian almost since day one. Comedian Nick DiPaolo said, “He doesn’t make me laugh, but that doesn’t mean he’s not funny,” while Ron White blamed Cook’s overinflated ego for being the issue. “[He] does not make me laugh, at all, in any way, shape or form,” White said.

Right around the height of his popularity, Cook’s jokes took a darker turn and started to become less silly and more graphic, shocking, and serious. Audiences didn’t know how to react to the new, raw version of Dane Cook.

And his personal life could be at least partially to blame. Cook’s mother died in 2006 and his dad also passed shortly after in 2007. Then Cook’s former business manager and half brother Darryl along with his wife went to prison for embezzling millions of dollars from the comedian.

What is Dane Cook doing now?

Cook made headlines again for all the wrong reasons in 2012 when he made a joke about the Aurora Colorado shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. He said someone watching the film and not loving it might be saying, “Ugh, somebody shoot me.” Fans did not react well to the poorly timed joke.

And that’s not all. Dane Cook is still performing, but after receiving a scathing review of his comedy set from actor and fellow comedian T.J. Miller, the two became embattled in a public feud. Miller called Cook’s performance “misogynistic” and “unusually awful.”

In 2021, Cook announced he is recording his next comedy special. Taping took place at Boston’s Wang Theatre at Boch Center in October 2021.