Dane Cook surprises no one with Aurora theater shooting joke - Reverb

Dane Cook surprises no one with Aurora theater shooting joke at L.A. Laugh Factory

Dane Cook is once again grasping for material in strange, un-funny places.

Dane Cook is once again grasping for material in strange, un-funny places.

Dane Cook went and did something that should surprise exactly no one who’s familiar with his abrasive form of humor: he was one of the first high-profile comedians to tell a joke using the Aurora theater shooting as a backdrop. And, lucky us, someone who was at his L.A. Laugh Factory set last night recorded it and put it online (see below).

We knew this was going to happen eventually — and that the outrage directed toward it would be predictable and widespread, judging by the number of articles on the topic currently clogging the Interwebs.

But is it justified?

Hearing the joke (and the audience’s tepid, nervous reaction, in which groans turn to applause a little too quickly) brings up a few considerations, especially in light of the recent Daniel Tosh rape-joke controversy and Cook’s own apparently harsh, unraveling set at the L.A. Laugh Factory in January (against which Denver-bred comic T.J. Miller took a public stand).

Few would argue over Cook’s right to say whatever he wants. But as with rape jokes, or 9/11 jokes in the early days after that national tragedy, the question shouldn’t ultimately be, “Is it appropriate?” but “Is it funny?” That’s the bottom line in comedy.

9/11 jokes, for example, have taken many forms over the years. And just like that event or any number of historical atrocities and tragedies, the Aurora theater shooting will eventually find its way into more comedians’ routines as we get more distance from the event — just think about the number of Holocaust jokes you hear in the average year.

Since comedy is subjective, it’s impossible to say whether or not something is funny to everyone in all contexts (Charlie Chaplin notwithstanding). But comedians draw a clear line when deciding who the butt of the joke is and what the joke ultimately says. Yes, a rape joke can be funny if the butt of the joke isn’t victim, but our attitudes about rape. But it’s also true that rape jokes have become the lazy crutch of far too many comedians who would rather shock us than provide insight into our attitudes.

Cook said that “The Dark Knight Rises'”was such a crappy film that “…if none of that (shooting) would have happened, I’m pretty sure that somebody in that theater, about 25 minutes in, realizing it was a piece of crap, was probably like, ‘Ugh, fucking shoot me.'”

Clearly, the butt of the joke here is not the shooting victims. But like many entertainers, Cook is jumping on a raw subject knowing full well our sensitivity to it, and he’s not granting any insight, adding any sort of twists or otherwise bringing the discussion to a different place. He’s just picking at a wound and watching us wince.

Cook can say whatever he wants, but as he’s proven lately, it’s increasingly just a barrage of lazy harshness instead of the idea-based currency that the best stand-ups trade in during their sets.

Our grade: fail.

Update: A few minutes ago Cook posted an apology on his Twitter page, presumably to address the online criticism he’s gotten over the joke. Read the full text of it here.

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and blogs editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

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  • Chris Rock

    12 People died. another 59 people were and still are in the hospital.. families suffering and wondering how they are going to pay the hospital bills.
    I think Dane Cook needs to donate money to the families/ victims of the Aurora shooting who are dead/ still alive and in the hospital to cover medical costs to make up for this joke.

    • Guest

      I think YOU should donate to make up for your stupid statement

    • Anonymous

      nope you stupid piece, the hospital has wiped the slate clean for the victims in the shooting.  So as far as I know all their hospital bills are paid for.  People in this country are to politically incorrect.  He wasnt being disrespectufl toward any of the victims from opinion. 

      • DOTTIE1

        IT WAS WRONG OF HIM TO JOKE ABOUT THE SHOOTING, ASK YOURSELF THIS WOULD HE JOKE ABOUT IT IF IT WAS HIS FAMILY THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING NO.ALOT OF PEOPLE LOST THERE LOVED ONES, ONE LADY LOST HER 6 YR OLD DAUGHTER AND HAD A MISSCARRIAGE WITH THE BABY SHE WAS CARRING PLUS BEING NOT ABLE TO MOVE FROM THE WAIST DOWN. THIS IS NO TIME TO MAKE JOKES PEOPLE ARE HURTING

  • Chris Rock

     That was pretty funny.

  • Anonymous

    Dane Cook has never been funny.  The real joke is on the idiots who actually pay good money to see that moron perform.

  • Eeltween

    The follow up which was cut off is as follows: …Which is, coincidently, often the feeling from the audience 25 minutes into one of my “comedy” sets.

  • Pam L

    I must have missed a lot of jokes over the years, because I cannot recall any 9/11 jokes nor Holocaust jokes. I would defend his right to tell these jokes, I just don’t think it’ really OK, or funny.

    • Jizzyg1

      I haven’t really heard a 9/11 joke, but seriously? My Jewish friends make Holocaust jokes all the time. 

  • http://twitter.com/chief_brody Kevin Fitzpatrick

     I believe anything can be
    funny if it’s handled properly. Dane Cook being Dane Cook, it was
    handled with all the expertise of a 3 year old saying the word “poop”. But for him to apologize saying “I am devastated by the recent tragedy in Colorado & did not mean to make light of what happened” is ridiculous. Firstly, people who are “devastated” by anything tend to not make jokes about it and secondly, he obviously DID mean to make light of what happened. It just so happened that on the most basic of criteria, it wasn’t funny, and that’s why we’re talking about it.

  • Karmaz Fool

    When are you playing Denver again, Dane?

  • Holden17C

    I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight Rises,” but I’m sure it’s better than any of Dane Cook’s “piece of crap” movies.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GNRH63RC5OCW2GAGU5AMK2HY2Q Eric Schultz

    He’s a tool trying to make a buck. Don’t promote him and he will eventually go away.

  • Dare

    The incident was terrible now move on. These are jokes, jokes help heel. People take life way to seriously, we’re only here for so long. Relax with your pc bull shit.

  • funny and small jokes

    Its not looking funny ….real joke should be with pretty funny and entertaining.