Interview: Dane Cook (2011) Answers to Nothing

This month, Answers to Nothing premiers with a stellar cast of well-known and up-and-coming talent. Leading man, Dane Cook has the daunting task of giving breath to a highly unlikable husband in the character of Ryan. The film and its raison d’etre walk a fine line of being insightful and downright offensive.

When discussing the actor/comedian and his foray into grittier, less veiled characters, Dane Cook reveals himself to be a true student of the art. He continues to challenge himself as a performer and seeks a nirvana that is wholly introspective. He has moved beyond just “getting the gag”. To put it simply, he has decided that, “smaller roles are more gratifying”.

Cook’s transition from owning the spotlight in his stand-up comedy to sharing the dramatic climax in film is a vulnerability likened to his early attempts at ridding himself of shyness and anxiety. Fans of Cook will appreciate his truth to his inner voice while the challenge of expressing his range is an open attempt to welcome those who are new to his performance.

His character, Ryan, is a conflicted and unhappy person. His tangibility, almost frightening in its commonality, is given a name and a face in Cook’s portrayal. When the subject of audience response is broached, Cook offers that “sometimes the truth repels people”. Audiences will be exposed to a side of Dane Cook that is a new and unexplored frontier for the entertainer.

Though he has a tendency to come across as a Ladies Man in several of his comedies, Dane Cook is not the guy who sees himself as The Guy who gets the girl. An admittedly friendless adolescence spent sharing secrets with his mother did not prepare him for the accolades or adoration of a raging female public. At his mother’s behest, he is holding out for the “relationship that makes him feel a part of a loving team”.

Drawing upon this friendship with his own mother and confounded by her recent passing, Cook credits Barbara Hershey, who plays Marilyn in the film, with bringing about the strong emotions lurking just beneath the surface. She made it possible for him to reveal the growth of his character: a man desperately seeking an exit from the emotional hole in which he finds himself plummeted.

Representative to this theme is “the specimen” scene –audiences’ introduction to Ryan’s life. Cook is quick to acknowledge its intent to either engage or disgust. It is a humdinger of an idea and a realm of humanity that intrigues and fuels Cook as he further hones his skill as an actor. The scene represents a difficult situation that two adults can experience and has solicited much nervous laughter in response. For the actor, nervous laughter translates to the relevance of a feeling that has yet to be expressed by words.

After dedicating his early career and youth to one aspect of success, he embraces starting over versus earning one great accolade in an entire lifetime. However, 20 years of touring, from open mikes to Chinese food restaurants to selling out Madison Square Garden (twice), has prepared the comedian for a long awaited break.

Cook has re-channeled all of the energy and passion he put into his work on the stage and is directing it into the work he does on screen, a journey he excitedly shares with his fans and supporters.