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Controversial comedian Dane Cook says it’s an act

Comedians are famously obsessive, insecure and neurotic. Dane Cook seems to lack those helpful comic attributes, yet he has somehow managed to build an arena-filling career.

In fact, he sounded positively stable during a recent conference call.

“There’s going to be ups,” said Cook. “There’s going to be downs. There’s going to be incredible highlight moments. There’s going to be really difficult, impossible moments. That’s what a career is.”

His mantra: “Just don’t overthink it.”

For Cook, this has been an especially wise approach. He is one of the few comics in America who can routinely fill arenas – he once played a show to 48,000 people in Florida – yet he is also disparaged and dismissed by some Dane Cook haters.

“Yes, even my family,” he said.

But seriously.

He said the backlash has been “a bit of a badge of honor in a strange way.”

“It keeps you in everybody’s discussion,” said Cook, originally from the Boston area. “… There’s always going to be the people that embrace you and fill an arena, and then there’s going to be people outside, throwing an egg at it.”

He does admit that it feels strange to be in any way controversial.

“I’m the least kind of controversial person in my regular life,” said Cook. “That’s not how I really live. That’s not the way I am with friends and family. So it was a little strange when that started happening in stand-up.

“But I understood it immediately. I just went back and read the books about my favorites and the great comics I enjoyed, and the one thing that everybody had in common was, ‘The moment that I hit it big, it was like batten down the hatches, because I’m going to feel the other side of it.’ ”

His Isolated Incident Global Thermo Comedy Tour, which arrives at the Spokane Arena on Wednesday, should display some of Cook’s equanimity.

He went through a heavier and darker phase in the last few years, which he attributes to the fact that both of his parents had cancer and died within a year of each other.

While putting together a greatest hits CD, “Dane Cook: I Did My Best,” he rediscovered some of his earlier and lighter material.

“And so I find myself back in that place, maybe a bit more – I don’t know – just all around kind of jovial and enjoying (the fact) that, after 20 years, I’m still kicking around in a pretty tough business,” said Cook. “A lot more lighter affair. I would say that.”

Cook admits that he was a “big dreamer” growing up and some of his dreams – “I want to play Madison Square Garden!” – have been realized.

Others – “I would like to perform in space!” – remain dreams.

He tends to think of his career in decade increments. From 1990 to 2000, he was “working on the road, building a character, building a grassroots following.”

From 2000 to 2010, he was reaping the rewards of that work. He considers his new greatest hits CD to be a “highlight reel” of the last decade.

“And it’s a way to kind of close chapters, thank old fans, new fans that are just jumping on,” said Cook.

What’s next?

Theater, surprisingly enough. He will join Robin Williams in Neil LaBute’s play “Fat Pig” on Broadway next spring. Cook has also been approached to write a play for Broadway.

But again, he doesn’t want to overthink it. He’ll remain, first and foremost, a stand-up comic.

“I just want to get laughs,” he said.

Cook does have one goal more modest than “performing in space.”

“Hopefully, we’ll be talking about a ‘Greatest Hits Two’ in 10 years from now,” he said.

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