Dane Cook Could Use a F#%ing Hug

It’s 10 a.m. in Beverly Hills, and I’m sitting on the patio of one of those big, modern movie-star houses. Pool. Hot tub. A lawn that disappears into the horizon. The city below. Sitting next to me is the guy from Arlington who owns the place, Dane Cook.

The house is perched on a cramped hillside so tangled with money and power that one resident a block down the road has erected a sign urging everyone to turn down their music, to be respectful, to share the hill. "No matter how important you might be," the sign says, "we are all the same."

Cook’s house is at a slight remove from whatever mayhem may occur down the road. It’s fortified on three sides by walls that preserve a sort of secluded loveliness; it feels like being on an airplane, nothing but the view stretched out below.

Cook’s 37 now, but he looks and plays younger. He’s barefoot, and it seems as if he just woke up. Or perhaps it’s only that he doesn’t really want to do this, doesn’t want to sit out here and dredge up the past couple of years. He’s got on a black T-shirt, jeans, and a Red Sox hat. "I have way too many of these," he says, grabbing the hat by the bill. But this one is special. Cook had it on in 2004, in the stands at Game Four of the World Series in St. Louis. "I got the tickets the night before from basically a scalper that I found, and took my dad," he says. "First time I’d ever seen my dad jump up and down in my entire life."

But that feels like a million years ago. His dad was still alive then. And Cook had yet to become the phenomenon that is, well, Dane Cook. Within a year, he would explode onto the scene as the biggest standup comedian in America.

Of course, that rise would prove wildly polarizing. He would inspire passionate factions of supporters and detractors. This you already know. The thing you maybe don’t know is that just as Cook was hitting it big, fate was rearing back to deliver a kick to the balls. First, his mother, Donna, got cancer shortly before he came home to play a sold-out show at the Garden. Then, a week after his mother died, his father, George, called to say he had cancer, too. He was dead within 10 months.

Earlier this year Cook released an album on which he grapples with these things—being hated, losing his parents. "What I’ve learned through all of this, through thick and thin," he says in one of the more reflective moments of the set, "the only thing that really matters, really, is family."

But when Isolated Incident came out in May, the album already felt dated, its title bitterly ironic. By then Cook had learned he was an apparent crime victim, allegedly robbed of millions—by his own brother. Betrayal, by its very nature, hits you unaware and sucks the wind out of you. Like his neighbor’s sign said, No matter how important you might be, we are all the same.