Dane Cook receives a rock star's welcome from a packed arena in this stand-up concert originally broadcast on HBO. But the jury may still be out on whether Cook is phenomenally funny or simply a phenomenon. He is certainly a master of the new media. Cook has savvily marketed himself on the Internet to his target college-age audience, and they have embraced him as a fellow "bro" and "dude," who would seemingly be awesome to party with. In his timbre and physicality, he has the shaggy, likeable quality of Will Farrell, another frat boy favorite. Cook is a man of his people. At one point, he is interrupted by a drunken Boston Red Sox fan who wants to shake his hand. Cook then leaps off the stage and chases him up the aisle to give him a send-off hug, all the while being clapped on the back and offered high and low fives by the cheering audience. Cook comes complete with arrested development lingo, such as "Here's what drove me banana sandwich," that will no doubt be repeated around the dorm.
Don't look to Cook for satirical insights on politics, the war, or even pop culture. His world view is much narrower. In Vicious Circle he expounds on the pleasures and traps of lying, male crying, being sneezed on, his father's robe, bad relationships, and sundry sexual matters that cannot be printed here. Cook takes awhile to get where he's going, but his digressions are often funnier than the pay offs. He puts the brakes on one story during which he mimes driving a car to remark that if he were actually driving this way, he would be all over the road. During other bits, he parses the different spray modes on Windex, and takes the phrase "being cheated on" literally. And it takes some kind of associative genius to compare a certain female body part to a high school stage theatre curtain. The less than well received Employee of the Month aside, Cook is currently king of the comedy hill. Vicious Circle offers a time capsule look at these heady good times for the great Dane. As for where he goes from here, the good news is that Steve Martin once filled arenas like this. The bad news: So did Andrew Dice Clay. --Donald Liebenson