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Q&A: Dane Cook

The actor-comic on his passion for the Red Sox

Posted: Friday September 14, 2007 1:40PM; Updated: Friday September 14, 2007 6:00PM
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SI: Is there any comic who is also a good athlete?

Cook: No. For the most part, comics are very good at being a vampire and sleeping to the crack of 3:30 in the afternoon. Rarely will you see a bunch of comics come together to participate in team sports.

SI: How did you become MLB's face of the postseason?

Cook: They learned of my affinity for baseball, which goes back to my father, George. Before the Sox were the Sox, they were the Boston Braves and they were scouting my Dad in 1952. My dad played third base in high school but decided to serve his country and went to Korea. He eventually went to Boston College and he's still on the record books in basketball.

SI: Let's play word association. Barry Bonds?

Cook: Polluted.

SI: Theo Epstein?

Cook: Visionary.

SI: Derek Jeter?

Cook: Dammit!?

SI: Grady Little?

Cook: Consistent.

SI: George Steinbrenner?

Cook: Darth Vader. But that's two words.

SI: What happens to the Red Sox this year?

Cook: Being a Red Sox fan, it's never enough. We can be 48 games ahead and we'd be like, 'No, we have double this lead.' Right now I feel like we're in good shape. I feel like for the first time in a long time our pitching is precision. Yes, we had a little bit of a hit and miss with Eric Gagne, but I'm feeling optimistic about these guys.

SI: You and your father were at the World Series clincher in 2004, right?

Cook: I got tickets to Game 4 in St. Louis, fourth row behind the Red Sox dugout. I called my Dad the night before. He was 73 at the time. I said, 'Dad, Get on a plane. We're going to watch history.'

SI: You have something in common with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. You too have starred alongside Dennis Rodman. How was working with Dennis in Simon Sez?

Cook: It was pretty wild (laughs). There was a period when Dennis was the most-talked about man in the planet. Everybody loved his antics and even if you hated him, you still could not help but watch him. By the time the movie came out, he was one of the most hated people in entertainment. The experience of being over in France and working on the movie was amazing, but the aftereffects were humbling. Dennis was cool, but I learned my lesson: Don't act with athletes.

SI: You and Bill James both landed on Time Magazine's annual "100 People Who Shape Our World'" list. Pretty impressive?

Cook: I called every ex-girlfriend that had broken up with me to tell them, "I told you I was influential."

SI: You sold out the TD Banknorth Garden and Madison Square Garden on the same night. That's something neither the Knicks or Celtics do these days?

Cook: One of the guys who works at Madison Square Garden said to me, "I don't know if you play hoops but maybe you can sit on the bench to get our numbers up."

SI: What was it like playing both Gardens (Boston and Madison Square)?

Cook: When I did the (Boston) Garden, the experience of seeing the banners and seeing all the things that were earned by the great Celtics teams was amazing. Doing shows in the round, you really feel like a gladiator. At MSG, my Dad used to see the fights there. I remember walking down the hallway where they have all the pictures of people from Elvis to Bob Hope to Led Zeppelin and that I was part of the history of the building was one of my proudest moments.

SI: Your take on the Kevin Garnett trade?

Cook: We really feel like the Celtics are turning a corner and have a chance. I'm looking forward to starting fresh with the Celtics. Boston fans want them to step back into the glory that once was.

SI: Does sharing a birthday with Queen Latifah come with anything?

Cook: (Laughs) I did not know that. I'll send her a shout out.

SI: You can be one athlete for one day, who are you?

Cook: Muhammad Ali. It's about the competitive nature, the way the guy carried himself off the field and the razzle-dazzle and the showmanship.

SI: How often did Kevin Costner boast about this baseball skills during the filming of Mr. Brooks?

Cook: He didn't. But he was full of stories. Sometimes you hear about all these rumors, but I told Kevin I would tout him to people. Away from comedians, he was one of the funniest guys I've ever met. That's something that people would not know. Kevin Costner is one of the funniest guys I've ever met.

SI: Did you have any input in picking the MLB moments?

Cook: They came to us with clips galore and we got to sift through everything. When it came to the Sox, I had to get the Curt Schilling bloody Sox line in there.

SI: Why are comics so mean to each other?

Cook: It's strange. I always relate it to sports. If your opponent plays a great game, you may be pissed that you lost but you'll go on TV and say, 'They played a great game today and beat us today.' I'll give up for some of the guys that are trashing me. It's not personal; they don't know me. I can still get in there and say this guy is one of the top dogs. But a lot of comics won't give it up easy. Rodney Dangerfield had a great quote years ago. He said: When a comedian sees another comedian come out on The Tonight Show or watches a set, he says to himself: I hope he does 'Good.'

SI: Are you friends with any athletes?

Cook: There's nobody I hang out with 24/7. But I've been fortunate to become acquaintances with some of the Sox. Josh Beckett and Jon Papelbon came to Vicious Circle when I filmed it at the Garden in Boston. And over the years everyone from Drew Bledsoe to Chad Eaton and most of the Pats have seen me perform.

SI: Why do you think MLB chose you?

Cook: MLB called and said, 'We're really trying to appeal to a new generation.' More than anything they saw a real optimism in me. I'm an optimistic person. I look to be creative and collaborative. So MLB called and said they wanted someone who knows about baseball and the history and respect for the greatest moments and fans. I thought this was perfect. No better way to pay homage to my father.

SI: What did you do after the Red Sox won the World Series?

Cook: It was the first time in 20 years that I saw my Dad jump up and down. My dad was an old school guy. When the final pitch came, I had my camera with a camcorder so I held it up to film me and my Dad watching it happen. It was a beautiful moment. I saw my Dad jumping up and down and we had our Sox hats in the air and we were screaming in falsetto. We really let it out for all the Sox fans who could not be there. We hung out in the ballpark as long as we could and talked about it over and over again. Then we went back to the hotel we were staying and put on ESPN and watched it all night literally up to our flight. Up until my Dad passed away, I don't think a conversation went by where one of us would say, 'We were there.'

SI: What sports Web sites do you check out?

Cook: When you open my browser, it's the official MLB Red Sox site. I have the premium package so when I'm on the road I can watch the Sox online. I like to check Dan Shaughnessy's stuff and check out the Boston Globe and Boston Herald.

SI: Did you play sports as a kid?

Cook: I was a very introverted kid. We had a basketball hoop in front of my house. My dad was always pitching balls and we played whiffle ball but I had a real problem playing team sports in school because I had a shyness. I tried out for Little League and stuff like that but it didn't take. So we're at Game 4 of the World Series in 2004, it's the eighth inning and the Sox are up at bat and a foul ball comes our way, and coming right to me. I take off my hat and I think I will net the ball. But as its coming down, I realize I'm not getting crowded. St. Louis fans have stepped back. But it was too late. I had already committed to the hat. The ball hit the brim inside of the hat and flew away from me. I was completely an ignoramus. I turned to my Dad, and in my Dad's very sarcastic and comical way, he said, "You sucked in Little League and you suck now."

SI: So what do you consider your greatest athletic achievement?

Cook: I tried out for football and literally played for one play. One hit, and suddenly I'm in West Side Story. I got knocked into drama very quickly.

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