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The Real Reason Why Hollywood Dumped Dane Cook

As one of a handful of comics who made the jump straight from the stage to the movie screen, comedian/actor Dane Cook was everywhere during the mid '00s, touring stadiums with his raunchy brand of comedy and appearing in films opposite stars like Steve Carell and Jessica Alba. But a decade later, he's reduced to voicing roles in forgettable Pixar spin-offs (Planes, anyone?) and mounting a modest comeback on the small screen. Cook's still the same guy who reduced us to helpless tears of laughter all those years ago, so where'd he go and what happened? Here's how Dane Cook went from being the "King of Comedy" to a Hollywood punchline—and how he can turn it all around.

Employee of the Month tanked

Released in 2006 at the height of Cook's fame, Employee of the Month was poised to be a huge box office hit. But critics savaged the film, with Cook's costar Jessica Simpson scoring a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress. Earning a meager $38 million at the box office, Employee of the Month proved to be the beginning of trouble for both Cook and Simpson's big-screen careers.

Critics panned his next comedy

Cook again struck Razzie gold with 2007's Good Luck Chuck, a forgettable rom-com which boasts a pitiful 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Razzies nominated Cook and Jessica Alba as Worst Screen Couple of the year, while Entertainment Weekly opened its review of the film by asking, "Can we finally just admit that Dane Cook isn't funny?"

Comedians think he's a joke thief

Much like fellow maligned comedian Carlos Mencia, accusations of joke thievery have plagued Cook throughout his career. Joe Rogan accused Cook of stealing some of his material, and video comparisons of bits from Cook's 2007 special Retaliation and Louis C.K.'s 2001 album Live in Houston have circulated on the Web for years. Cook even appeared as himself on an episode of Louie in a scene that addressed the real-life joke-stealing drama.

Seriously, comedians hate him

With his movie-star good looks and broad material, Cook is viewed by his comedian peers as a lightweight pretty boy who got lucky. SNL vet Jim Breuer told Today in 2006, "Not one comedian comes on [my Sirius Radio show] and says 'I'm so happy for him,' which is weird. They can't stand this poor guy." The joke stealing controversy hasn't helped—Cook revealed to Marc Maron on a 2010 episode of the WTF podcast that he feels excluded from the rest of the comedy community.

His turn to drama didn't pan out

While Dan in Real Life was a modest success, critics singled out Steve Carell's lead role over Cook's supporting turn. And his role opposite Kevin Costner in the serial killer flick Mr. Brooks didn't exactly wow critics either, with Stereogum saying that Cook's performance as an unhinged photographer was "admittedly funnier than any of his comedic performances."

He missed out on playing Captain America

In 2010 Cook revealed on Twitter that he was getting in shape to audition for the role of Marvel's star-spangled hero in Captain America: The First Avenger. But as Slashfilm revealed, Cook wasn't even on the shortlist to play Cap. Perhaps it's time to dust off The Waffler, the wannabe hero Cook played in the superhero comedy Mystery Men.

His comedy albums are no longer bestsellers

Cook's 2006 album, Retaliation, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and went double platinum, eventually becoming one of the best-selling comedy albums of all time. But his last album, 2010's greatest hits compilation I Did My Best, came in at only No. 165.

His movie theater shooting joke got him in hot water

In 2012, Cook took some heat for a joke he told at the Laugh Factory a week after the tragic movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. (The gist of the joke is that anyone who sat through The Dark Knight Rises, the film playing in the theater at the time, would've begged to be shot.) Cook took to Twitter to apologize, but the damage was already done.

His last comedy special was a low-key affair

Cook's 2014 Showtime special, Troublemaker, found the comic delivering an intimate set that's a far cry from the days when he sold out Madison Square Garden. While reviews were decent, the special failed to make much of an impression outside of Cook's dwindling fanbase.

He's no longer the king of social media

Cook was one of the first comedians to rise on a wave of social media love, scoring millions of fans on MySpace. (He was probably in a lot of "top 8" friends lists back in the day.) But his comedy hasn't exactly translated to Twitter and other social networking platforms. While his 3.46 million Twitter follower count isn't bad, it's a drop in the bucket compared to Kevin Hart's 31.8 million followers or the 25.6 million fans that Daniel Tosh (a comedian who has frequently been compared to Cook) tweets jokes out to.

His sci-fi passion project crashed and burned

Cook produced and starred in the 2016 deep space thriller 400 Days. Despite a cast that includes Legends of Tomorrow costars Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz, 400 Days sank, earning a whopping $58 at three theaters in the UK and scoring a meager 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian said it was "like watching Solaris performed by sock puppets." Ouch.

His NBC sitcom never aired

Cook seemed poised for a comeback when he was cast as a sexist, loudmouth radio DJ paired with a feminist cohost on the NBC sitcom Next Caller. But the series, which also featured a pre-Transparent Jeffrey Tambor, was canceled in 2012 before it even made it to air. NBC claimed to have "creative differences" with Cook and creator Stephen Falk (You're the Worst), and shelved the four episodes that were filmed.

But he's Cook-ing up a comeback

The small screen could be the key to Dane Cook's return to the mainstream. He earned buzz playing an annoying boss on a recent episode of Workaholics, and he's set to play Robbie on American Gods, Starz's adaptation of the acclaimed Neil Gaiman novel. Taking a supporting role in a show that has the makings of a cult hit could be the first step towards Dane Cook 2.0.