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On the Road with "Dane Cook's Tourgasm"

Summertime is officially here as of yesterday and with it comes picnics, fireworks, and drunken night swimming. Oh, and that most American of pastimes: the road trip. What's that, you say, a road trip? True, with gas prices at the pumps soaring away, it seems like many red-blooded Americans are staying closer to home this summer. So if you're not planning on driving cross-country (or even across state lines) this summer, then why not take a road trip from the comfort of your living room couch? Besides, what better road trip companion could there be than Mr. Comedy himself, Dane Cook?

I'm talking about HBO's new documentary series Dane Cook's Tourgasm, directed and executive produced by Dane Cook. If you're over the age of forty, I'll excuse you for not knowing who Dane Cook is, but college kids across the U.S. have embraced the kinetic comedian. His sophomore comedy album, "Retaliation," debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and quickly made him the highest charting comedian in twenty-five years. Dane Cook is truly a King of All Media, embracing the Internet at a time before every online portal began peddling videos, while at the same time appearing in numerous feature films, hosting Saturday Night Live (his appearance garnered the show its highest ratings in two years), and continuing his sold-out stand-up act in venues around the country. Simply put, Dane Cook had become a star.

But it wasn't enough for Dane to have the spotlight. He wanted to share it with his friends and fellow comedians. So in 2005, he launched a new tour concept called Tourgasm, a cross-country national tour which he would headline. But, he would bring three comedians along for the ride; they'd perform when he performed and they'd share a tour bus. Fortunately for us, Dane also decided to have the entire thing filmed for a possible television series. Or at the very least, a nifty souvenir of the entire experiment. And so Dane Cook's Tourgasm was born.

Part road-trip picaresque, part behind-the-curtain reality series, Tourgasm is a fun ride. Dane Cook is hilarious; whether he's on stage or off, he exudes self-confidence and charisma. He's an Alpha male comedian's comedian and, on this trip anyway, easily drafted into the role of den father, breaking up petty disputes and parceling out sage advice to his less-experienced companions.

According to the show's credits, each of those comedians has a specific "role" within the group. Dane is naturally "The Leader" and, after all, it's his show. It's truly inspiring to see how he takes these three comedians under his wing and how he hopes that the three of them will begin to support one another in their acts and lives. It's a beautiful sentiment and one totally unexpected from this guy's guy, but Dane proves what it's truly like to be a leader. Dane's lieutenant is Robert Kelly, a.k.a. "The Instigator." Think Entourage's Turtle grown up, but with a better sense of humor. Robert has appeared in numerous feature films and television series and is a constant presence in national stand-up circuits. However, Robert's sense of humor often causes conflict among the group but he's unapologetic for ruffling any feathers. Plus, he's hilarious.

Next up is Last Comic Standing's Gary Gulman, a.k.a."The Conflicted." (I'm not quite sure how "The Conflicted" works as an honorific title, but there you go.) I'm not too keen on Gary who seems to have a lot of issues he needs to work out; he always seems separate from the rest of the group and a bit of a diva, arriving late for production meetings, fussing about his hair, etc. It's odd to see him on-stage as he seems to transform into someone else, someone more confident, with slicked hair and a cut-too-low v-neck muscle T. But he does do a funny riff on "The Pill."

Lastly, there's the wee bairn of the lot, Jay Davis, "The Newbie." Jay's the least experienced out of the group and could gain the most out of this trip, if he learned to be a smidge less... sensitive. For a comedian, he can dish it out, but he can't seem to take it. After all, four guys living together in extremely cramped quarters? There's bound to be some ragging on one another, a lot of conflict, and an overload of potty mouth. But instead of bonding, Jay sort of closes himself off from the rest of them. It's sad to watch because if he opened his mind a bit more, he would learn a lot from each of these guys.

Throw these four very different personalities together and you're bound to have sparks. But that's just what Dane did and the results are entertaining to watch. But besides for the conflicts, Tourgasm also offers an insider's perspective into the strange beast that is the comedy circuit. Performing in a variety of venues, the group criss-crosses the country, often confused as to where they are when they arrive in yet another college town. (Witness the Ohio/Iowa confusion in episode two.) They work on their acts and write and test new material, sometimes with mixed results. But they keep experimenting and tinkering with their jokes. Dane poses for numerous photos, signs autographs, chats up the college kids, and performs awe-inspiring sets filled with kinetic energy and nonstop movement. Along the way, the foursome bicker, bond, and berate one another in typical male bonding fashion.

While I don't know if these four will ever become best friends, their journey along the way makes for some wonderful television viewing. Dane Cook's Tourgasm is funny (at times painfully so), touching, and exhilarating, much like Dane's act itself. And if gas prices keep me staying close to home this summer, at least I'll be along for this ride.

"Dane Cook's Tourgasm" airs Sunday evenings at 11 pm ET/PT on HBO; episodes are also available on HBO On Demand.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Gameshow Marathon (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Smallville (WB); NBA Basketball (ABC; 8-11 pm); That '70s Show/That '70s Show (FOX); Everybody Hates Chris/Love, Inc. (UPN)

9 pm: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS); My Name is Earl/The Office (NBC); Supernatural (WB); So You Think You Can Dance (FOX); Eve/Cuts (UPN)

10 pm: Without a Trace (CBS); Windfall (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

7 pm: Hex on BBC America. (10 pm ET)

I'm still not thrilled by this imported series but there's little else on at this time and I'm on my own for the next week, so I'll be watching a load of telly (well, more than normally). On tonight's episode ("Possession"), Cassie rejects Troy's advances and instead has a steamy encounter with fallen angel Azazeal. What did you think I was going to say? That they went out for malted milkshakes? Not on this show...

8-9 pm: My Name is Earl/The Office.

On tonight's repeat episode ("Didn't Pay Taxes"), Earl tries to pay back taxes but discovers that Uncle Sam doesn't want his cash. Then on a repeat of The Office ("Office Olympics"), Michael suffers a panic attack while trying to close the deal on his new condo while, back at the office, Jim and Pam launch a series of Olympic-style office games.

9-10 pm: My Name is Earl/The Office.

An hour later, it's the same tasty combo again. On one of my favorite episodes of Earl ("Boogeyman"), Earl makes up for scaring a young boy (that would be Lost's Walt, a.k.a. Malcolm David Kelley) years earlier. And then it's the "Booze Cruise" episode of The Office, in which Michael takes the employees of Dunder-Mifflin on a cruise, but things get out of control for everyone. Especially Meredith.

10 pm: 5 Takes: Pacific Rim on the Travel Channel.

On tonight's installment of 5 Takes: Pacific Rim ("Hong Kong"), the reality/travel show I just can't say enough about, the gang sets off for Hong Kong, a city of contrasts where they encounter the old world of China and a new, ultra-modern one.


Anonymous said…
Booze cruise - such a great ep. That was the second ep I watched (not counting the pilot long before) and it was what sold me on the show.
ticknart said…
Tourgasm sounds sort of like The Comedians of Comedy. Not that it matters, the more good comedy schtick out there, the better.
thekeez said…
I'm not as enamored of Tourgasm as you seem to be. I would have been happier for more stage time and less bus time. As well, all of Dane's stage time seems to be devoted to schtick from Retaliation. I was hoping for different stuff.

But - I've only watched ep 1 so far and I have so much respect for Cook that I will definitely give it some more time to develop.

Where do you come down on Lucky Louie? After two eps I'm not impressed at all...thekeez
Jace Lacob said…

Funny you should ask that. Shortly after you commented, I put up my review of HBO's Lucky Louie, and I'm not all that thrilled by it either...

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