American comedy in dire straits

This country’s value should not be measured by its dwindling economy, by the fact that it might be in a recession (which I suspect to be a fancy euphemism for depression) or by whether the president might be suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s.

No, the state of this great nation should be measured by the quality of its comedy.

That’s right, comedy: stand-up, sitcoms, Conan O’Brien, Saturday Night Live and Mad TV. It is the one thing that keeps me from going completely insane.

At first glance, the United States might seem to have high-quality comedy. There is The Sarah Silverman Program – which calms me before I go to bed – and Rosie O’Donnell is back on Nip/Tuck, The Office is hugely successful and Lewis Black is even back on top of his game.

SNL isn’t funny anymore. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve laughed at it since Molly Shannon. Quality shows, such as Arrested Development, have been canceled. Overall, however, I don’t think the nation is hurting for laughs.

But then, like a storm in the night, he came on the scene. Soon, I was constantly hearing about him.

“Isn’t he hot? Isn’t he just the funniest thing since Cheney shot that old man in the face?”

You know who I’m talking about.

I’m speaking of the most arrogant, irritating and overrated human being on the face of the earth. He is the dumbing down of funny – the George Bush of comedy, if you will. He’s hosted SNL multiple times and starred in several successful films. He is the biggest name in stand-up comedy. He is … Dane Cook.

There, I said it. I do not find Cook the least bit funny.

Who am I to question the greatness of Cook, you ask?

I’m a 20-year-old college student and I consider myself relatively normal. I am this man’s demographic. I should start salivating at the sound of his name, worship him, look up his masterpieces on YouTube and giggle over them with my girlfriends while posting his quotes on my Facebook profile.

The problem is, I can’t do so without wanting to bang my head against a wall, because listening to Dane Cook is like rounding up every guy in high school that I absolutely couldn’t stand and being forced to listen to their mind-numbing lunchtime conversations about chicks, sports, bodily functions and cars.

Cook’s material is exclusively about his everyday life, such as ex-girlfriends and his love for Burger King. In other words, it’s everything I couldn’t care less about.

He jumps around on stage like a 5-year-old. He’s essentially Tom Cruise on Oprah. I like my comedy served with a little dark humor, some talk of politics and controversy. I love a comedian who can take current events and turn them into something hilarious, all while delivering his or her opinion and deeper thoughts on the subject at hand.

I hate to sound pretentious, but I don’t believe it’s a sin to say Cook’s humor isn’t smart enough for me. It’s more than a little embarrassing that our generation has made wildly famous a man whose comedy teeters between that of Carson Daly and my 15-year-old cousin.

I will give you all the benefit of the doubt and assume you simply don’t know any better because he’s the only stand-up comedian you’ve seen. But I dare you to watch five minutes of Black or David Cross and then look me in the eye and tell me Cook is a comedic genius.

Entertainment is often used as a means to escape from everyday life, but I would rather lose myself in a world that’s funny and challenging than one that’s funny and completely mindless. Cook may evoke a few laughs, but he doesn’t make his audience think as a great comedian should.

There is no broader theme to his work. As the country heads into harder times, it is going to need to step up its comedic game. If that means spreading my secret dislike of Cook for the greater good of America, so be it.

The sooner people embrace smart comedy, the better.

Jennica Robe is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.