A Primer on the Dane Cook–Louis C.K. Joke-Stealing Beef

Louis C.K., Dane Cook, and a sad-looking fruit plate.

This season of Louie has covered how difficult it is to make friends in adulthood, the agony of unrequited love, racism, the hassles of New York real estate, and the potent sexual energy of Joan Rivers. Tonight, though, the show takes on maybe its most controversial topic ever: Dane Cook. Cook and Louis C.K. have a long-standing, public beef about joke stealing that will presumably be the topic of the episode, which Cook is guest-starring in. To prepare you for tonight’s Louie, here’s a primer on the history of the Cook-C.K. relationship.

If Louis C.K. is a comedian’s comedian, Cook is the opposite, and comedy geeks noticed that three bits on Cook’s 2005 album Retaliation sounded a lot like bits from C.K.’s 2001 Live in Houston. Take a listen:

The accusation entered the general pop consciousness thanks to a 2007 article in Radar about joke stealing in general. Louis C.K. has never out-and-out said that he believes the material is plagiarized, and itchy butts, weird kids’ names, and getting tongue-tied in a moment of panic aren’t unique premises.

Cook addressed the accusations on his revealing — and surprisingly moving — June 2010 episode of “WTF.” “I didn’t steal anything from Louis C.K.,” he told Marc Maron. “How can I really convey to people so that they understand? I’ve never stolen anything in my life,” he said. “I’m not a thief.” Louis C.K. seemed to have backed off the issue, too, telling Movieline, “I’m not sure he stole [the material]. I don’t know that. … I think it’s possible he might have seen these bits and absorbed them, and not known that he took them from me. I worry about that myself sometimes. It’s hard to know where your thoughts come from, especially when you have a thirst for material because you need it professionally.”

Louie has covered some of the internal miseries of being a stand-up comedian — the grueling travel schedule, the irritating hecklers — but also explored the communities comics tend to form. (The poker-game exploration of the word “faggot” is probably the show’s most famous scene.) It’s not so unthinkable that Louis C.K. would choose to address the idea of joke pilfering, but taking the whole Dane Cook bull by the overly energetic horns is still surprising. Even more surprising? That Cook actually agreed to be on the show, given how removed he is from that part of the stand-up world; he spent much of his “WTF” episode talking about how excluded he felt from that cadre of comics. Now, if only Marc Maron could have some kind of airing-of-grievances episode on Louie, too, comedy fans could die happy.


A Primer on the Dane Cook–Louis C.K. Joke-Stealing Beef