Dane Cook Has Already Conquered Comedy — Now He’s Ready For More

“The three dreams were Letterman, SNL and HBO,” Dane Cook says, recalling the lofty goals he set for himself at the start of his comedy career. Now, 16 years later, at age 34, Cook has accomplished all three. He has made multiple Late Show With David Letterman appearances, beginning with his first in 1997. He hosted last season’s highest-rated episode of Saturday Night Live, after previously passing on an opportunity to join the show’s cast – not once, but twice. (The first time, his spot went to Jimmy Fallon.) And in April, he taped two hometown shows in Boston for an HBO special, expected to premiere in September.

For good measure, he also has landed a spot in the TIME 100, TIME magazine’s list of “The People Who Shape Our World”; released the best-selling comedy album since Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy in 1978; and introduced the SUperFInger (or SU-FI, for short) – an inverted version of the “rock ‘n’ roll” hand gesture that requires a certain degree of double-jointedness to execute properly – into the pop-culture lexicon.

So, what’s next? With several film projects in various stages of production – including Employee of the Month with Jessica Simpson, Mr. Brooks with Kevin Costner and Demi Moore, and Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell – Cook is ready to reach an even bigger audience. In the meantime, he can be seen experiencing life on the road with friends and fellow comics Robert Kelly, Gary Gulman and Jay Davis on Dane Cook’s Tourgasm, airing Sundays on HBO.

In all honesty, could things possibly be going any better for you right now?

Dane Cook: Um, no. I can say [that] for the first time in having done this for 16 years. But allow me to say I’ve always enjoyed the hell out of it, never allowed the journey to be a burden or anything of that nature. I really always enjoyed where things were going, but to have things all kind of come to fruition and be where they’re at right now … I’m not dreaming past this right now. I’m really just taking it all in and working my ass off, for sure.

During an episode of “Tourgasm,” one of the other comedians, Robert Kelly, points out that you very easily could have gone out and done these shows on your own. Why specifically did you select the three guys you brought out with you?

Well, I think that it was a combination of a couple of things. The idea of Tourgasm was in my mind for many years. I think after I saw Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian, it really just inspired me to work even harder at doing a documentary around comedy. And moreso after I saw Comedian, I thought, “Jeez, I’d really like to do something that shows a bit more of the traveling lifestyle.” Also, Jerry Seinfeld is a billionaire returning to comedy, and I think there’s a more interesting story to show guys who may or may not ever make it beyond the point that you’re seeing.

So therefore, you know, a couple of more years go by and I was doing these shows on the road that were – I was doing 10,000-seaters in Detroit and selling out. And I finally was like, “I’ve just got to get a camera on this. I want to start showing people who aren’t here what’s happening to me on the road.” … Wherever I was going, I was drawing these huge numbers, and I knew a lot of it was trickling back to the fanbase I had acquired online and through many years of talking to people on the Internet and using that as a tool.

So the day finally came where I was going to put it together, and my feeling was, “OK, I can kill a couple of birds with one stone here.” I can show people what’s happening with me and this great following and people getting so excited for standup comedy, but I thought it would be great to be able to take [along] these three guys who are very good friends of mine – I’ve known Bobby and Gary for 15 years and I’ve known Jay for, I guess, about seven years now. They’re all at very different stages in their careers, and I wanted to show that. I wanted to tell a story of four guys that were at very different places.

You’ve got me and where I’m at – kind of on the cusp of this explosion. And then you had Gary Gulman who had seen a little fame off of Last Comic Standing and he was a guy who is trying to keep his head above water. He’s at that stage where it’s like, “OK, I got a little burst of acknowledgement. I want to keep it. I want to fight for those fans to stay with me.” Because once you’re off television like that, they start to forget about you. Then you had Robert Kelly who had never ever had a shot – ever. He’s never really been given anything beyond just standup to show how consistent he is. I knew for years that he’s a hundred percenter – he’s a solid performer and he’s just a really driven guy with a big personality. I knew right away that Bobby could pop on a film like this. And so the whole idea with Bobby is, here’s a guy who wants it so bad, has never experienced a bit of what I have and yet he’s been my best friend through it all, and he wants his time to be now. There’s a great quote in one of the later episodes where Bobby looks at me and he says, “If I don’t walk off that stage and I’m as good as you, they’re never going to remember me.” And then you’ve got Jay. He’s the new guy, and he’s still kind of looking at us and learning the ropes. Jay’s a guy with a lot of passion and desire but not enough experience, and so I took Jay to host. And I thought, you know, this is going to be a great way to show what’s happening with me but to tell the story of desire from four different points of view from four different levels of their careers.

You’ve known these guys for years, but when you actually got out on the road with them did you learn anything new about them?

Yes, that’s the amazing part. You put four guys like that on a bus in that tight space where we’re going to exist together all day, 24 hours. On top of that, there’s cameras – lipstick cameras on the bus or a camera guy who’s going to squeeze in there and stay with us for, again, most of every day or every night. So, at first it was almost like camp – and then it quickly turned into traveling prison. Bobby and I have always been … we’re like brothers. And so I think that as the show goes on, you kind of see a brotherhood or something that Bobby and I have that is really deep. … But what happened with Gary and Jay was really incredible. To watch Gary Gulman, his whole thing was that he started to not want to be there, basically. He started to get like a “get me the f*** out of here” attitude. And so by episodes 4 and 5 and up, it really throws an interesting twist into the ways things were rolling, and it becomes a question of, is Gary going to even be here at the end? And then Jay just … I thought I knew a lot about Jay, but this was a guy who had a lot of stuff that he was just kind of holding down. As the show goes on, you see a side of those two that I’m literally witnessing with the audience for the first time. There was certainly a lot of reasons why halfway through the tour we were all saying, “Do we even want to roll cameras on this thing anymore?”

What was the best stop on the tour?

Penn State. Penn State was the largest venue – I think it was close to 10,000-12,000 people. It was great because not only did I love the show – it was in an arena, it was a great crowd, they were right with you whether they were in the last row of the balcony or right up front, it was like you didn’t have to push it too hard, it was like you were in a 300-seat comedy club … it was just easy – but I think what made it exciting is I knew that for Gary, Bobby and Jay, it was the largest crowd that they’d ever played in front of. So I got to stand offstage and watch these guys all go out there and experience that and probably have their best show of the whole tour, as well. And again, a lot of these are my fans. A lot of these people were my fans coming out, and as a comic you know that when you’re middling or featuring for somebody, a crowd is there to see them. … You know if you can go out there and get the laughs and find your applause breaks without getting any “Bring Joe Somebody on!” that’s a big deal. That’s like you’re winning over somebody else’s entire fanbase – which these guys pretty much did night after night. There were a couple of rough patches with Gary, but for the most part Bobby, Gary and Jay went out there and just said to my fans, “Hey, if you’re into Dane then you might be into my stuff,” and Penn State showed everybody that we can all play 12,000-seaters.

In April, you filmed your first HBO special. How did that go for you, and did you prepare any differently than you would for a regular show?

I did not have the time to work the show the way I wanted to. I was filming a movie down in Albuquerque for six weeks. I was filming Employee of the Month, and a lot of that movie was night shoots – we were shooting at an actual Costco that closed down at night for us – so not only were we working every day almost, but I couldn’t even sneak away to do a set because we were working at night. So I got up onstage twice in the six weeks down there. Needless to say, I was starting to have some concerns because I was not working the show and I wanted the show to be at least an hour and a half. And when I’d fly back to L.A. to perform, like I said, maybe two, maybe three times, I was all over the place. I was still not sure what I wanted to open with, what I wanted to close with. And not to say that I’m not usually very improvisational anyway – I don’t make setlists, I don’t like to plan out my sets, I actually don’t like to think too much about comedy when I’m not performing comedy – but obviously this is a big show, and you don’t want to flip and make a mistake, so I wanted to think more about it and I couldn’t. I set up two shows: the Vegas show and the Chicago show the days before the Boston show, in order to kind of run the set and perform on the actual stage that would be in Boston. They were all in-the-round shows. Vegas was like 8,000; Chicago was, I think, 17,000-18,000. So those gave me a taste of Boston. And still, by Chicago – two days before [Boston] – I did not know what I was going to do.

When I got into Boston, my hometown, I had the two shows. The first show, I went up and I stepped on that stage at the Boston Garden, 18,000 people, my home crowd. Backstage it’s like This Is Your Life. People that I haven’t seen in 16 years – even people who didn’t like me in high school were like, “Dude, I never liked you but I had to be here, man.” … I stepped out. I was never nervous. I was never nervous the whole entire week leading up to [the shows], I was never nervous about the show itself. People were asking me, “Are you nervous? Are you nervous?” I was nervous in ’95, when I had no benefits and the idea of this ever even happening was so far away that it was a speck. That made me nervous. So, no, I’m not nervous – I’m ready. I’m ready for this. So [for] the first show I went out there, and I found it was like the two previous shows. It was 18,000 people – they were listening, they were receptive, they were right there with me if I slowed way down to tell a long story. And then the second show, I believe the running time of the second show is two and a half hours – and not one person left their seat. I mean, it’s me and 18,000 people for two and a half hours. So I got to cover all the material I wanted, and then I even got to throw in some things that were relatively new, that people were hearing – and I was hearing – for the first time. It was an amazing night. It was the most incredible night of my career in comedy. Before that I would say doing Letterman for the first time was that top spot. And also playing Carnegie Hall, which I did a year ago. But this feeling that came over me onstage was just … I felt so accomplished. I mean, this was why I got onstage every single night from the middle of nowhere to New York City, from touring the country to showcases in Los Angeles – for me, every single show, whether I thought it or not, was [about], “I’ve got to get that HBO special. I’ve got to get that HBO special.” Sixteen years of desire, I rung out onstage. I don’t know if I’ve ever performed the wy I did. And I’m always really into my performances, my energy is always up – but this just felt like something was working through me.

When I left the stage after the second show and I woke up the next day thinking about what I had accomplished, it’s been interesting because from the time I got offstage until even today, the feeling that was in me onstage that night is still there – like the way [there’s] a heaviness when you’re feeling really stressed or concerned about something, it’s like the exact opposite. A lightness and a feeling of accomplishment stays within my chest even now talking about it. I’m so proud of it, and I cannot wait for people to see it.

Do you know when it is going to air on HBO?

We’re talking about right around the first two weeks of September. We’d like it to be close to the end of Tourgasm. We actually filmed a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff so that we could kind of tie in the last episode of Tourgasm a bit to this.

You’ve got to realize that when we did Tourgasm, none of this was in place. This was before anything popped. It was before Retaliation hit, which put me on the Billboard charts and literally changed my career within hours. This was before anything. This was literally me taking money out of my pocket, saying, “I’m going to do this tour. I hope I make my money back halfway through”; hiring this film crew; them saying to me, “What kind of cameras do you want to use?” and me saying, “What’s this HD stuff?” They were like, “Oh, I don’t think we need it. It’s a little bit pricier. Nobody knows if it’s even going to pop or become some big deal.” And I remember I was like, “Ah, let’s use the HD just in case.” So we filmed it in HD. It’s going to air in HD on HBO, which is incredible. It’s the first television show of its kind to air in HD from consumer-bought HD cameras, so that’s pretty hip. I called my buddies and I’m like, “Hey, I’m just filming this thing. It’s either going to end up being a documentary that I sell to my fans, maybe a TV show, you never know, or if nothing else we’re going to have the best f***in’ home video you’ve ever seen.” If anything, in the way back of your brain, you think, “Maybe I’ll take this to HBO.” But it wasn’t that at all, and we didn’t think of it like that at all. We just thought of it as, you know, going out there and doing these shows. So now you pop to a year later and the fact that’s it’s on HBO – I’ll never forget, I went into HBO and I was talking about doing a concert special. I brought Tourgasm footage with me to Chris Albrecht, president of HBO. I sat down, we talked a while and I finally said, “Chris, I have a documentary that I made. It’s about comedy – it’s about comics. It’s a lot about desire and passion, and at the same time it’s funny because we’re friends and da da da.” And I put it in, and I watched Chris Albrecht watch this for about five, six minutes and he’s laughing and he’s responding to these guys, and he turns and he’s like, “I want this. I want to air this.” And it was like, I’m going to do an HBO special, and everything that led up to [that] – the whole 16 years of what we’re about – now I get to show in this show before it.

And I sat down with Robert Kelly. I called him up and I go, “Dude, you’ve got to come out. I’ve got to tell you something and I want to see your face when I tell you.” And this was the greatest part for me, and I did this with Jay and Gary, too, but I took Bobby out first. I brought him to a Fatburger and sat down with him. We chatted for a while and I finally said to him, I go – because you don’t know Bobby but he’s had his balls busted for 15 years; “You’re in the shadow of Dane, and you guys are friends but you’re like Dane’s opener or whatever it may be”; I mean he got it in New York for years and years. So I’m sitting there with him and I said, “Look around for a minute.” And he goes, “OK.” And I go, “Really take in how you feel right now. How do you feel in the world right now?” And he’s like, “I feel good, man. I feel good.” And I just said, “I want you to look around because you’re going to look around after I tell you what I’m going to tell you, and everything is going to look different. And you’re going to be different because nobody’s going to be able to say to you that you didn’t accomplish the highest peak of what a comic wants.” And he goes, “OK.” And I go, “Tourgasm‘s going to be on HBO.” And I will never forget the look, and the wonderful experience that I got telling him that he made it – that he f***ing made it. … So that, to me, was the prize.

You hosted Saturday Night Live last season. I read that you had almost joined the cast at one point. Is that correct?

Well, the story is like this. The short version is: When Jimmy Fallon was first cast on the show, that was right after Jim Breuer had left and they were looking for … they called my manager and said, “Barry, we want a white, young, energetic physical comic who plays guitar, preferably.” And I was sitting in New York City and I said, “I got it.” And again, kind of going back, this was one of the three dreams I wanted. The three dreams were Letterman, SNL and HBO. Those were the three things I set for myself in 1990, that I said out loud to my family, “I’m only doing this, and I’m going to be good enough and work hard enough to achieve those things. I’m not doing this half-assed and I’m not going to be mailing this in. I truly want to make a mark in comedy somehow. And I’m not going to this, I’m not a party person, I’m not going to go out and be there to drink – I’m literally there to work and get better in the art of comedy.” So these are my three goals, and I told them and I worked toward those. And then, here it is right in front of me. I have the chance to go in – it’s going to be an audition, but I already knew in my heart, I said, “I know I’m auditioning, but I know I got it. I know if I go in here, I’ve got it. I can get this.” Because they knew my comedy, too. They called and they were like, “We want to bring you in to audition.” But they’d seen me, the casting people at the show, and we were familiar with one another. And I didn’t go. I remember I walked down to Rockefeller [Plaza] and I sat on a bench looking up at the building. I had a conversation with myself, and I knew I wasn’t ready. I did not have the chops … I did not have the fighting strength to do what needs to be done behind the scenes on that show, which I’d experienced a little bit hanging out there. My manager had a client on the show previously, so I got to know what it was like, the battles that went on – and I was not battle-ready. I still had a lot of insecurity, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what I could really, truly bring beyond the energy. … I was very honest in saying, “I just can’t go here and not have a plan of attack.” So, I passed on the audition, and of course people probably thought I was crazy. People told me at the time, “Dude, this it. This is the highest point.” I mean, at the time, too, the show was still huge. The cast is incredible. Say what you want about the show at any given time – yes, it’s got its ebb and flow – but arguably, it’s like some of the people that were there at the time were some of the favorites.

So, cut [to] two years going by. You know, three, four, five, six years go by and, you know, from time to time I’d look at Jimmy Fallon and I’d be like, “You know, I don’t have any regrets, but I wonder if I did the right thing.” It would certainly enter my mind once in a while, especially during the dry season. And then a year before I hosted the show, Lorne Michaels called and was like, “I want to expand the cast and I need some fresh blood. Would you consider coming on?” I said, “Well, let me fly to New York. I know: You bring a couple of people down to see me. I’ll perform at the Strip.” So I went back to New York City and I did the Comic Strip. I told my fans about it. I remember it was a packed night. Lorne Michaels came down. I didn’t see him come in; I was in the backroom just kind of preparing myself – there’s a little side closet they call a backroom. When I came offstage my buddy Matt came up and he was freaking out: “Do you know who was here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, Lorne came with …” He goes, “No, Steve Martin.” So he brought Steve Martin down, and Steve Martin and I had a conversation after, which will remain one of the most incredible conversations I’ve ever had, about comedy and about my desire to want to achieve a certain success. I think the conversation I had with Steve Martin, aside from Lorne, gave me perspective that I did not need to do the show. At this point, I had this fanbase. I was enjoying the hell out of it. I was not really striving for anything beyond it. I had these people that understood me and that I understood. And I didn’t do the show. I said no. Now it’s not about confidence or whatever it may be. Now it’s just about, “That doesn’t feel like the right place for me to be right now.” I said no. Everything was amicable. They were cool with it and I was cool with it.

And, of course, I got a call months and months later after Retaliation came out, saying, “We’d love to have you come do the show.” My first question was, “Standup on the show, like a musical guest?” They said, “No, we want to host the show.” Good God, man, it was like, “Are you kidding me?” This is all so surreal but so real, as I like to say. … So much of anything in life comes back to that you’ve got to trust your gut. Sometimes the thing that’s dangled in front of you seems like, “Well, if there’s nothing else dangling and this looks pretty good …” I always believe you’ve go to go back to trust in that instinct. And, obviously, it’s never done me wrong.

Can you tell us a little bit about the movie projects you’re working on?

Employee of the Month is a Lions Gate comedy, my first leading role in a film. I’m costarring with Jessica Simpson – well, it’s a pretty good ensemble, but my other two, I guess, lead costars are Jessica Simpson and Dax Shepard. And what appealed to me was my friend Greg Coolidge, a good friend of mine for about five years, wrote [the script] and this is his directorial debut. … But we kind of always joked like, “Oh, it would be great if we could, you know, kind of pop at the same time,” and as fate would have it, things were happening at the same time. So when he contacted me and I read the script, I got about 25 pages in, I called him, I’m like, “This is in my wheelhouse, man. This is perfect.” This is a great first step in taking my fanbase into film. It’s a story with just straight laughs, but [it] has heart. And I’m always looking for that combination. I call it the Planes, Trains and Automobiles role. That’s one of my favorite comedies. I love movies that have that heart, have that comedy, but have a reason – you should have a reason to be doing all the shenanigans and all the tomfoolery or else it just turns into a long skit.

I play a guy, Zack Bradley, who works at this place called Super Club. It’s almost like a – well, it is – it’s Costco, one of those bulk stores. And I’ve worked there for 10 years, but you see me 10 years ago when I first started working there, thinking I was going to work there for like two weeks. “Oh my God, two weeks and then I’m out of here.” But I become this slacker who’s stuck in this place and I’ve got nothing going on and nothing beyond it. And I’m working beside Dax Shepard’s character, Vince Downey, and Vince is like, this is his life. He’s the cock of the walk in this place. So we’re very competitive with one another. We’ve never really liked one another and we’re constantly kind of picking at one another. He’s won “Employee of the Month” 17 months in a row. I’ve never even tried; I’m always late for work and I’m always cutting corners. What happens is, when Jessica Simpson’s character, Amy Renfro, comes to work at our store, there’s a rumor going around that she will only sleep with the guy who gets “Employee of the Month.” So now what you have here is, there’s this big competition that going on at the store – the big “Employee of the Month” competition – and I’m going to step up and not only am I going to try to beat Vince in “Employee of the Month,” but also I have the potential of getting with this hot chick, if that’s actually the truth. So now it becomes this alpha male thing where we’re both just completely battling in the store 24/7 to try and knock each other’s points down, because we’re being judged – there’s always judges watching how you deal with customers and how you deal with each other. So that’s it. It’s like a “vs.” comedy where it’s just two guys going head to head. So we did that, and I feel great about it. I feel like every day we did something on set that I know would appeal to my fans. That’s done, and I think that’s going to come out in September. I think that’s actually got a locked date for Sept. 29.

I started Mr. Brooks a few days ago. I filmed my first couple of scenes. When I was down doing Employee of the Month, I got a call that there was a drama/thriller with Kevin Costner, William Hurt and Demi Moore, and it’s called Mr. Brooks. I was on set, and the producers had seen a short film that I did three or four years ago called Spiral, which is this dark 20-minute short that I wrote and directed. They had seen that and Kevin Costner had seen my standup – he’d come down to the club and seen me – so they reached out to me and were like, “We really think that you could play this role. It’s not a comedic role, but would you put yourself on tape?” That usually equals “I’m never getting it.” Going on tape, it’s never worked in my case and [for] a lot of people I know. But I did it. Between scenes I went back to my trailer, filmed the scene, sent it in and got a call a couple of days later that everybody was just really impressed by it and they all thought I had a very different take on what they initially thought this character would be. And they asked me to come and be a part of it.

Kevin Costner plays a serial killer called the Thumbprint Killer and basically he murders couples, then he puts their fingerprints on the wall, kind of in a heart shape. What basically ends up happening is, I end up blackmailing his character into becoming his accomplice. I say, “Take me on the road. I want you to teach me how to kill, teach me what you do.” And so begins the story. Demi Moore plays the investigator, the detective who keeps coming to me to grill me and figure out what I know. William Hurt plays Kevin Costner’s alter ego. It’s pretty incredible. I’m doing scenes with Kevin and William, and they’ve made me feel very welcome right away. We’re off to the races and it’s been a fun couple of days already.

You’ve got “Dan in Real Life” coming up, in which you and Steve Carell play a pair of brothers.

Love Steve Carell. I think Steve Carell, even when I saw The 40-Year-Old Virgin and before that, I thought, “This is a guy that’s going to be around for a long time.” I really was looking for something where I could work with Steve Carell, and it came along. Peter Hedges is writing and directing this story about, I guess it’s a love triangle. Steve Carell is a widower. He’s got a couple of kids, meets this great woman in a bookstore, played by Juliette Binoche. They have a conversation. He’s telling her, “Oh, I’m back in town to have a family reunion. It was great to see you. I would like to keep in touch with you. We should be friends.” But he’s actually fallen in love with her. And when he finally comes home to the big family reunion, they start talking about this girl and we find out pretty quickly that she’s my girlfriend. So, it’s so wonderful and it comes back to that thing – it’s got such great heart. And the comedy is not like Employee of the Month; it’s not broad comedy. It’s really based in truth and it’s just a wonderful story.

And I saw that you’re working on something called “Dad Knap.”

Yeah, it’s so funny – I don’t know where that title came from – but, yes, I have a story that I’ve been writing that I’ve pitched to Disney and they responded to it. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a father-and-son road trip based around the idea of a son kidnapping his own father.

Has it been cast yet?

No, it’s still very early on but when I look at, like, Anger Management and I see [Adam] Sandler with [Jack] Nicholson … I think it’s got a tone, where you’d like to see one of those guys kind of get in the ring with my character. So, you know, it would be a blessing if we could get a high-caliber actor – a Harrison Ford-type or somebody like that – to play my dad. But we’re still in the very early stages of piecing it together.

With all of these projects lined up, your profile is about to shoot way up. One of the byproducts of fame is that you’re going to show up in the tabloids. What are your thoughts when you see yourself linked with this person or that person?

It’s pretty loony. It’s pretty wild to see. I was on set [filming Employee of the Month] when all the Jessica Simpson stuff started. We would be sitting there, because the whole thing with her is that … that certainly goes with her. We would say, “Jess, you should walk outside with the sound guy and throw a hug on him, and let’s see if you and Robert are in the tabloids next week.” It was like anybody who was in her circle would get a picture taken. But, of course, we’re working together and we’ve become friends. I remember the day that came out, you know, especially the [Us Weekly] cover story, and we just sat there. I was laughing. I mean, it was like high school. It was like being in high school and having everybody talk about who’s with who, and all the speculation.

So what do I think about it? In that case, I think it was pretty funny. And to be honest, I was like, “Hey, as long they’re talking about the movie.” Any press we can get where people know about this film certainly helps all of us. But beyond that, I think it’s pretty creepy. Having become friends with Jessica, and knowing a few people out here who are in that same kind of position, it’s just wrong. It’s really dangerous and scary, and some of the things that these photographers yell at people to get a reaction are absolutely pathetic and disgusting. It’s weird. The only thing that I’ve always looked at is, it always seems like, for whatever reason, they never really go after guys like Sandler or Chris Rock, or comic types. It always seems like those guys get a break, so all I can hope is maybe I won’t be as interesting if I’m not linked or whatever. But, yeah, it’s weird.

About the SUper FInger – my understanding is that to do the SU-FI properly, you have to be double-jointed. I am in one hand and not the other, so I can do it left-handed but not right-handed.

That’s usually the case, yep.

Are you concerned that that’s going to prevent it from completely rendering the plain ol’ middle finger completely obsolete, or has it caught on enough that you’re satisfied either way?

It certainly has caught on enough. One of my favorite things to do is sit on my e-mail and show somebody standing over my shoulder what rolls in. I get hundreds of photos every day, every couple of days, from around the world with people doing the SU-FI. In fact, I have a part of my website, which is getting ready to be updated, called SU-FI Planet. It’s literally people all over the globe in different places – from the pyramids, I’ve got troops in Iraq – there are so many people that this thing caught on to and people just latched on to it. Certainly some people have trouble with the thumb. I’ve had pictures of people having to hold their two fingers down. I attribute it to this – I learned how to play guitar many years ago and I couldn’t go from a G-chord to a C-chord. I mean, it was just impossible. I’d go, “Guitars are insane because nobody can do this.” And it just takes a little time before finally you’re like, “OK, my fingers can do that.” It’s just unnatural because of the two fingers being up.

So there is hope for my right hand?

There’s hope for the right. You can be ambidextrous. It doesn’t matter. I also like to say now that the thumb is optional. It’s almost like girls’ pushups. They can use the knees – it’s OK. But it’s really interesting, because when we talk, a lot of what we’re talking about is things that I dreamed up or worked toward trying to become a reality. And the one that more than any of these things – more than SNL or HBO stuff – that really kind of makes me sit back and truly chuckle is the SU-FI. … I used to say, “I want to start a catchphrase,” or, “How can I start a ‘totally awesome’?” Everybody wants to start something. I remember the first time I ever started doing it onstage. And then when people started doing it back to me at shows and it really took on a life of its own, it kind of led me for a little bit, where it was like, “Oh, people are really into this thing.”

The joke was, hey, I want to start this thing that catches on, and everybody around the world knows the SU-FI is like the new either “screw you” or “how ya doin’.” It’s like, it can be the “rock ‘n’ roll” sign, like “Hey, what’s up?” or it can be a true “f*** off.” When pictures really started to roll in, it was like, “Wow, I did it. I started that thing.” … The one thing that brings it full circle is, I get pictures from time to time of kids’ notebooks – you know, 10th grade – and they’ll take a picture of the notebook or the covering, the brown paper bag from the grocery store, and there’s the SUper FInger right there. And I’m like, “Wow, this is almost like a dream. I’m going to wake up any minute and still be in 10th grade with my head on my desk.”