Dane Cook is opening up about the time he had a “huge breakdown” on the day of his “Saturday Night Live” audition, eventually leading him to turn down the offer to join the sketch comedy show.
Recalling the audition on Daily Beast‘s “Last Laugh” podcast, Cook says he was called in to audition when the series was seeking a replacement for Adam Sandler for the 1998-1999 season. The “SNL” team called Cook’s manager and said he was a perfect fit – all he needed to do was “go in front of Lorne Michaels” to seal the deal. Prepping an impersonation of Christian Slater, Cook made his way to the iconic studio where he “had a huge, huge breakdown outside of Rockefeller Plaza.”
“I sat on a bench. I couldn’t breathe,” he shares. “I’ve only had in my life, fortunately, a few really bad, catatonic state-level panic attacks — incapacitated — and this was just about there sitting on that bench.”
It was on that bench that the comedian realized he couldn’t go through with the audition despite being a shoo-in because the “politics of working there” was already causing him stress.
“I had a couple of friends that were on the show, so I knew it could be cutthroat,” he explains of his decision. “I was not a confrontational person. I was not a person who could fight for my opinion. I was really scared a lot. And I was like, ‘I’m not ready for that. I can’t do that. I can’t fight.’ And I called my manager and said, ‘I’m not going in.'”
“And man, I disappointed a lot of people that day. I really disappointed myself,” he adds.
Eventually, Jimmy Fallon would get the “SNL” gig. Years later, Cook says he has no regrets about his decision to bail on his audition and chance to become a featured player and instead, is “happy” the spot went to Fallon.
“So there was a little part of me that was happy that [Fallon] seemed happy and he’s great, but also a little part of me, that’s like, ‘Ooh, I don’t have to do that. He can do it’,” he says.
In 2005 Cook came back to Rockefeller Plaza to host “SNL”, spending some time back on that very bench he had his breakdown on years prior.
“I went outside before and I sat on that same bench that I cried at and felt like I failed and told myself, no, that was the beginning of your success right in that moment,” Cook says.