The Boston Strong benefit concert that streamed over the web Thursday night was notable for appearances by homegrown artists ranging from Aerosmith to the reunited New Kids on the Block. But the most talked about act of the night was Dane Cook... and not because America suddenly fell in love with him all over again.
The hostility toward Cook toward the end of the show became rampant enough that the comedian became a trending topic on Twitter — out of sheer contempt. He's always been a polarizing comic, but what caused him to become a social media supervillain on a night devoted to charity and good vibes? Just this: The web feed being viewed by millions went dead as soon as he took the stage and came back on as soon as he left, leading to rampant speculation that he had disallowed organizers from sending his set over the web like everyone else's.
Eventually Cook confirmed it himself, sounding blithe about the rampant contempt directed his way: "Hey everyone sorry my set was not a part of the live stream or televised! I didn't want any of the new material to hit the airwaves yet! I can't wait to share it soon!"
If the marathon bombings made Bostonians mad, Cook's "Dane Cook move" (as one angry tweeter put it) might have been the one thing that could have enraged locals even more. Jeff Howe, a sports writer for the Boston Herald, unleashed a series of tweets bashing the comic. "Couldn't imagine turning on a city the way @DaneCook did tonight. I know that's not how it goes here in Massachusetts... I'll admit, I used to think he was hilarious, but turning your back on your state makes you look like a squirrel... Why use a tragedy to tease your career?"
Other Boston residents or sympathizers joined in on Twitter: "I have loved Dane Cook since day 1, but I am just speechless on what he did tonight. Feel betrayed"... "If this rumor is true about Dane Cook blocking the stream of his performance for a charity show, he should rot in hell asap"... "Dane Cook right up the with Onizneb as the shame of Massachusetts"... "We will always forgive Doug Flutie for the gym shorts, but we will never forgive Dane Cook for being Dane Cook"... "If Dane Cook wasn't just censored and he blocked it himself, he has become public enemy number 1"... "I hear Dane Cook earned $100,000 for Boston charities by auctioning off his exit from the stage"... And so on.
Cook did allow himself to appear on camera for the all-star finale, joining Aerosmith for the the classic rock song "Dirty Water" and wielding Steven Tyler's mic stand, apparently unaware of the fact that he'd just become the most discussed alleged evildoer in America. As one tweeter wrote, "Watching Dane Cook sing and dance oblivious to the fact Boston hates him is the funniest thing he has done in years!"
At first, viewers figured there might be technical difficulties when the feed dropped out moments after Cook came on stage, since the first third of the five-hour-plus concert was plagued by streaming difficulties that rendered the show virtually unwatchable. That buffering disaster caused untold thousands to tune out of the broadcast and stirred up its own social-media firestorm, until the streaming finally smoothed out at about the time Jason Aldean took the stage two hours into the show.