Cook’s routine is that of a brash, adrenaline-filled outsider whose vitriolic distaste for modern society conjures thoughts of Bill Burr on PCP. Sheen, meanwhile, is a foul-mouthed, huggable teddy bear of a comic—akin to a more congenial version of the titular character in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.
The two will headline a 90-minute show on Thursday at the Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE, 10:15pm, $7, 18+). It’s part of their Pains, Complaints and Comedy Clubs tour and just another leg in eight years of comedic kinship and endless buddy road-tripping.
While touring, Cook and Sheen have learned to love, loathe and understand one another. Both comics point to their combative comradery as one of their strongest bonds and a shared quality that keeps their material sharp. “What’s fun is [that] Bryan and I push each other,” Sheen says. “It’s very fun to get Bryan upset about things and listen to him rant. It’s also even more fun to not give him the energy that he wants, because to hear the wind go out of his sails—it’s almost like a small victory.”
Sheen relates an anecdote of one of their first comedic voyages together. For the entirety of a tour, Cook was hellbent on verbally accosting Sheen to the point where blows would be thrown. Instead of retaliating, Sheen responded by killing his companion with kindness. Naturally, Cook fumed. “It’s literally like Ren and Stimpy in the car,” Sheen says.
[T]heir sets are infused with socially and politically motivated material. The ape-brained politics of homophobes, for example, are a common theme in each performer’s routine.
When interviewed, Cook is notably more reserved and polite than his onstage persona would suggest. Still, he wastes no time going to town on his mic mate. “The funny thing about Derek is that he comes across as very sweet, but he’s a miserable sack of shit,” Cook says, affectionately referring to Sheen as a “tiny idiot” and “a delightful mess.”
Their friendship began about eight years ago in Seattle. Amid a dwindling music career in the Emerald City, Cook was working as a beer rep for Pabst, which sponsored events that Sheen would perform at. Sheen says he admired Cook for being one of the few people at stand-up shows who had no problem calling bullshit on sub-par acts—a forthright trait that would inform his comedic trajectory. “People use the word edgy too much, but I’d say it actually applies to Bryan,” Sheen says. “He talks about things that I don’t think I would ever have the courage to.” Two years after he met Sheen, Cook quit music “cold turkey” and made an abrupt transition into stand-up.
Cook’s risqué persona bleeds into another endeavor he’s well-known for—his popular weekly Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction podcast, which began in the Pacific Northwest in 2012. He also worked as a writer on Joan Rivers’ “Fashion Police” show and freelances his comedic penmanship across Hollywood. Eight years Cook’s senior, Sheen has committed to a full-time career in stand-up and has become a go-to opener for his idol, Patton Oswalt.
As for what to expect in Albuquerque, Sheen says he has a fresh bit for audiences who caught him at The Box last year. Cook, of course, will be up to his usual acerbic hijinks. “I’ve got a nice, long chunk about serial killers and kidnappers—that’s always a real crowd-pleaser,” he says. “But who knows? I’d like to spend the whole time talking about Derek’s terrible driving abilities.” Genevieve Mueller will open the Guild show, with fellow Albuquerquean Danger K Varoz acting as emcee.