The Diceman Cometh
By Paul Rogers
“My career’s always either been in the f*#%ing toilet or through the roof—there’s never been an in-between with me,” says Andrew Dice Clay in his signature street-wise New York timbre. “And this is just putting me up there again—it’s really unbelievable.”
The veteran comic, who’ll be performing at Ontario Improv on May 6 and 7, is referring to his upcoming recurring role in the eighth season of HBO’s popular Entourage comedy-drama—in which he’ll play himself.
“It’s an honor to play yourself,” says Clay. “If you live long enough, you hit that certain thing in your career where people look at you a little different—it’s almost like a survivor.”
Clay’s star rose rapidly after he moved to Los Angeles from New York City in 1980. His coarse, controversial sense of humor and over-the-top stand-up style (usually performing in a studded leather jacket with the word “Dice” across the back) quickly grabbed both the audiences’ attention and headlines. His fame further boosted by roles in movies like The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Pretty in Pink (in which his “Dice” character originated), and on numerous TV shows, Clay soon earned his own HBO specials, released best-selling DVDs and, by 1990, was able to sell-out New York’s Madison Square Garden two nights in a row.
But then a backlash began. Critics called Clay’s act misogynistic, degrading and even homophobic and racist. Women’s rights groups were outraged, and soon radio and television shows were banning Clay.
He remains the only performer banned from MTV for life.
“The Comedy of Hate”
“When it all started, I wasn’t prepared for the level of media blitz,” he sighs. “Because before my career took off, all [of the] interviews that were written about me were pretty favorable . . . and then all of a sudden, when the career took off, it was ‘the comedy of hate.’”
“It really took me off guard and for a while it did get me angry, and then I thought about it and I haven’t even read my own press in many, many years . . . As long as I’m selling out those seats and those people are laughing and having a great time, that’s the bottom line.”
Clay feels that his critics took his on-stage persona too seriously and too literally. He describes his stand-up character as “an amplified version of who I am,” but stresses that his material is “very amplified.”
“My whole thing on stage is just to make people laugh and to make them laugh at themselves at the things we all do,” says Clay in a tone that suggests he’s made the explanation a thousand times. “So if you’re talking about sex, you’ve got to paint a very comedic picture. I’m not there as Dr. f*#%ing Phil! I’m there as Andrew Dice Clay making fun of the couple up front where the wife might be wearing a leopard top with half her tit hanging out!”
To an extent, Clay senses that he was a victim of his own success—that his public prominence made pointing the finger at him all the more attractive. “I felt like I was a lightning rod,” he laments. “Like all these activist groups—if they attacked me, they’d get publicity off of it. I did realize that, so I didn’t care too much about that. I know who I am as a human being, so it’s not going to bother me too much.”
The Family Clay
Nonetheless, under fire and with his popularity waning, Clay backed away from the entertainment business for some years both to lick his wounds and to focus on being a father.
“Most of the last decade it was all about raising my two boys. It was a cliché, awful divorce [from second wife Kathleen Monica], so both my sons live with me,” he explains. “It was like a life-choice to me: I could always have a career, but you get one shot at bringing up your kids [. . .] That’s really what I’m very proud of—that I have such good kids. And now I can build the career and give the public what they want again. And it really feels that they do want it again.”
Clay sees his Entourage role as “the biggest thing to date” in what he likes to dub his “resurgence” (rather than calling it a “comeback”). And landing the part has been a double joy for him, as he’s a longtime fan of the show (which chronicles the adventures of a young movie star and his childhood friends from New York City as they navigate L.A.’s show biz jungle)—perhaps because he recognizes so much of his own story in it.
“I’ve lived a lot of that,” he attests. “Like the show Entourage, not everybody is loyal. And show business is a crazy world and there’s a lot of back-stabbing and a lot of ‘what can I get out of this for me’—and a lot of ‘friends’ that aren’t really friends [. . .] I’ve been such a fan of the [Entourage] show, the entire run, so it’s really exciting for me to be on it . . . Could you imagine from being on the couch to being on the show now?”
As Clay ramps-up his touring schedule again, aiming for bigger and bigger venues, Entourage has provided a timely shot in the arm for ticket sales, he says. “It’s already had an effect because, just from the media grabbing onto it a little and putting it out there I’m already selling tickets in 3,000- and 4,000-seaters.”
Clay is promising a blend of popular segments from his heyday and new material at his Ontario shows (where his son Max will be one of the opening comics). “I made it long enough ago that the newer fans, the kids . . . you’ve got to give them some of that older material—some of that classic Dice stuff. But also you want to show them you haven’t rested on your f*#%ing laurels and there’s newer stuff too—which is just as raw, but modern.”
As well as younger fans, Clay claims that he’s seeing more and more ladies in his audiences of late. “Women are going crazy for Dice, because women have changed so much,” he enthuses, warming to his subject. “This generation of women [is] not afraid to be aggressive with their men—today it’s women asking men out . . . So, they’re coming in droves to see Dice now. And when I do a line like, ‘Hey, treat me like the pig that I am!’ they high-five each other!”
The Diceman Delivers
“One thing I’ve always done is work on my act and give people what they really want as The Diceman. If you’ve got the big fat girl in the front row with the big tits, she’s going to get it; if you’ve got the guy in the front that’s bald with a giant head, he’s going to get it. There [are] no holds [barred] when you come to a Dice show.”
Amazingly, considering the abuse he dishes out to those in the front row, Clay says that those seats at his shows are both the most expensive and the first to sell.
“[People] come in to be outraged and I’m still the comic to do that. And it’s not really about the filth; it’s about the pictures I paint for them,” he explains. “You’ve got to have the material behind it and that’s the key: great material.”
“I think if critics have missed one thing about me it’s how great the material is—because the minute they come to see the language they’re going, ‘This guy’s a terrible guy.’ But if you listen to what I’m talking about and how I lay it out, you go, ‘Y’know what? This is pretty brilliant!’”
Clay sees himself as offering a recession-ready release for his audiences—an escape from their worries about jobs, gas prices, foreclosures and ominous world events.
A Public Service
“I feel like I’m doing something really good when I’m just blowing an audience’s mind for that hour. ‘Cos they don’t just laugh at me; they laugh at me. They laugh with me; they laugh like their best friend is making them laugh—and that’s a great service for people.
“It’s almost like a hooker for a guy that can’t get laid! Sometimes people just really want to laugh f*#%ing hard. There’s a difference between laughing at some comic you see on Leno that gives you a little chuckle here and there and then there’s the kind of laughter where you can’t control yourself!”
Ultimately Andrew Dice Clay has lived by the sword and died by the sword—and he apparently accepts this reality. The very button-pushing, shamelessly non-PC material that made him also slayed him and, for all of his considerable career ups and downs, he genuinely seems to harbor few regrets and to be comfortable with himself and his humor.
“I don’t ever think of that [criticism] stuff,” he concludes. “I know who I am. I’ve got a great, brand new wife; I’ve always loved women; I’ve always loved sex . . . [But] family; bringing up kids is, I think, the biggest accomplishment.”
Andrew Dice Clay at Ontario Improv, 4555 Mills Circle Ontario Mills Ontario, (909) 484-5411; www.improv.com/comedyclub/ontario. Fri (8PM and 10PM shows) and Sat (7PM and 9PM)shows), May 6-7. $30.