To call Andrew Dice Clay's comedic career long and storied would be an understatement. Since first appearing on a Rodney Dangerfield special in the late 1980s, Clay's leather-jacket-wearing, chain-smoking mug has become synonymous with the kind of raunchy comedy that dominated the scene in the 1990s.
He became the first stand-up comic to sell out Madison Square Garden on two consecutive nights (and only five others have done it since) and became a magnet for controversy thanks to a particularly foul mouth and highly sexualized set.
After more than a decade of unheard of success, the father of two endured a rough, albeit quiet fall from the spotlight in the early 2000s that included many a failed television series and a VH1 reality show. His career off the rails, Clay turned to gambling in Las Vegas in the summer of 2010 to make his money back, earning over a million dollars by his own estimation.
The good fortune didn't just start with money. Entourage creator Doug Ellin, himself a former struggling stand-up comedian, offered Clay a major role during the series' final season. It was the beginning of a second wind.
These days the 56-year-old Diceman has found his way back to relevancy and the tour circuit. He has a new special on Showtime, Andrew Dice Clay: Indestructible, a weekly podcast, Rollin' With Dice and Wheels, and a surprisingly dramatic and well-received role in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. The future looks just as promising, with his memoir The Filthy Truth slated for a May 2014 release.
The "Undisputed Heavyweight King of Comedy" returns to the Valley Saturday for a show at Ovations Live! Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. Expect plenty of signature nursery rhymes and NSFW-language during his set -- just don't call the show a comeback, or ask where he's been the past few years. (We learned that the hard way.)
You've repeatedly referred to this past year as a "resurgence," not a comeback, saying a "comeback" implies actively trying to remain relevant. What were you doing during your time off the radar, and why reappear now? I never took anything off. There was no time off.
Ok, so for the past few years you've just been laying low or...? You didn't do any homework on this interview?
I did, yeah. Well, then you would know what I've been up to. I can't go back in the past if you don't know that stuff. It's too complicated.
We can just move on then. Let's talk a little bit about Blue Jasmine. How is the process going from stand-up comedy to being a dramatic actor? What newspaper -- can I just ask you what newspaper this is?
Yeah, absolutely. It's the Phoenix New Times. Ok. It just seems like you don't have any information on me. I've done dramatic acting, but I didn't do it for years. Alright, we'll just... it's ok. I just put myself in the role. It's what you do.
It just seemed like a departure from the acting you'd been doing in something like Entourage, which was more of a caricature of yourself. I've been around for a long time and done a lot of projects. That's why I'm asking what you know or don't know. Most people know I've done dramatic acting in the past, but I haven't in a while. Getting the opportunity to work with someone like Woody Allen, you know, you take it serious. And I didn't know whether the movie was comedic or dramatic. What I saw from my part, it was a very heavy part. So I just observed myself in the role.
Do you plan to pursue more dramatic roles like that in the future, then? Yeah, I would. Definitely.
How is dramatic acting different for you than stand-up? What do you get out of it? I'm an actor. I do any kind of role, I don't care if it's comedic, dramatic... it's all the same to me. It's almost like -- and trust me I'm not comparing myself to him, because I think he's one of the greats as far as just acting -- like somebody like James Franco who has done unbelievable dramatic roles but yet he could go do Pineapple Express. You just absorb yourself in the role.
Do you approach stand-up differently, then? I mean, back in the 1980s and '90s it seemed like, obviously that was you doing stand-up, but it also seemed like you were playing a role -- As far as a comic, I've always believed in giving people a real show rather than standing there and just sort of delivering your bits, as they would call it. So I always put myself into it, creating something a little more for the audience than a lot of comics think about, even. Because a lot of comics aren't trying to become actors, they just love doing stand-up, and a lot of them don't know that much about performance art, so they just deliver their material. Me, I'm more of an actor than a comic, so I put myself into whatever I'm doing, whether it be live on stage -- like what I'm going to do in Phoenix -- or playing a part, like Blue Jasmine.
Okay, so you're talking about approaching it as more of an acting thing, and I think it's very apparent to people who were fans of your stand-up and watched those specials that you were performing as a character, taking on this kind of persona -- Well, I'm from Brooklyn.
Right. So, it was pretty easy to do as far as the Brooklyn attitude goes. The material was almost... you know, as Lenny Bruce put it many years ago, "putting a mirror in people's faces." Through my comedic persona, go into what goes on in society -- mostly sexual.
Do you think that because you did that, that's why you were crucified so heavily by women's groups and the like? Man, I want to think before I answer that question. What happened with me never happened before with a comic in history.
How do you mean? Meaning a comic to have on the Rodney Dangerfield special for I don't know, eight or ten minutes, and then be selling a hundred thousand tickets a week. Nobody in history has ever done that -- has done the kind of arena shows I did as a comedian. I did over three hundred arena shows and that was before the computer age, it was all word of mouth.
I mean, you know, places like Phoenix I would come and do three or four nights at the Celebrity Theater. And around the country, you know, places like Chicago... 18,000 seats... five shows. Things like that. It was crazy. And because of the material, because it was sexually fueled, women's groups did come after me. Because there was gay material that I was doing at the time [and] gays were just starting to come out of the closet, those groups -- those activist groups -- would come after me. I was like a lightning rod to any group. [laughs] It was pretty funny.
So, do you still -- I mean, it wasn't funny to me. It was a hassle, but I had a job to do as a comic.
And you saw your job as "putting that mirror in people's faces" regarding those issues? Yes.
So, what can people expect from your set now? I mean, it's 2013. I have a special on Showtime now.
Yeah, but -- Nothing has changed, except being more modern about it and what goes on today with everything.
When you say "more modern," what do you mean by that? In terms of language? You know, the world has turned... women have really become aggressive in relationships, way more than they were 20 years ago. So I talk about all that. I talk about the Internet and the influence it's had on people and where it's all gone.
When you say women have become more aggressive in relationships, what do you mean by that? Do you have a specific example? Go to Facebook and look at pages. You know, every woman for example... not every, you know, but can't take enough selfies of themselves to put up on this site and call themselves models. Posing in thongs and putting up little films of themselves twerking online... it makes for good material.
Got it. So, in that same vein, you used to get in a lot of hot water for using language like "fag" and "faggot." Do you still find yourself gravitating toward that word specifically? What's the point of still using such a loaded word? I mean, I feel like the shock value has worn off a bit. The words I use are you know, for effect.
So you still regularly use it then? I don't really walk around calling anybody faggot.
Right, but you defend its use in your set? In the act I approach gay marriage.
Because it's topical? I just think it's funny.
Like, the concept is funny? My jokes about it are funny. I believe anybody should be allowed to marry anybody they want, whether they're straight, gay or anything else. I don't care. I just happen to like women. If gay people want to be married, I don't think anybody has the right to stop them.
Do you plan to keep touring for a while now since you were out of the spotlight for so long? I'm not touring as much because I am doing a lot more movie and TV projects. I'm also working on an autobiography that has to be out by May from Simon & Schuster called The Filthy Truth. So a lot of my time has been eaten up. A lot of my performances are in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel. I don't tour as much. I am doing the bigger places again -- not arena size, but three- four-thousand seaters at this point. It's fun. It's fun to be doing that again.
You know, when I took off in '88, people never saw anything like me [before]. Journalists hated me and fans loved me. But things have really loosened up and people understand that it is all in fun and it is all a joke, you know just for entertainment value.
You know, someone's shouting in the front row and I make a joke on stage like "who'd you think you were gonna see tonight, [Jerry] Seinfeld?" I love Jerry Seinfeld. To me, as far as just an observational, cleaner comic which he prides himself in, he's the best there is. Nobody's around that's better than him. But as far as straight-up rock 'n roll stand-up, you've got Dice.
Your son [Max Silverstein] is also a comedian, did you give him any advice when he was starting out? I do give him advice as far as presentation on stage, but I never try to influence his material, because everybody when they get on the stage has a right to their own opinions and things. So I lay back from that and let him build his own story. Plus, he is a musician with the band L.A. Rocks, I mean he knows a lot about performance already.
Were you expecting him to go into comedy at all? Well, no. Both of my sons are into acting and they perform regularly as L.A. Rocks with their original band and Max is also into the comedy. My son Dylan is just about acting and music.
You mention you're also working on your memoirs. I know there's also talk of a movie. Is James Franco still the choice to play you in that? The most important thing for someone like Franco, and it is a little too soon for it, is the script itself, as far as a film goes. The conversation we had was basically he would love to play that role, because it's a very interesting role to play, but it's gotta be a great script and we're not at that level yet. The book has to first come out.
How's that process for you? Painful. [laughs] I'll never write another book again. Believe me, I could write four books about my life, five books... I've lived a bunch of lives already. But it's very hard to pick and choose the stories you want to tell the public. You want to tell them stuff, like inside stuff that they never knew.
Like, when you were first starting out in the Comedy Store? Yeah, everything. From things that went on at the Store to relationships I've had with women to relationships I've had with other comics good, bad, you know. That's why I call the book The Filthy Truth, because I like telling people the real deal. What interests people when they read about someone's life is to read about the pain you go through. You know, I don't think anybody could write a good book unless they've been through a lot. That's why, 25 years ago when my career took off and I was offered book deals I wouldn't do a book because I'd just made it! Unless they wanted a book about my first ten years of banging around comedy clubs around the country, I didn't have a story to tell ya. Now I do.
Are you worried about stepping on anybody's toes, ex-wives or anybody in the comedy circuit? Or are you just getting it all out there? I'm not really looking to attack people, I just tell the stories as they happened. I have a really good memory for stuff, including dialogue between me and certain people, that's why I'm even doing the book.
And that comes out in May? It's supposed to, unless I can't make the deadline. Which is in about two weeks.
Are you close? Yeah, I'm doing good. It's just a brutal process. Certain things you write about are not easy to write about.
I can imagine. On a lighter note, what's your key to finding the perfect leather jacket? You're the expert, you've got a lot of 'em. I've bought leathers, I've had leather jackets custom made for me... I like a thicker leather, more of a cowhide leather. Something that you can really feel, almost like a suit of armor on stage. I really need to feel the leather, a lot of my jackets are really heavy -- especially the custom ones. Like the one I wore at the [Madison Square] Garden, you wouldn't be able to just grab that jacket and just pick it up. If you were just running out of the house and needed a jacket, it's not the type... it's heavy. It's like a couple pounds heavy. It has like, 11 thousand rhinestones and studs.
Crazy. Yeah, it is crazy. That's why a lot of times I wear motorcycle vests. You can eliminate the sleeves, it gets really hot in there. You can really get going and deplete all your energy within minutes on stage with the lights if you don't pace your set well. So we can expect to see you in a leather vest, then, when you come to Arizona? Either a jacket or a vest. I haven't been to Phoenix in awhile. They used to call me "The Stripper's Comic" in Phoenix. When I would perform at the Celebrity Theater, a lot of the strip clubs in town, the owners would close for the night and bring all the girls to see me perform. [laughs] It was pretty crazy.
Wow. Well, is there anything else you'd like to add? See, I did my research. Not bad, not bad.
Thanks, I appreciate it. We got past the first minute.
I mean, I am half your age. So you're an Entourage fan?
Uh -- Part of that new generation who's been coming to see me now because of that show. That was the beginning. Doug Ellin, who created that show, knew if he put me on -- he's a giant Dice fan to start with -- and he knew if he put me on my career would blow through the roof. He believed it, and now we sit and talk about it. It's pretty unbelievable.
I'm very humble with it, as far as what's happened with the career. That's the side of me you don't get to see on the stage.
Well, I know that you had an issue with gambling in order to make your money back for a while there and were playing small clubs -- I'm not in the gambling business [anymore]. The career's taking off and I'm able to earn again. I looked at that like desperate times need desperate measures. And I did what I had to to survive.
Good to hear you're back on the up-and-up, then. Yeah, it's exciting, you kidding? I don't take it for granted, any of it. It's like I say to everybody, like from The Godfather when Lee Strasberg said, "This is the business we chose."
Catch the Diceman 8 p.m. Saturday, November 30 at Ovations Live at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler. Tickets range from $20-$99. Visit www.wingilariver.com.
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