Andrew “Dice” Clay for a brief time in the late 1980s was the biggest comic in America. He sold out arenas nationwide, twice filling up Madison Square Garden.
But his schtick also drew accusations of sexism, racism and seemingly every other “ism” out there. Eventually, fans tired of the act, and he grew bitter under the media heat. He disappeared from the pop culture conversation. A reality show in 2007 (”Dice Undisputed”) died after just seven episodes.
Now 54, more than two decades after his career peek, Clay is still on the comeback trail. His latest calling card was a well-received role playing a demanding version of himself on HBO’s “Entourage” last year. Fox’s “Raising Hope” featured him last fall. And he is now shopping another reality show about himself. And you can see him Monday, Feb. 27 at the Punchline.
If anything, he hasn’t let adversity obliterate his confidence.
Here are segments of my recent Q&A with him:
Q: “Dice” was originally a character. How much is “Dice” part of you now?
A: Years ago, it really was a character. It’s now part of me. When I look at old footage, my first special was very cartoonish. What was real about me was the fact I’m from Brooklyn. I did smoke cigarettes. I’m actually smoking again after 10 years. I lost my father a few months ago. When he got really sick, I lit up again. We were very close. He was my manager throughout my career. Even when I had the biggest manager in the industry, I wouldn’t make a move without my dad. I lit up again. And I’ll have to quit again because I’m training for a Showtime special that’s supposed to air New Year’s Eve. This is my first special in 16 years. And trust me, they’ll be no doubt in this country why my fans refer to me as the undisputed king of comedy.
Q: Sixteen years is a long time. What happened?
A: Life gets in the way sometimes. I went through an awful divorce. It became way more important for my sons to live with me and bring them up right the last decade than make career moves. Then I started making these moves a couple years ago. Did Donny Trump’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice.” Then I got the “Entourage” part, which just propelled me. It gave me a whole new audience and visibility.
Q: How did the “Entourage” part even come about?
A: It actually came about through a freak thing. I ran into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in 15 years. I went to Starbucks and my friend Bruce is sitting there. He starts playing with his Blackberry. I don’t know what he’s doing and I get annoyed. He was texting Doug Ellin [the creator of "Entourage."] He tells me, “Doug Ellin thinks you’re the greatest comic that ever was and wants a meeting with you today.” I met with him the next day. I didn’t know it would turn out as big as it did. I first thought it’d be a walk on.
Q: Will you be in the “Entourage” movie?
A: I might be. It’s starting to get written. It’s an exciting time. I was really heavy and I got into shape for “Entourage.”
Q: How much weight have you lost?
A: Probably 30, 35 pounds since last year. It’s not just weight loss. I’m training with a guy named George Pipasik. He trained with me for ‘Ford Fairlane.’ He was Sly Stallone’s trainer for “Rocky.”
Q: Did you ever feel lost when your career wasn’t going so well?
A: I was never lost. I was more lost in my personal life. I’m a very focused performer. I never stopped performing. I didn’t have the management, didn’t have the team. It was way more important to bring up my sons right, to have that closeness and teach them as a man. That’s paying off now. My youngest son Dylan won a silver medal in the Junior Olympics for water polo. He’s focused on school and going to college. My older son Max is doing stand-up now, too.
Q: Are you still bitter about how you were treated in the 1990s?
A: The media came down worse on me than they did on O.J.! It was ridiculous. I’m out there making people laugh. I sold out the Garden two nights in a row. I did 300 arenas and sold out.
Q: People seem even more sensitive now than they used to be, especially jokes about gays. Does that make it tougher for you?
A: When gay people were first really coming out of the closet, I really believe most of them never saw my jokes because they were funny jokes. It wasn’t hateful. As I got attacked by the media, I have to admit I got more vicious. I got angry. The initial jokes were funny… I never hated gays. Moving to Hollywood, where it’s a big gay community, I thought it was just a great target comedically for a Brooklyn guy. I became a magnet for every group looking to get publicity for themselves. Do I have gay friends? Of course I do. Do I have women friends? Of course I do. I’m not a gay basher. I’m not a woman basher. I talk about sex on stage. I talk about the Internet. I talk about how nuts people are about the Internet. Why not bang a chick in person than on your computer screen? I make jokes about it.
When I used to say, ‘Treat me like the pig that I am,’ women would say that’s not right. Now they’re dressing up in zebra and cheetah prints. They are dressing up like animals. It used to be men were the aggressors. Women are the aggressors now. It’s why I got married in a year’s time. My wife is half my age and I can’t believe the attitudes of women. I respect it. Instead of playing games, they’re honest about it. Women will talk about sex openly. I think the Internet has broken down trust. It makes it so much easier for people to cheat. If you are with somebody, you better trust them.
Q: Do you trust your wife [Valerie Vasquez] completely?
A: I do trust her. She is the one woman in my life who is totally behind what I do. She runs my social media stuff. She runs my merchandising. She’s a go getter. She’s young. She’s only 28 years old. She’s given me a reason to hit greatness again. When I met her, I was going through a rough patch losing people I’ve loved. But the one thing I got from my father was iron will, to never give up on myself. If I do anything, I go full steam ahead.
Q: Do you feel bad for Tracy Morgan [who got dinged for making anti-gay jokes last year.]?
A: I don’t feel bad for him. He did what he wanted to do. Tracy made an even bigger name for himself. I had never paid attention to the guy until I heard that. He’s got a great show. He’s got movie stardom.
Q: Why are you doing the Punchline?
A: I’m working on my special. I get to work on my material.
Q: You charged $100 a ticket the last time you came to the Punchline in 2007. That was a little nuts, wasn’t it?
A: That was called Club Dice. It was getting to see Dice in a very intimate setting. There were some clubs the Golden Circle prices were $250. This was all before the recession hit, though. So now it’s $35. Times are tough.
Andrew “Dice” Clay
7 and 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27. $35.
Punchline Comedy Club. 280 Hilderbrand Dr., Sandy Springs. 404-252-LAFF
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk