Andrew Dice Clay, comedian and patron saint of political incorrectness, plans to re-conquer the comedy world, one show at a time.
In a meteoric career rise, Andrew Dice Clay parlayed a 1988 show-stealing performance on a televised Rodney Dangerfield special into sold-out tours of arenas across the country. A short two years later, he became the only comic to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights consecutively, an accomplishment he remains very proud of to this day. That was also the year that “Saturday Night Live” cast member Nora Dunn and musical guest Sinead O’Connor refused to appear on the show the night Clay hosted the program. Dice’s popularity reached rock-star proportions, but also attracted criticism that his act was misogynistic, racist, and homophobic. TV appearances and a feature film followed, but his popularity began to ebb several years later. His newfound status was not something he handled gracefully. He would sometimes threaten to walk out of an interview, as he did on CNN in 2003, when asked about his career going downhill and about his alleged job managing a gym. Dice responded angrily, “This is ridiculous. I come on CNN and the guy doesn’t even know what he’s talkin’ about . . . Jesus f***ing Christ! Every time I do an interview, a guy wants to open his mouth. Can’t even do a little f***in’ routine here. You know what? Go f*** yourself. Go f*** the whole f***in’ network!” as he stormed off the set. (Visit http://youtu.be/6M9C6a1K0nI to check out the fun.)
In recent years, Clay has appeared frequently on the Howard Stern radio show and in a cameo role on HBO’s “Entourage” in 2011, all of which has led to his latest comedy tour. We reached Dice recently for a few comments in advance of his Birmingham show.
Black & White: During the 1990 Madison Square Garden sold out shows, I’ve never seen a comic who had the audience in the palm of his hand like you did. They were reciting the jokes word for word.
Playin’ the arenas was really exciting and overwhelming at the same time. The Garden was great, but compared to other shows at other arenas, it was even calm. I sold out every major arena. I did that for about five years. The Garden is the most famous, but in Chicago, I sold [the arena] out five times. I mean, I used to go into these places and do 60,000–80,000 a people a weekend.
It has been rumored that, in the early stages of your career, some comedy clubs called the police to have you arrested.
Not in the clubs, but when I was doing the arenas—I’ll never forget—when I came to Cleveland, Ohio, and all of a sudden, my dressing room was just full of police laying down the law to me, [saying] “If anybody complains, you’re goin’ to jail.” I go, “Well, aren’t these all fans comin’ to see what I do? You tell me what you don’t want me to say, and I won’t say it. As long as I step on that stage, I collect my check.” I was like, what year are we living in?
Do you foresee a return to your heyday?
Well, no, but things are really starting to escalate again. After the success of “Entourage,” I packed a Brooklyn ball park—on a rainy 40-degree night. It was amazing. I am preparing to do a New Year’s Eve special for Showtime. That special will absolutely, hands down, show why I call myself the Undisputed King of Comedy. I mean, I will leave no doubt as to who is the rock star comic in this world. You know, it’s what I do and it’s what I’m great at.
Some people are O.K. at their jobs, but I’m a one-of-a-kind performer. When you call yourself [the Undisputed King of Comedy], and with what I’ve done in the past, it’s almost like a heavyweight fighter getting in the ring one more time. I always had this thing about never giving up, proving what you’re made out of, and my career has been a bumpy road. I’ve had awful marriages and because of that, I raised my own kids. And that’s beautiful. I had to back off for a decade as far as career moves because I had to raise them—which I wouldn’t change for the world—but now it’s time to prove that I’m the champion again.
So, I’m already in rehearsal. Every night I go on stage, every word means every thing to me. You know, a lot of comedians, they just don’t understand. They all want to be big superstars, but they don’t understand what it really takes to thrill the world. That’s why I always study rock stars, not comedians. Comedians, most of ‘em, they know nothing about performance. That’s why it gets boring when you watch a comic after five minutes. I studied all that stuff; it’s what I was about growing up. It was about everybody from Elvis to Led Zeppelin to Sly Stallone to John Travolta to James Dean to Muhammad Ali to Joe Namath—gigantic personalities.
They knew how to thrill the world. Not just with what they were capable of doing in the ring or on the football field, but also the way they would speak to the public. It came naturally, you know what I mean? There’s a million comics trying to be what Dice is, but this is what God gave me to do, this is my gift. &
Andrew Dice Clay is appearing at the Stardome Comedy Club on Tuesday, February 28, 6:30 p.m. Tickets and information: (205) 444-0008 or visit www.stardome.com.