In Andrew Dice Clay's heyday he sold out Madison Square Garden twice, but he also inspired a boycott on "Saturday Night Live" by a female cast member and the scheduled musical guest, Sinéad O'Connor.
But Dice paid for his lewd, crude and misogynistic ways -- not to mention the affinity for way too much leather -- in the late '90s, when a failed reality show and a quick exit off "The Apprentice" made it clear the Diceman would not be coming back to the adoring/despising crowds. He was forgotten.
Now he's on the latest season of "Entourage," playing a foul-mouthed, washed-up version of the Diceman, a character he claims contains more truth about himself than his reality show ever presented. And this time around, he's winning praise for his performance.
So what changed? When did the comedian get a sense of humor about his own life? I spoke to Dice (his preferred name) on the phone last week about his new role, his sons -- and his disgust with Internet pornography. Unbelievable.
So, what should I call you? Andrew? Dice? Diceman? Andrew Dice Clay?
Dice is cool.
I was talking to Paul Provenza recently, and he told me to ask about your sons.
My son Max was on "Entourage" with me. It's funny: He tells everyone he's playing my son, and I go, "But you are!" He goes, "I know, but for the show, I'm just playing it."
That's an interesting concept -- playing yourself.
Yeah, it's hysterical. Like I'm playing "me." I got a part, and it's being myself. That's what makes ["Entourage" creator] Doug Ellin so great. He would come up to me before filming and ask, "Now, can you be you?"
But I understand that question, because a lot of people can't throw away whatever their persona is in what they do and really act like themselves, personality-wise, in front of a camera.
Where does that persona end? I was reading an old interview with you from the A.V. Club where David Wolinsky compared you to Andy Kaufman, and you kept saying no -- that "Dice" wasn't a character. That it was all about the material.
Yeah, but when you put yourself into the material, you do become a different person. It's a very fine line.
But I imagine this concept of "playing yourself" has come up before. You had a reality show on VH1 for a short stint, and "Celebrity Apprentice" ...
Yeah, but on my reality show, they weren't letting me be me. That's the funny part. They were making up situations that would never happen in my world. Like, I had to go get an image change in an episode ... they dressed me up like a rapper, and I'm like, "Why are we doing this?"
I'll never forget telling the producers, "Look, we can do this my way and you'll have a show on for the next three years, or we can do this your way and after seven episodes you guys will be looking for work."
They chose the latter.
They want drama. I mean, look what they do to those people who live next door to each other on those f***ing "Housewives" shows.
Or "Jersey Shore"?
No, I love "Jersey Shore" because they are letting those kids run wild and be themselves. It's a party show. Those housewives, though; there's not a show I turn on where they're not drinking. It doesn't matter if they're taking their kids to a preschool thing or soccer practice, it's always, "Let's have a drink!" How can those people function when they are constantly drinking?
Back to "Entourage," though; what made you want to take the role? It's not the most flattering portrayal of yourself. Dice on the show is very bitter -- he's kind of washed up. Is this portrayal of yourself as someone who stands in the way of his own success accurate?
Well, it's definitely the road the character is going down; that's why last week's episode ends with him walking out on the show ["Johnny Bananas," the show-within-a-show]. That's definitely my kind of spirit, but the joke of that scene is that nobody in the history of Hollywood ever demands more money based on a test screening. That's why Drama and I split up over the decision, because he's looking at my life choices, and he doesn't want to be that down the road.
Right. And if that character is "You being you ..."
Well, I get to pick my own outfits. There's still a script, and there's a story, but like I said, the joke of it is that no one would ever walk after a pilot because they didn't get more money. They never have me playing it like "Woe is me." This isn't a bad guy. He just wants to get paid. With who I am in my real life, it's always been more about accomplishment than the money.
There's this theory floating around that "Entourage" wouldn't exist if it weren't for your act. A lot of the machismo we see in the characters -- especially Drama -- stems from these kids growing up listening to your tapes, quoting you at parties. We even see Scott Caan's character recite your "Hickory Dickory Dock" routine.
I think that's how Doug thought of me; that's why he wanted me for the show. He told me when we got together, "You're the reason all these comedians today want to be like rock stars." I'm the original, and I took a lot of bullshit for it, but looking back it's a good feeling to know that at least I was original. I was so bored watching these comedians with no performance style. They all dressed in the same earth tones, with the same patches on their sleeve, and I could never. I could never. Comics used to be opening acts; that was it. I wanted to be a rock star, I wanted to play arenas. I wanted to develop something more exciting to people than just a guy telling jokes.
You had a lot of heat on you in the '80s and '90s because of your act. You personified "controversial." It made up a huge part of your fame.
I never courted it; that wasn't something I wanted. You know, I was mentally preparing myself to get slammed about "Entourage." I'm just so used to negative press, and now people are writing me up, saying I dominate the show. As far as my thing with journalists goes, you begin to think, "Well, even if I do a good job, they'll find some way to tear me down." They just want to hate me. So it is so surprising to hear the good stuff. And the funny part is that a lot of these writers are women.
You have to recognize that there is a huge difference in how women will respond to your "Diceman Cometh" act versus a sympathetic character on "Entourage."
My thing is, I look at comedians today and they all have to apologize for their acts. For going onstage and saying stuff to make people laugh. People pay money to go hear what that comic does, that's the service they provide. Now someone gets offended and it's like, "Should we just outlaw laughing?"
You never apologized.
Yeah, but I never had to answer to a company or a bigger show. I feel bad for those guys [comedians]. It's like going to see a rock star and only getting to hear Mozart. You know, the only people I see doing it right is "South Park."
There was an article Virginia Heffernan wrote in the New York Times when you had your reality show, which portrayed you as this kind of sad figure in a society that can forgive anyone for their personal indiscretions, but can't forgive you for being politically incorrect.
An act is an act. That's what it is. If I went onstage to talk about, you know, sending my kids to water polo, how my wife and I had coffee, no one would want to hear that. They want to laugh their balls off, and I want to give it to them.
You're going on tour again. Do you think that outrage, the boycotts -- are those things going to follow you? Have you cleaned up your act?
Look, my voice as a comic hasn't changed. I would be bored if I wasn't doing what I did onstage. I talk about human behavior, I talk about people and technology -- about how they waste their lives on the phone they're carrying. You know? (Laughs.)
I don't think that's the part that people get offended about.
I talk about the side of technology that people don't talk about at parties and talk about it onstage. I'm not looking to do my material during an interview, but all the cellphones that people need a code to get into? To me, that's all about sneakiness, cheating; no one has a house phone anymore. They have their own personal lives in their pocket. Everything on the computer is about "hide this, hide that."
You're talking about pornography?
I was just watching a show with Dr. Phil, and I forget what percentage of men waste their time on porn, but it was something like 23 hours a week.
And you see that as a negative thing, guys looking at porn?
Yeah, I mean, I love sex. I have it almost every day, and I love doing it. Porn isn't about that, it's about what you are doing to your mind. This isn't normal sex. I told my wife about it, and I said, "You know, I can see how people can get absorbed into that world." ... How do you go on with life after you've put those images in your mind?
There's some crazy stuff out there.
Sure, it's not all online. Look at all the pedophiles walking around. I was in New York and saw a park sign for a playground that said, "No adults may enter without accompanying a child." That's what we live with now. That's sick, that we have to have those signs.
You sound surprisingly like a dad, Dice.
Yeah, but I'm a cool dad. My sons know I'm a cool guy.
Now, I have to ask you this last question and I'm sorry in advance if it offends you ...
Oh man, here it comes. What did they tell you to say?
Nothing. I just really need to know: If you were a chick and had to pick one of those four guys from "Entourage" to have sex with ...
(Laughs) Oh, Jesus. Really? (There is about five seconds of silence.) Well, not Drama. We have great chemistry, but he's too much like myself. Turtle ... Turtle isn't my type.
No, I think I would go with E. They say opposites attract, right? Well, E is the sweet, romantic one, but I like that he can talk business too; cut through the bullshit. So yeah, I guess I'd sleep with Eric.
Hey, at least you're a good sport about it.
Well, you have to be able to laugh at yourself. Who would I sleep with? (Laughs.) Jesus Christ.