Q&A: Andrew Dice Clay
Andrew Dice Clay insists he’s riding a wave of resurgence rather than experiencing a comeback, but either way he’s in good shape professionally and physically. Supporting roles in Entourage and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine led to bigger stand-up venues and his own Showtime series Dice, which debuted in April, depicts a fictionalized version of Clay’s current career arc set against a Vegas backdrop and co-stars his sons Dillon and Max. He appears at the Tropicana May 28, and Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen spoke with Clay by phone as he did battle with L.A. traffic on the way to a Friday afternoon hair salon appointment.
Your sons come off as ridiculously well adjusted on your new series. They seem so normal and take everything in stride, that you have to conclude Dice is a good dad.
It’s my biggest accomplishment. Honestly, if I didn’t take the time to bring my sons up maybe I would have had a bigger career nine years ago, but I had two dummies living in my house that don’t know anything. That’s not a good way to take flight. It’s up to every parent to teach that kid everything because when a kid’s born it’s a blank slate, you know what I mean? It’s just a blank slate. If you’re not teaching them by the time their 10 years old you have no control. That’s it, and I’m not that guy. That’s a side of me that’s very real. It’s not me onstage, it’s not anything other than the love I have for my sons.
Most of the attention in the media directed toward you focuses on your comeback, or resurgence, as if you had spent time lost in the wilderness, but if you connect the dots it’s easy to see you had been spending your time raising your kids right, which is a little bit more of an important job in this society than being a comedian.
What’s great is, just like me, they have their stage persona. Offstage they’re the nicest guys you want to hang with, but they’re still rebels who want to rock the world a little. They just got booked the other day to open Ozzfest. I got a call last week from Sharon Osbourne, a text actually. Sharon Osbourne said, “We gotta have Still Rebel open Ozzfest.” They built up this great rep with this band, and don’t forget my son Dillon, who’s only 21, just finished an album—a rock ‘n’ roll album that sounds like it’s 1978. That’s the kind of rock that they always wanted to bring back, that they grew up listening to. All the great bands: Zeppelin, Alice In Chains—you know, all the way back—Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Guns N’ Roses. Everybody. So his music is influenced by all these rock bands that came 30 years before he was born. And you know Tracii Guns, right? LA Guns, Guns N’ Roses?
Yeah, I’ve interviewed him before.
They’re doing a full-blown tour with him in October.
He’s a great guy. Good for them.
Great guy, great player. He heard their stuff and his agent called me and said, “Tracii hasn’t recommended a band to be in front of him for 25 years.” And he said, “Your guys are the real deal.” That’s an honor, and then a week later is when I got the call from Sharon Osbourne. They’re going to open Ozzfest. The final Ozzfest. That’s a big honor, and you know people like Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses come to see them, Don Dokken … all these rock guys, they’re world-class musicians, and they’re saying, “These guys are on the money.”
Are they going to open for you at the Tropicana?
No. What I love about my sons is that … they love the fact I’m their father. They get it. They’re enjoying it. They enjoy doing the TV show with me but when it comes to their music, now and then they come to me but they like to have their music stand on its own. They know they’re under the shadow of me; they don’t mind that, but when it comes to their music they want to get up there and have people go, “They’re a hot f*ckin’ band. They’re not some garage band. They’re the real deal.”
I’m reading your 2013 biography The Filthy Truth, and I see parallels between the way your dad supported your career and the way you support your sons’ career.
That’s perfectly said, because my father was 1,000 percent. He was what I refer to as “my real manager.” I knew he cared about me, and even though I was with Big Hollywood management I would still not make a move until I had discussed everything with my dad and he thought it was the right move. That’s how my sons are with me. I’m just there to encourage them. Even if they didn’t play the music I like I would still encourage them, because they’re as good as they are. But when I’m going to one of their shows I actually get psyched up because their music is so rocked out, but it’s so melodic it’s just easy on the ear.
And 1978 was when you became an adult, so it hits you. It’s pretty clear you don’t live vicariously through them. You don’t get any sense of nepotism. It just feels like nurturing.
Look, I hang with them 24/7 when I’m not working. One or both are with me. The excitement of everything going on is … you know, it looks like a hit TV show from what people are saying. They’re on top of it. It’s more about backing each other up. They saw me at a time when my career was all the way down. I was all the way down, but I told them, “Wait’ll I step on the gas pedal again.” They were too young. I needed some time with them.
Yeah, I know it was confusing for them: “Why aren’t people helping out my dad if he’s so popular?”
That’s all changed.
Let me throw this quote at you by author Chuck Klosterman. You call it a resurgence, but he’s calling it a comeback: “When I mean the comeback won't occur, I'm saying I don't think the perception of him will ever change as it did for other controversial comedians who at one point were problematic and later in life are beloved. That doesn't seem like it's going to happen to him.” That quote’s from 2013, but right now at this time more than a month into your series, lo and behold, it’s happening. I think you’ve proved him wrong.
Well, the reason I call it a resurgence is because it wasn’t done overnight, you know what I mean? It just started about six years ago when I did the last season of Entourage. From that I did a special for Showtime called Indestructible, then it was the Woody Allen movie and then it was Scorsese (HBO’s Vinyl), then it was Dice the TV show, and now I’m going into concerts in a bigger-than-life way. I mean I know I’m doing the Tropicana in the main room, which is going to be a lot of fun, and it will be fun to be in a showroom in Vegas again considering when I came back into Vegas I was in the back of a sushi restaurant because I had an empty room. You’d set up chairs and tables, and that’s for the same guy that did, in Vegas, 13 years in Bally’s Hotel, another … I think it was three years at the Venetian. Then it was the Stardust for a few years, and then I disappeared for a while. Also at the time I was selling out sports arenas back then, but the Vegas history is a very big history I had. And then I’m in the back of a sushi restaurant, but I had no problem with it because to me it’s like a movie. It’s like the beginning of another movie. It’s a sequel, you know what I mean? Playing to a hundred in the back of a fish place, and now a hit TV show, working with directors like Scorsese and Woody Allen. My first amphitheater, 5,000-seat amphitheater, went on sale today in Brooklyn. Brand new building, Coney Island amphitheater. So even the tour that I’m doing now, which is like 1,500-seat theaters, which is great, but after I did the Jimmy Fallon Tonight show it popped up to 5,000 seat theaters. That’s all the cherry on top. I’m coming back as the true comic I always was.
When you starting to come back you could see “Dice Clay” on the marquees on Paradise Avenue either at the Riviera or the Hilton (now Westgate).
That was all about the building process. I really felt bad about the Riv. I wanted to stay there forever because it was an old school showroom with the animal print booths. It was a great room. I felt so bad when they were gonna close it. Then I did the Hard Rock for a few years. When I was at the Hilton it was still the Hilton, and there were a lot of people walking around. The Tropicana’s packed with people so, you know, it’s real Vegas.
You give a shout-out to the Riv in Dice, in the first episode.
I loved the Riv. That’s why.
Seeing your name on the Riv marquee totally looked like the beginning of your resurgence.
The heat I have on me is tremendous right now. When you’re turning on Bill Maher and he’s doing an impression of you, when you’re turning on Seth Myers and they’re doing an impression, and now they’re calling Donald Trump the Dice of politics … I mean, that’s a big deal when you’ve hit the mainstream like that. Plus I did all those commercials with Sprint, which 30 years ago when my career took off could have never happened because of the controversy. But now the people have gotten to know me and I’ve opened up to the media, and they’ve opened up to me. You get to see the other side of this guy other than the stage persona, which is very real. It’s comedy. It’s my act, but when I’m onstage I’m not going to be talking about the love of my children. It’s an act. That’s the difference between Andrew onstage and Andrew offstage. I love my family. It’s my world, but I tell you that Riv dressing room, me and (now ex-wife) Valerie, we had a lot of fun in there, I will tell you that. Oh my God!
You could own that room at the Riv like you can at the Tropicana right now.
It’s a crazy time again. I pinch myself. I go, “Is this really happening?”
Do you think the main problem you’ve had is people not being able to distinguish the personas?
I’ll make it real simple because I don’t got a lot of time. My career took off in ’88, but after I did the Rodney Dangerfield special, the Young Comedians show … within months I went from comedy clubs, 200-seat clubs, to selling out 80,000 to 100,000 people a week in sports arenas. I was the first comic with that badass image to ever do that. It’s never gonna be touched. Other comics, there have been a few that have done some arenas, but I’ve done over 300 of them—sold out in, most of them, less than an hour. It went on ’til 1995. I started to go through problems in my marriage, so I backed off so I could take care of my boys, and then about 2009 is when I started pumping again. And we’re back, and I’m enjoying it. I’m thankful for it, but talent will always rise to the top. The only thing that will ruin that talent is if the fire inside of that person, that makes you burn, to want to accomplish—and that’s what it’s about, accomplishment—if that dies, you can have all the talent in the world but nothing’s happening. You gotta still have that thing in you that says, “I’m not leaving the story, when I did something so big, and being the original of that, you can’t leave that story go.”
Do you think if some critics had seen early footage of your Jerry Lewis-like Nutty Professor transforming into Buddy Love Travolta …
That was a different act. That was impressions, and then I just started wearing my leather, developing material, doing my thing. People were loving it. I was never politically correct. I would never be politically correct because to be politically correct you’re not telling any truth onstage, and behind any great comic there’s some truth in that act. I’m looking forward to the Trop. I love the Laugh Factory. I love being there. They treat me incredible. Harry Basil, the owner … I came in there to do two weeks. I’ve done like 10. Now we’re going into the Trop main room and it’s going to be kick ass, like everywhere else in the country.
Do you know what’s coming up around the corner or are you riding this wave for now?
I’m waiting to see if the show is picked up. I’ve actually got a lot of stuff that I’m going to do, some of it I’m not going to do, other projects. But it’s cooking, and I’m glad it’s cooking. What did Sinatra say? “Success is the best revenge.” Here’s a funny line for you. There’s a guy in Vegas whose becoming a very big rap performer and DJ. His name is Messinian, and he came to see me perform a few years ago. The next night he came back with a rap song about me, and part of that rap song he sings, “From Entourage to Always Sunny to Woody Allen money/The same industry that labeled him dumb is now kissing his ass/Now ain’t that funny?”