Andrew Dice Clay: No Regrets Over Homophobic, Sexist Persona
He became a massive star with jokes that were in many cases rampantly sexist and homophobic. With an assist from Woody Allen, Dice is back and has a whole lot to say.
When you look back on it, maybe it should have been obvious; Hollywood loves a good comeback story, both on screen and in the personal narratives it pitches to the public on repeat, dropping in whichever forgotten star is primed for a second wind that week. Still, we're two decades removed from Andrew Dice Clay's heyday, and a whole hell of a lot has changed since he was selling out Madison Square Garden by spouting filthy nursery rhymes in between drags of his cigarette. So yeah, it's a little bit disconcerting to see Dice sitting in a hotel suite, waiting to talk about a Woody Allen movie in which he really steals the show.
Not much as changed about the Dice Man, as his fans have called him for the last 26-plus years, since he broke out with a now-legendary set at Rodney Dangerfield's Manhattan comedy club. He was 30 then, known for his black leather jackets and vests, his big sunglasses and thick Brooklyn drawl. He called himself a rock star comedian, and the results — sold-out tours nationwide, platinum albums, notoriety — made the case quite easily. The world had heard blue humor before — this was decades after Lenny Bruce and George Carlin rattled the FCC, while Eddie Murphy released Raw that same year — but Dice was something else, throwing every conceivable curse word and sexual atom bomb at the audience, with women, minorities, and gays in the blast zone. This was the last year of the Reagan administration, with HIV and AIDS still killing millions in America. People eventually began picketing his shows, and he was banned from MTV; as other voices broke through, Dice's became more muted.
Now he's sitting in the suite, still smoking — he's turned a water glass into a makeshift ashtray — and it looks like he's just been asleep for the last 20 years, hair thinning and graying, his body adding the normal width that accompanies middle age. He's 55 years old, in the midst of his comeback — in fact, the publisher Touchstone announced on Monday that he's going to write a memoir called The Filthy Truth, out next year — and he's still wearing the leather, face still half-covered by big, thick shades, which are dotted with tiny rhinestones. Dice is picking up where he left off, with a comedy special that came out last New Year's Eve and no real desire to walk back any of the things he said on stage back in the day that are extra cringeworthy in today's post-DOMA America — even jokes he made about having "dead fags" hanging from signs welcoming people to Brooklyn.
"Well, you just said the whole thing: It's jokes. You think I don't have gay friends, black friends, female friends? I never had any problems with them at all," Dice Clay explains. "Living in Hollywood and seeing it in a big way when I moved out there, and you're looking for subject matter for a tough-talking Brooklyn guy on stage, it's a perfect target."
He goes back to this point over and over again: The Dice Man was a stage persona — it still is — and doesn't have much to do with the guy who says he took off much of the late '90s and last decade to raise two young sons.
"Women are perfect targets. When I moved out to L.A., I was very young, I was 21, when I would date a girl here, I would never even think of making any kind of sexual move unless it really became a relationship," he continues. "And when I moved out to L.A. and it was a whole different set of rules. It was like a 10-buck fuck. Coffee and where do you live, she'd say. The most beautiful girls. And you're going, in my mind, I would take this girl out for three months before I'd even touch her chest, you know what I mean? And she's taking me up to my room and doing everything imaginable — and more. So it was a great subject, you know what I mean?"
The following is a lightly edited transcript of his conversation with BuzzFeed; Dice Clay stars as the blue-collar brother-in-law of Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's new movie, Blue Jasmine, out on Friday.
Do you feel like the world is different from the way you left it?
ADC: Well, I feel they caught up to me as far as material goes. Because from years ago, women were picketing me and now they're pumping their fists in the air at my shows. You're a young guy, you know what goes on out there. You know technology, what the computer age brought in. Anybody can bullshit me as much as they are, but it's all about pornography for young kids, they get on that computer, it's like a kid in a candy store. So this new generation of women that has grown up — and I'm not saying every single one of them — girls posting naked pictures of themselves by the time they're 21 years old. Women years ago would never even think of something like that. But, comedically, it really works for me on stage.
So now people can relate, you think?
ADC: They just understand that it's a joke.
I was with some friends this weekend and we were talking about Eddie Murphy's Raw, and we were saying that if you look back on it, it's outdated, the way he talks about gay people and women. And your name came up in that also.
ADC: Eddie Murphy never went to that level in arenas. Eddie Murphy, who I think is one of the greatest ever, would talk to me years ago, and he'd say, "How do you fill 20,000 people a night?" Because I did over 300 arena shows and he couldn't believe that. And I would look at him and go, "Look, your movies make, what, over $400 million? I'll switch. You take the arenas, I'll take your paycheck." But that's what scared journalists also, back then. They were afraid; in the newspapers they made it seem like a rally rather than a comedy show.
I once did a profile piece in Vanity Fair. The woman spent three to four days with me. When the article came out, it was all about the act. She got to see me with my ex-wife — I wasn't married to her yet — she got to see us, hang with us, live with us, and she wrote nothing about it. She wrote "Comedy of Hate." So why'd you even bother?
So the Dice persona is a lot different than the person?
ADC: Than what am I in real life? Yeah, 1000%. I mean, comedy is comedy; I just made a bigger-than-life comedic figure. I wanted to give people a comedic hero. And I did that, and I still do that for them, and they love it, and that's why I did another special, to give them what I felt they were missing for years. Because a lot of the comics who are blue — dirty, whatever you want to call them — it's just about the curse words. There's no substance there. There's no painting; the way I lay out material is I paint cartoonish, sexual pictures for people. I talk about what they do, but in a bigger-than-life and funny way. It's not meant to be taken seriously or taken to heart, it's meant just for them to laugh.
Some people did take it seriously, when you spoke about gay people, for instance.
ADC: But not anymore. And what's funny about all those jokes is that it was never about not liking gay people, it was just the right subject for somebody like Dice, but it was also at a time that the gays were really coming out. So they would picket, but yet in the arena you've got 18,000 people and you've got four women out in front of the arena with a sign, "He's disgusting." OK, so don't come in and laugh and have a good time; stand in the cold with your sign that nobody cares about.
Nora Dunn, who was getting fired from Saturday Night Live, made a move just to aggravate Lorne Michaels. It had nothing to do with me. She knew what I was, and other people on that cast knew me personally. So everybody told her, you know, he's a great guy, this is a character he does, it's a stage persona that he does. She was just making a play for the publicity she could get, and then basically disappeared. And I called it back then, I said you'll probably never see her again. I haven't seen her in anything.
So when Lorne Michaels was telling me Nora Dunn walked off the show, I looked at him and I go, "I'm sorry to hear that." And he's looking at me and he goes, "She walked off because of you." And I go, "Because of me? Lorne, honestly, I don't know who she is." And he goes, "It's one of our cast members." And I go, "Honestly, again, I don't watch the show; I'm out there doing my career. You've got a great show, but I don't watch it. It's been great all these years." And he started laughing, and it's even crazier now, though, because you don't even know who this girl is. MTV, I was banned for life. Well, that's changed now.
I got the book announcement today.
ADC: Oh, really?
They sent out a press release.
ADC: They released a press release? That's why I call it a resurgence. Because when you disappear for over a decade, there aren't too many people in this business that could recover from that. I just made it my business to resurge like this, because I had the big career and then the big divorce, then it was bringing up my sons, and then it was about, all right, now it's time to go back to work in a big-time way.
So when did you decide to make the comeback?
ADC: You know, this really started about three years ago when I got the call for Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice, because I knew that could be a little boost. And to be fired first — or last — is the only way to go on a show like that. So he did the right thing and fired me in the first episode. But then it was like, what move do I make? Then, I ran into a friend of mine that I didn't see for years, then all of a sudden then came Entourage [he had a recurring role in the final season], then came Indestructible, the special, and then the call from Woody. When you do good work, good work leads to other good work.
So now what?
ADC: The next thing I'm doing is finishing this book, because I'm on a time schedule to get it out. And my podcast has gone through the roof, which has become a big thing; over 200,000 followers in less than three months. So that's a big-deal thing in the world today. Plus a television show that I signed for called The Big, Big Show, which is a syndicated talent show with myself and Tom Green and Tommy Habib, who will host the show. We'll start filming those episodes soon.
What kind of talent?
ADC: It's sort of like an updated version of The Gong Show, so it's not going to be all good talent. It's going to be funny, and a lot of it focuses on the judges. It's really going to be really funny.
You and Tom Green is a funny combination.
ADC: Well, we have really good chemistry. He's hysterical. He does the podcast a lot.
Were you a huge fan of Woody's growing up?
ADC: I'm not a Woody Allen freak, I couldn't tell you half his movies, but then there are my favorites, like Broadway Danny Rose and the one where he's breaking into a bank and his wife builds the cookie shop [Small Time Crooks]. When he did things like Annie Hall, I was a kid. He's just one of the best ever, and anything I've ever seen on him is terrific, and we really related to each other just as comics. This was a complete honor, to work with him. I want to do a movie with him that he's in. I think our two personas together would just kill people. Oh my god, it would be ridiculous.