When Showtime offered me the opportunity to sit down with Andrew Dice Clay, the Dice man himself, it was long before most people had heard of “Dice,” his new comedy about — you guessed it — Andrew Dice Clay. It was before the trailer was released. It was before we got a peek at the poster. Heck, it was even before the series’ panel discussion was held at the Winter TCAs, the same event that put me in the room with Mr. Clay in the first place. Needless to say, it’s a rare thing to go into an interview completely blind — sans screeners, photos, clips or anything — but when you get the chance to talk to the star of a new Showtime series, who is also one of the most popular stand-up comedians of all time, you do what you gotta do.
Of course, the extra twist was that I didn’t really know who Andrew Dice Clay was at all. Like most people under the age of 40, I didn’t know he was the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights in row, or that he made the arena shake so much it registered on the Richter scale. I also didn’t know he was a regular target of women’s rights groups, or that Sinead O’Conner and Nora Dunn refused to appear on “Saturday Night Live” in the ’90s when he came on as a host. (Also, what does it say about Clay, but more so the current “SNL” team, that no cast member boycotted when Donald Trump made his controversial hosting appearance?) I was most familiar with Mr. Clay as that guy who was really, really good in Woody Allen’s 2013 dramedy, “Blue Jasmine,” which — for as great as that film was — I knew wouldn’t suffice for this task.
But after some Googling and discussion with a few (more knowledgeable) peers, I learned as much before sitting down with Mr. Clay. Topics of conversation ranged from the truth behind the stories told in “Dice” to how his stage presence differed from his real persona, and a picture of what “Dice” might look like started to form. Still, I found the above background necessary because the below interview may seem like we’re hitting some basic talking points; unless, that is, you’re like I was then and still know next to nothing about the upcoming Showtime comedy. I suspect there’s more than a few of you in that position, so the following I dedicate to you.
For the record, after watching the first six episodes, “Dice” is worth getting to know — as is the man himself.
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First thing I wanted to ask, how close is this character gonna be to you? How true are these stories?
Some of the stories are true, but it’s a hybrid of my life. Don’t forget, it’s a sitcom so it’s all funny. But yeah, the way the whole thing starts off with me working my way back into Las Vegas is a very true thing, but the stuff that goes on in that episode is nuts. You know, and when I’ve even asked people, “How am I coming off in this thing?” they say “You’re nuts, but you got heart.” And that’s how I look at any good comedy. If you go see a movie, even a movie like “The Hangover,” let’s say, which is way over-the-top, all of a sudden there’s that one scene where you get the heart of the characters and that makes it even better. And that’s what me and Scot Armstrong set out to accomplish, and I think we did a great job with it.
So are you writing, directing and editing?
No, you know what? The way it would work, they would come up and pull things from different parts of my life, and I would also constantly text Scot certain ideas and he would incorporate those ideas into the scripts. Ultimately it’s what would happen in the scene. A lot of the times we would go off the script. I’m not that studious that I would learn it word for word, but I learned most of it. It was a grueling schedule. That’s what Scot likes about me: that I can improv, that I can find where to go, whether it’s dramatically or comedically.
Early on, when this was announced, they talked about your character on the show getting a second chance and working his way back towards something.
You know what, it is about accomplishing something again, but I don’t know if I would call it a second chance. It’s just about where I was in my life about eight years ago. And my sons are in the show with me, Max and Dylan, and they play out their storyline. In reality, they have a rock band and are actually recording.
They’re acting in the show with you?
Yeah, they’re in the show. And in reality, now, tonight, we are recording. We are doing their first album. It’s very rock and roll so there’s an episode about that which goes on. So, yeah, we are taking reality [into it] and that’s why they call it a hybrid.
So you’ve worked in TV before. What has changed since your last shows? And why was now the time for “Dice”?
The industry has gotten to know me well now. Just from people I’ve met in the industry. And I used to walk into an office of some of the biggest people in Hollywood and there was fear in their eyes — from a comedian. Just because I wear a leather jacket. Today, a lot of what has happened is a lot of the guys — the showrunners, the producers — were guys that were coming to see me at the LA forum or Madison Square Garden, and they’re, like, in their forties now. So they get who I am. Scot Armstrong is one of those guys. They know I’m a good guy. On stage, I’m an animal, which is what I’m supposed to be up there, but offstage I’m really not. I’m just loud. I’m from Brooklyn. [laughs] People from Brooklyn are loud.
There are parts where it’s got heart. That’s the way I would put it. Then you go the other side. And the other side– To me, it always gets me when you meet somebody. People are always very shy when they meet each other. Even if you meet another celebrity they’re almost very low key. They’re not just open until you get to know them a little bit. People don’t really show themselves. They leave their house with a certain face on, no matter what’s going on behind closed doors. But I wear my feelings on my sleeve. So if there’s a problem, it’s gonna happen right there and then, and if it’s something good it’s gonna happen right there and then. And most people don’t leave their house willing to show who they are. I study behavior. That’s why I do what I do on stage as a comic.
How do you mean you study behavior?
I love going to an event and seeing how couples act together. I could tell if a couple’s married for 20-something years or if they just started dating. When I get on stage I’ll use that with people in the crowd. I find my targets that way.
Did you apply that at all for this show? Obviously, stand-up and scripted series are very different.
Yeah, but I’m not doing the stand-up. You’re not actually seeing the stand-up in the show.
Do you feel like you use those skills at all? The kind of understanding of people and analyzing situations, does that transition at all over to the scripted world?
If you said, “Give me two lines [about the show],” it’s the funniest thing I’ve been allowed to do since the day I came into show business because they let me be who I needed to be at any given moment, in any given scene. And that makes for a hit show. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m excited about it. Because, honestly, if I didn’t like what we were filming, I wouldn’t even be doing this day — no matter what they told me. If they would have said, “We’ll pull the series if you don’t do this day of press,” I’d say, “Pull it.” What do I care?
Right. If you don’t like it, why would you care?
That’s what I’m saying. And I’ve been in that situation and this particular situation, from the people at Fox to David Nevins — who’s just a funny fucking guy. I love talking to him. It’s not like a guy running a network. He’s a regular guy who just happens to run a network. It’s great. So when you build those relationships it makes for a hit show. When you can pick up the phone and go, “Make believe we’re friends for 10 years [and] just change the fucking thing. Do me a favor.” And they see your point. It’s not like, “Hey, you do your job.” It’s not like that with the people at Fox. I’ve never been amongst people who are so willing to enhance the creative process. Anything I was ever involved with, 15 years ago even, it was like, “I’m the showrunner, these are the pages, do it the way it’s written and that’s it.” Okay, I’m just giving my opinion. And that fails. If you don’t work as one, it fails. But on this show, from the Furst brothers to Scot to everybody working on it — even behind the camera — you just seem them laughing. And that means I’m doing my job. You know, it’s exciting for me. I can’t wait to see this.
Are you done shooting? Are you shooting it still?
No, we’re done with this season. I remember when we talked about even developing the show and David Nevins was like, “Dice, don’t you know who you are? Go to work.” [laughs] “Great, let’s do it.” I think people are just gonna latch onto this. It’s just that funny. And actors you couldn’t believe to be funny are in this thing and they’re amazing.
I only have time for one more question, so let me say “Blue Jasmine” really redefined you for a big chunk of the audience out there.
I was curious what your reaction has been since that happened and how that’s impacted what you’ve done since.
With “Blue Jasmine,” it was like embarrassing for me because from Page Six in The New York Post to when I’d come on any talk show or morning show, everybody was going, “You’re gonna be nominated and win the Academy Award,” and I’m going, “You gotta stop saying that.” If you talk to me about being a stand-up, I’ll say I’m the biggest stand-up — as far as concerts — that there ever was. I did something that no one can ever repeat. Now there’s social media. When I was selling out arenas in 20 or 30 minutes, 20,000 seats a night, it was just word of mouth. There was no following, there was no tweeting, there was no Facebook. So when I talk about that I go, “Yeah, I’m the biggest stand-up there ever was. That’s it.”
But with acting, I haven’t done as much. So when people are going, “You’re gonna win the Academy Award,” I’m going, “I’m just happy I did a good job.” That’s all I wanna hear: “You did a good job.” Because it was embarrassing for me. I point to certain movies on TV with my wife and with my boys and go, “Look at that, that’s an Academy Award winning scene.” What I did was nothing, but people reacted a certain way. And I’m not saying it’s not good. I’m just saying I don’t know how to deal with it.
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