Comedian-actor Andrew Dice Clay

Clay reflects on his career and his serious acting turn in the new Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine.

How does one go from being banned for life from MTV (now lifted) to co-starring in a Woody Allen feature film (Blue Jasmine)? Ask Andrew Dice Clay. One of America's most controversial and outrageous comics, Clay has a loyal fan following. He's released a number of best-selling DVD/CDs and sold out Madison Square Garden. He's also starred in numerous HBO specials and several movies and TV shows, including a critically acclaimed recurring role on the final season of HBO’s Entourage. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Clay began doing stand-up in neighborhood comedy clubs and moved up to the major Manhattan clubs before moving to L.A. to further his career.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Two names you probably thought you’d never hear in the same sentence: Woody Allen and Andrew Dice Clay. The controversial comedian made his reputation with the sort of raunchy, sexually charged comments that shocked many in this country while at the same time selling out concerts at major venues like Madison Square Garden.

Then a series of setbacks derailed the career until a role in the HBO series “Entourage” put him back on Hollywood’s radar. One of those watching was Woody Allen, who offered Clay a role in his latest movie, “Blue Jasmine,” alongside Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin.

The dramatic role required Clay to leave the Dice man at the door, we are told. Let’s take a look at a clip now from “Blue Jasmine.”

[Clip]

Tavis: Are you comfortable or uncomfortable getting out of the character, the Dice man character?

Andrew Dice Clay: You know what? It was a real challenge.

Tavis: Right.

Clay: Because once I got the movie, I really – when I realized what kind of movie, it’s a pretty heavy movie, I just wanted to bring my best game to the table. It was a chance to do something I never have done before in film – just play a solid role of something I’m not.

I’m really humbled by a lot of the response I’ve already heard from the film. I just hope I did a great job for Woody. That’s how I feel about it.

Tavis: You were troubled that you, all these years, hadn’t been offered an opportunity to do something like this, or you were cool with that, given the fact that you created this character and you were happy to live inside of it?

Clay: Well I originally came into stand-up – I came into stand-up to get into the acting field, and I had a very – I had a different act than the Dice man when I started out.

Then when I was at The Comedy Store in L.A. and I would see how comics performed, I didn’t see a lot of performance art in their performance, because I didn’t go to regular acting schools.

I wanted to use the comedy stage to develop almost, like, my own method of acting.

Tavis: Right.

Clay: I am from Brooklyn, I do dress like this. It’s just a certain way I am. But it’s very amplified as a comic, so when I got into the comedy I decided I would just create a persona that would be like a rock star comic.

Because I grew up, I didn’t really follow comics. I grew up watching everybody from Elvis to Sinatra to big band drummers like Buddy Rich, bigger-than-life personalities like Muhammad Ali, movie stars like Stallone and Travolta.

So I figured instead of going to acting school I’ll just use my talents on a comedy stage, and I always had this tremendous confidence in myself that I could reach any goal I wanted to in show business.

So the facts were simple in my mind – just become the biggest stand-up comic the world has ever seen. Give them something they never have seen as an image in stand-up, and then I would continue it in film.

By the time “Ford Fairlane” came out, there was so much backlash because journalists back then, you’ve got to remember there was no Internet, there was no fans even – you couldn’t fight back. So whatever they said, they said, and there was so much backlash that when “Ford Fairlane” came out they pulled the premiere.

The “Ford Fairlane” premiere was supposed to be the biggest premiere in Hollywood history. It was going to be at the L.A. Forum, 18,000 people, and up to that point the biggest premiere I ever went to was to see the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s, when he did “The Clumps” after “The Nutty Professor.”

I was just blown out by that, because Eddie to me is one of the greats of all time. But that’s 6,000 people watching a movie. This was going to be 18,000 people because at the time, I did over 300 arena shows, of course the Garden being the most famous arena in the country. People talk about that.

But in places like Philadelphia, three times at the Spectrum, in Chicago, five times at the Chicago Rosemont Horizon, which was 18 – I mean, just sold out, sold – and it was word of mouth, it wasn’t computer, it wasn’t any of that. It was just word-of-mouth.

Did over 12 million tickets. So the journalists didn’t understand why this comic, because they never saw anything like it, is selling 20,000 seats a night. It all escalated. I wound up doing the Rose Bowl with Guns ‘N Roses to 110,000 people.

Tavis: It wasn’t just journalists, though, Dice. There were some people – art is subjective. There were people -

Clay: Well, it was gay groups, there was women’s groups.

Tavis: Exactly.

Clay: There was picketing.

Tavis: Precisely. So it wasn’t just journalists, though.

Clay: No, but I couldn’t turn on TV without seeing some kind of debate -

Tavis: Right.

Clay: – on my comedy, and I really, it was like getting blindsided, because I didn’t see that coming. When I was a struggling comic, coming up playing clubs for 10 years, when I would get written up, whether it be in Texas or New York, it was always things like “the hoodlum of humor,” and they sort of got what I was doing.

Then the day after my special, “The Dice Man Cometh,” “The New York Times” wrote up “The Demise of Western Civilization.” (Laughter) It’s like now that I’m successful, I’m no good.

Tavis: So -

Clay: Yeah, it’s been a crazy ride.

Tavis: When you look back, and I’m going to – let me just say this right quick. I know, because a little birdie told me because he’s a mutual friend of ours -

Clay: Okay.

Tavis: – that there is a book, a memoir, that is forthcoming -

Clay: Yes.

Tavis: – in the next year from -

Clay: Called “The Filthy Truth.”

Tavis: “The Filthy Truth,” from Andrew Dice Clay. My friend David Ritz -

Clay: Who wrote your book.

Tavis: Exactly. When you look back at that “New York Times” headline, “The Demise of Western Civilization,” when you look back to what you were saying then and what’s happening in our culture now, it makes you feel how?

Clay: Well, I feel I’m an original. I feel I’m a guy that really stuck to my guns no matter what, and I created something that nobody’s ever done before ever in history as a comic. Now today with the newer comics coming up, I set the bar at such a level, like, comics that are becoming successful are not happy unless they get to that level of Madison Square Garden.

That’s a pretty cool place to be in history, where you created something that you showed comics you can be a rock star. You can escalate past clubs and little theaters. But it’s also not meant for every comic.

Like when I see specials on HBO or Showtime – like I went through a whole crazy thing, my special, which started premiering, well, premiered New Year’s Eve on Showtime, “Indestructible,” which -

Tavis: I saw it.

Clay: – which I could say people could get on Lolflicks.com. What had happened was I wanted to do it in a small place, because I wanted to do the ultimate rock and roll stand-up comedy special, and I’ve accomplished that now.

The powers that be said, “Well, we can’t be, like, in a club with 300 people. You’re Dice,” because they’re so used to doing these big theaters now. But people aren’t stupid.

When you take a new comic, for instance, and put him in front of 4,000 people on TV – I watch these shows and go number one, the comic’s not as good as he should be because he’s never been in front of 4,000 people.

It should be more about the art form and being in the camera’s face, in the small audience’s face than trying to entertain 4,000 people. Not every comic is meant to play gigantic theaters and gigantic arenas. Not everybody has that personality.

Tavis: Where did this confidence come from? I ask that because the one tidbit that David has given me is that the best part of the book may be your relationship with your parents.

Clay: Well, my parents were completely supportive in what I do. I was with some of the biggest managers, like Sandy Galen, when my career took off. But I wouldn’t make a move without my father, because I always called my father my manager.

I always told him about the dream, and that I’m going to be the biggest in the world, which anybody else, I could come off a stage at The Comedy Store in front of, like, 10 people, and it was like a lousy crowd, 2:00 in the morning.

They go, “Man, bad crowd.” I go, “Are you kidding? I’m going to stop traffic.” (Laughter) “These same people will pay thousands to sit in the front row.” Comics couldn’t believe the confidence of Dice, because most comics are so insecure.

I even watch talk show host and go, “This guy’s got a show and he won’t even let the comic really do what he’s supposed to.” Like Jay Leno will bring on these comics, but not treat them like a real performer.

You’re on every night for an hour. Give this guy that shot. They’re just so not confident about who they are as people. Like I said, I didn’t grow up in comedy. I grew up playing the drums, being in bands, being a real entertainer.

Studying bands like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles and just the greatest musical artists, especially drummers, because I play drums. So I just always had a confidence about myself.

I’ll never forget when I came to The Comedy Store in 1979, when Mitzy Shore, the owner of The Comedy Store, met me, she said to me, she goes, “You’re a movie star.” She goes, “There’s never even been a comic that looks like you.”

Lenny Bruce’s mother used to hang there a lot, and she’d go, “Oh, the only one that looked anything like you was my Lenny.” (Laughter) But Mitzy always saw that. She goes, “You’re going to be a great comic, but you’re going to be a movie star.

“You have that thing that makes movie stars.” I just always had confidence. Maybe it was because I guess it’s due in part to my parents always being behind me right from my very first performance in Brooklyn.

Always in school when I had to do a drum thing with the big jazz bands, at the end of the concert I would play big drum solos. So I really knew how to entertain people from behind a set of drums.

Tavis: So what happens to that confidence? Does it get shattered when your career ends up – my phrase here – crashing and burning? When you hit the bottom, what happens to that confidence?

Clay: Well, a lot of things took place to make that happen. I was doing the arenas up until about 1995, and my career took off in ’88, so that’s a long run of doing arena shows.

Even when people said, “Oh, this guy is over,” like in ’95, I was still doing between 7,000 and 10,000 people a night. The most ridiculous numbers. I did have a problem in Hollywood because of what happened with “Ford Fairlane.”

This is all in the book and I don’t want Ritz getting angry at me, but what had happened is they canceled the premiere and the powers that be at Fox Studios at the time were being threatened.

Their lives were being threatened, like, by the gay community. They were putting up posters around L.A. of Sandy Galen, David Geffen, and Barry Diller. It’s a frightening spot to be in when the whole community is after you.

So they just let me go and it sort of blackballed me from the film industry. I did some B movies, but nothing to talk about. But I write it out, it’s all in long form in the film.

Then personally my marriage was crumbling like for years, and I didn’t want to leave. I was in love with my wife, and it’s more about my kids were so young at the time. By the time I left, they were seven and 11.

In a very short time, once I moved out, both my boys were living with me. My thing about kids is if you have them, bring them up. I was like, screw the career. I always made money as far as I could do the clubs, I could do theaters.

But I wasn’t making career moves, like to rebuild. It was like you know what? Right now this is what’s important. Grow these guys up, make them – grow them up, you know, let them grow up seeing their father, that I’m around, and teaching them right from wrong.

I know it sounds a lot not like Dice, but that’s – Dice is on stage. That’s my comic persona.

Tavis: So how -

Clay: I love doing that, but when it comes to my kids, it’s like you’ve got to face this world, and that was my job, to teach them how to face it.

Tavis: So how important then a building block was the “Entourage” gig?

Clay: Well, the way “Entourage” happened, it was such a freak thing. Because what had happened is when the recession hit I had a house in Hollywood, and I sold that house. Because I figured I would make a profit and I could live off that for a while.

I never minded paying alimony or child support. It was just you also have to be making the living to pay for that. That money wound up in a court case and so I had no money. Just what I was making monthly did not cover my nut at all.

I had about 50 grand in cash, and years ago I didn’t gamble for 10 years, and it was mostly out of boredom when I did years ago.

Tavis: Right, right.

Clay: But I would play gigantic figures and I would play blackjack. I’ve always preached to my kids about no gambling, no alcohol – you’ve got to teach. You know when they get a little older they’re going to have a drink, they might try weed, it might happen.

But they’re going to know you try something like this; you could be dead first time out of the box. You try coke, you do any kind of chemical drug, you could be dead. That’s it – end of life. So I would drill that into them.

Also don’t gamble, don’t smoke cigarettes. I didn’t smoke for 10 years either. So I was going to Las Vegas with my new wife, Valerie, and my sons Max and Dylan. I said, “Look.” They were pretty young. This is about three, four years – they’re 18 and 22 now. So they were young. I go, “Your father’s going to have to gamble a little.”

I go, “There’s a lot of bills. I’m not doing it for fun. I know I can make some money doing it.” So what had happened is I took the 50 grand and I turned it into over a million dollars, and I call it this -

Tavis: I’ve got to hang out with you, man. I’ve got to hang out with you, Dice.

Clay: Well, I will tell you we’re writing a lot about the gambling. You don’t always win.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Clay: You know what I mean? You don’t always win a million dollars. I’ve lost millions of dollars gambling, I’ve won millions of dollars gambling. But at that time it was like desperate times need desperate measures.

I won over – I call it “the summer of hangover,” because me and my wife, even though I have a place in Vegas, we had suites at the M Hotel, the Encore Hotel, the Wind Hotel. We were just going nuts, having a party with the money, buying cars.

I was paying off bills, things I owed. But by the end of it, when you keep gambling, you’re going to lose.

Tavis: Right, right, right.

Clay: When you lose the way I was playing, you walk away; you’re down 300,000 from that million.

Tavis: Right.

Clay: Before you know it, most of it’s gone. So I come back to L.A. and I tell my wife, “I don’t want to know about show business, I don’t want to know about bills. I’m going to Starbucks with Max,” who’s my oldest son.

We’re sitting at Starbucks, and this guy walks up, I haven’t seen him in 15 years, his name’s Bruce Rubenstein. Bruce used to work for Mickey – he still works with him on films for many years. Bruce wrote the movie “Bullet” that Mickey did with Tupac years ago.

He’s a great writer; he’s a very creative guy. The next day we go for coffee. I haven’t seen him in 15 years. He’s playing with the phone, the BlackBerry, which I wanted to choke him, because I’m going, “Put down the phone already.”

He’s looking up at me, he goes, “How come you never did, like, ‘Entourage?’” I go, “Bruce, you know the business. They got to ask you to do it. What would the big deal be if I walk on for 30 seconds?”

He goes, “Well, all I could tell you is Doug Ellin thinks you are hands-down the biggest comic to ever live and wants a meeting today.” I go, “How do you know that?” He goes, “Because I’m emailing with him right now.”

So make a long story short, we have the meeting the next day with Doug. Then Doug starts emailing me certain things and meeting with me separately. I call Bruce and I’m like, “This might not just be a little 30-second walk-on.”

To make even a longer story short, because I (unintelligible) Bruce becomes my manager, winds up a whole character arc. Doug did say to me on the set, he goes, “I’m going to put you in my last season of “Entourage,” and you won’t believe what’s going to happen in your career.”

Tavis: And next thing you know, Woody Allen calls.

Clay: Well (laughter) that wasn’t the very next day.

Tavis: I’m being funny, yeah, yeah.

Clay: The next thing was a special, because I wanted to do one more special, show that I still got it. Even though for years I was down, I worked on the material because I knew that, I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then it was the Woody call, which I thought my manager was kidding me. I was in New York, I did Westbury Music Fair. I’m packing up, he goes, “Look, you’re going to have to go meet with Woody Allen tomorrow before you come back to L.A.”

I start laughing. I go, “Yeah, okay. I got to go, Bruce. I got to pack, it’s late.” He goes, “No, I’m not kidding. Woody Allen called to meet you for some movie.” I’m going, “Woody Allen, out of all the producers in Hollywood?” Like I would never know he would get me.

I came to his – I wouldn’t even call it an office, because it was this cool hangout, and he was just so cool with me. He doesn’t even tell you much. He goes, “Would you mind reading a,” (imitating Woody Allen) “Would you mind reading a few pages?” (Laughter)

I go, “Yeah, I’ll do it. That’s why I’m here.” The minute I walked in to meet him, I said, “Look, Dice is not in the room. You’re meeting Andrew.” Because I know how people can get about that. If all you see of me is on stage, it could be pretty intimidating to anybody. So I went in the next room with the casting lady and I just went through the two pages like one time.

I go, “This is good, I got this. Let’s go inside.” And she’s going, “Are you sure? It’s Woody Allen.” I go, “I got it. It’s okay.” (Laughter) He stood – this guy stood, he was like just, if you were standing up, he was like – here, stand up for a minute, and you’re me. He’s like this.

Tavis: Oh, yeah, (unintelligible) close.

Clay: He’s watching like this. Then afterwards I’m going, “I could change it, I could do whatever you want.” He goes, (imitating Woody Allen) “Well, you know, you had the essence.” (Laughter) “It was perfect.” I’m like, “Well, I guess I’ll see you at the set.” (Laughter) Like, what else is there to say?

Tavis: That’s how you got cast?

Clay: Well that was it, but -

Tavis: Wow.

Clay: But I will tell you it was very emotional when I got the text, because you’ve got to wait about three days, whatever, and there was – and actually, it was Louis CK who was the other actor that read for my part. But they won’t tell you who the other actor is, and Louis CK wound up in the movie.

I think that’s great because he’s great and we’re friends. It’s always great to be able to work with your friends. So I saw a text, I didn’t even open it. Like, “You got the -” and I knew I had the part.

You get choked up. My wife wasn’t home at the time, nobody was around, and I’m like, I got to wait for her, I got to tell her first before I call the kids. It was crazy for me in my head.

Tavis: What does this signal for you? Does it signal – I don’t know if that word “comeback” is right, but what does all these -

Clay: Well, I call it a resurgence.

Tavis: A resurgence, okay, I like that word.

Clay: Well, a couple things. The reason I’ve even done any of this is my boys have a band called L.A. Rocks, which is a very original, great rock band. They’re going to be – two years from now they’ll be stopping traffic. (Laughter) They could have had -

Tavis: I love this about you, man. I love this.

Clay: I’ve got to tell you, record companies were coming to them when they were 14 playing the Whiskey. That’s how original.

Tavis: Right.

Clay: That older bands would look like, “Who are these two kids?”

Tavis: This is Max and -

Clay: Max and Dylan.

Tavis: Max and Dylan, yeah.

Clay: They’re called L.A. Rocks.

Tavis: Right.

Clay: But my whole thing has always been teaching my kids through example, so my thing, I always needed a reason. I’m not that narcissistic that I have to do it just for me.

Like I have a new wife, you know what I mean? I have my kids. So I like to show them by example what you could accomplish, and that’s all it’s ever been for me is to accomplish.

I even tell my own kids, I go, “If I was filthy rich now, filthy rich, I could quit today because I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I got to be the comic I want and I got to be the actor I want.”

Tavis: Yeah.

Clay: I could only thank Woody for giving me that opportunity and believing that I had that in me to do.

Tavis: Well, he’s got much more to do. I’ve just scratched the surface on the life and legacy, ongoing, of Andrew Dice Clay, but you’ll want to check out the new movie, “Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen’s new project starring one Andrew Dice Clay. Great lineup -

Clay: Well, costarring. That’s what I mean -

Tavis: Costarring Cate Blanchett, Louis CK, Andrew Dice Clay.

Clay: I’ve got to say, when you’re working with – when you’re working with people like Blanchett and Alec Baldwin, you’re very humbled. I was like a kid on that set.

Tavis: It’s a great piece. Of course it’s Woody Allen, so Woody does good stuff. I’m glad you came to see me.

Clay: Well, I thank you.

Tavis: I’m going to hold you, next year -

Clay: I’m coming. We’ll promote the book.

Tavis: All right.

Clay: We’ll talk about it.

Tavis: We’re going to do a couple of nights on that.

Clay: Thank you very much.

Tavis: Just scratched the surface tonight. Appreciate you, man.

Clay: Thank you very much.

Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. “Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen’s project. Until next time, keep the faith.

“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

COMMENTS

  1. jackstubbington
    July 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Tavis didn’t even need to be there. Once Dice starts talking about himself it becomes a one way dialogue but I still like Dice.

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Last modified: August 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm