It takes approximately two minutes of speaking to Andrew Dice Clay before he starts a routine. "I was just in New York," he says in the same stentorian, street-tough voice that narrated his filthiest nursery rhymes at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in 1990. "It was so cold. I hate fuckin' bundling up, like. You know how you got to do it – the fuckin' scarf with the hat and the bullshit. But, you know, I love New York. I'm a Brooklyn boy."
Dice is now home in L.A. where it's close to 90 degrees – a temperature shift he calls his "reward" after facing the Big Apple's 40-degree blizzard – and he's in a good mood. This past Sunday his new sitcom, Dice, premiered on Showtime and the first season's entire six-episode run became available via the network's on-demand portals. It depicts the shock comic as he's never allowed anyone to see him before: himself.
Each episode, overseen by creator Scot Armstrong, presents Dice having to come to terms with his onstage persona in various awkward, Curb Your Enthusiasm–style situations. He not-so-carefully delivers a speech at the wedding of two men. He coaches Adrien Brody on how to play the Dice character as a method actor. He comes to terms with one of his old Brooklyn pals becoming rich and trying to change the dynamic of their friendship. It's Dice getting his comeuppance and, with a cast that includes Natasha Leggero as his girlfriend, Kevin Corrigan as his best friend "Milkshake" and his real-life sons as his sons whose music career he's threatening, it's hilarious.
Clay spoke with Rolling Stone about his onscreen and off-screen identity crises.
What appealed to you about doing Dice?
Well, they brought on Scot Armstrong. He [wrote] some of the few comedies that I love, like Old School, which is one of my absolute favorites. When he sent me the script, I said, "This guy's got my voice." I didn't want him just capturing the guy onstage — I could do that. With Dice, they show all the different levels of where I can go. I'm getting to act scenes. I'm getting to do what I truly like whether it's vulnerable, whether it's volatile, whether it's funny. I came into comedy to become an actor. And then my crazy career happened.
What about the casting appealed to you?
I love Natasha [Leggero]. She's in my face; she's like my wife Valerie. I only go with strong women, who have some balls because I'm a lot to handle. I am from Brooklyn. I am loud. I can't go with a meek personality.
What percentage of the show is actually like your real life?
You know the episode where I'm on the party bus and I get in a fight? The guy's saying nasty things about Joan Rivers, OK, who I was friends with and I love. That's based on a true story.
"I'm from Brooklyn. I smoke cigarettes. I went through a lot of fights and bullshit growing up. But I don't walk around my house calling my woman a cunt."
What really happened?
I was in CVS a few days after Joan passed away, getting supplies to go on the road. This older guy on a walker comes up behind me and goes, "Dice!" I'm, like, kneeling down and go, "Oh, how you doin'?" He goes, "Giant fan. Love your work, always have." We spoke a few seconds and he starts walking away then he turns around and goes, "Hey, what did you think of Joan Rivers?" I go, "I thought she was the greatest." He goes, "Well, I thought she was a fuckin' bitch. I mean, what she pulled with Carson years ago."
That was 1986.
Yeah. So I go, "Oh, I'm sorry she didn't do the right thing by you. I'm sorry that this woman wanted her own show and because of the way that show went, her husband blamed himself and killed himself. And yet she went on to become the biggest female comic to ever walk on earth. But it wasn't good enough for you, some motherfucker who is about 10 feet from the grave I'm going to put you in if you don't walk the fuck away. I was friends with that fuckin' woman!" And here comes the security of the store, going, "Is everything alright?" And I go, "Kick this old cocksucker out of the store before I choke him to death because I got a bad temper."
And that became a scene on the show.
Yeah, I tell Scot the story and he puts it on a party bus because we're filming the show in Vegas. When you see me getting angry, I really did want to knock the guy's teeth out. But Scot made it hysterical. Instead of a walker, the guy can't even walk. He's a young guy. And he's with 10 guys, and they all kick the shit out of me 'cause I can't take 10 guys. He amps it up. There are a lot of scenes like that on the show.
How did you develop the "Dice" persona?
I was creating my own style of acting on a comedy stage. Watching comedians, they didn't know that much about performance. I grew up as a drummer and a singer so I knew how to perform. I followed that image of Elvis to James Dean to Travolta in Fever. I remember telling my parents, "I want to create the Elvis of comedy. I want to give people a bigger than life, heroic comedian." Because the image was already done in rock & roll and movies and when Henry Winkler played the Fonz on TV.
So I put blinders on and I didn't care what other comics said. I didn't watch their sets because comics are the biggest cocksuckers on earth. There's no camaraderie; they stab each other in the back.
Did any comics support you back then?
Only Eddie Murphy. I was a giant fan of his. I would never even talk to Eddie unless he spoke to me. When I came into the business, he was already a giant movie star.
Here's a funny story. One day, he pulled me over like a cop. I was in a 1970 green convertible Coupe De Ville Caddy, and he was in a little white convertible Mercedes, and he's honkin' at me. He goes, "Pull over." So we drive onto this side street off of Laurel Canyon, and we're just leaning against my car which I thought would've been the greatest picture [laughs]. My wife at the time was in the car. And Eddie starts going, "Don't you let them fuck with you!" Because I was so under a microscope. It was crazy. I remember saying, "Don't these journalists realize I'm bozo with a leather coat on?" There were no motives here. I'm not making a movement. I'm not running for office. I'm just a comic. I just had a dream to create this kind of character for people.
In what ways are you like the Dice character?
I'm from Brooklyn. I smoke cigarettes. I have an attitude because I grew up with one and I went through a lot of fights and bullshit growing up. But I don't walk around my house calling my woman a cunt.
Dice respects women?
I'm probably more respectful to women than most of the guys you know. I'm not a sexist. But I love sex.
My ex-wife was with me for 16 years. That wasn't 'cause I was a sexist. It's 'cause I'm good at what I do when I am with them in that way. You know, my wife, Valerie, she's been with me for seven years. We've been married and divorced, never parted for a day. And my ex-fiancée, Eleanor Kerrigan, who is in my opinion the strongest female stand-up comic in the country, we're friends. We went out for about eight years. We're friends for over 20 years. That girl would not stay with a sexist. She's from fuckin' South Philly with 10 brothers and sisters. She don't take shit. And Valerie is from fucking East L.A. These are tough women.
So what's the secret to a long-lasting love life?
When I start dating a woman, I will tell her, "Whatever you want. Whatever makes you feel good. I don't judge." Let's say I was with a woman for 10 years, and she has an affair, and she's goin', "Well, I never thought I could tell you that I like that." I will make a woman so comfortable with me she could just do whatever she wants. I don't care. It's just about feeling good.
That's not how you are onstage.
Onstage, I love to paint comedic, bigger-than-life sexual pictures for people to laugh at themselves. That's why I use the language I use. Like, when I talk about the penis I might go, "Hey pal, you know when you got a bone-rock in the morning?" "Bone-rock" is hysterical. It's a funny fuckin' name. "You know when you're rubbing your banana against her mudflaps and now you're bangin' right it in right into your plums and banging off that fat?" Why is it "banana" and "plums"? It's hysterical. So I paint these crazy pictures. And that's all it was about to me. Pictures. Comedy.
The first episode of Dice revolves around the wedding of two gay men, and one of the grooms says he doesn't like you because of your act. How often do you have to justify your onstage persona to people in real life these days?
Never anymore. It's been 15, 20 years since magazines were writing only about my act. And in that time, I didn't care about my career. I was bringing up my two sons.
Did Adrien Brody's impersonation of you in the second episode ever scare you?
To work with an actor of that caliber and see him turn into what he turned into was one of the greatest things I've ever seen. When this was offered to him he said, "I jumped on it. I've always been a fan of yours." He's amazing. But when he got into the character, it bothered me. I'd be like, "Adrien, all right. Come on." He'd go "Brody." He goes, "Don't call me Brody." I go, "I know, but … " He'd get in it. That's what method actors do. "I don't act; I become." I learned really quick how he does that.
"I'm getting stoned on the set and the line producer comes over. 'Dice, there's a million cops on the set.' And I go, 'I've done a lot for the police. As a matter of fact, they want to smoke with me. Now walk away.'"
In recent years, you've also worked with some high-caliber directors. What was it like working with Martin Scorsese on Vinyl?
It was huge because Marty is the type of director that lets somebody go as deep as they're capable of going with that part. And trust me, what you saw onscreen was not the original way they envisioned it. He was more than open to everything I wanted to do. I told him, "Hey look, Marty, when I come to film this thing, I'm going to be completely stoned. I'm not going with the fake shit." And I'm not talking about cocaine; I've never touched any hard drugs in my life. But I did the weed thing.
Usually, when I smoke pot it's at night, when I'm home in my backyard just to chill. And here I am showing up at seven in the morning stoned out of my mind. There was one moment, we were shooting that big scene where they kill me – that was a three- or four-day shoot in Long Island – and I'm getting stoned on the set and the line producer comes over and he goes, "Dice, it's all over the place. The smell. There's a million cops on the set." And I go, "Look. I've done a lot for the police. As a matter of fact, they want to smoke with me. Nobody's putting us in jail for me smoking weed. Now walk away. Just leave me be." And Marty would just laugh. I wish I was friends with him for the last 30 years.
When did you meet him?
Here's a funny story. When my career took off, I had an apartment on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn in, like, 1990. I remember the phone ringing and my wife Trina goes, "The guy says it's Martin Scorsese." So I get on the phone. It sounds just like him. We'd laugh for a half hour and he'd hang up. And then it happened a couple more times. But I never believed it was him.
So when I met with him in New York for Vinyl, I said "Marty, I gotta ask you one thing, because I need it settled in my mind. Do you ever remember calling me years ago?" And he goes, "Yeah. I called a bunch of times." I go, "Well, I went with it, and I believed it was you, but I would never have asked, like a child, 'Is this really you?'" Then I go, "So why didn't you ever use me before?" He goes, "You had to grow into it." And we just started laughing like idiots.
You also worked with Woody Allen on Blue Jasmine. What did you learn from working with Woody?
Well, I learned not to change any lines at the last moment. When I had to do that scene with Cate Blanchett in San Francisco we shot that part, I made some changes. So when we got on set, I sent my son, Max, to get Woody [laughs]. "Tell him I gotta see him right now." So Woody comes to the jewelry store when we're filming, and goes, "What do you wanna talk to me about?" And I go, "Well I made some adjustments." And he goes, "Well, what do you mean, adjustments?" And I go, "Look, you wrote the greatest script, but I say things a little different … " He goes, "And you're telling me this now? OK, I want you to do this with your son. Right in front of me. He'll play the Cate Blanchett part."
And as we're doing this scene, Cate Blanchett comes into the jewelry store. They had her change her dress in there behind the counter of the jewelry store. I was distracted seeing this beautiful girl in nylons. Like, "I gotta focus." Anyway, Woody looks at me and goes, "I love it. Do it the way you just did it. Beautiful." He's a low-key guy that way but he will let you create the character the way it needs to be done. When we did it, he came over and said, "We could do it again for safety but it was absolutely perfect." And I go, "Do it again anyway." But he really made me comfortable with it.
Lastly, I recently did an interview with Rick Rubin, and we talked about your Day the Laughter Died album, which he produced. What was it about you two that clicked?
Me and Rick have an incredible relationship. He would tell me constantly, "You know, you're the end of comedy." And coming from Rick Rubin, who already had the reputation with rap of working with Run-DMC, it's amazing to hear that from him. He had an off-the-wall sense of humor that just got me. There was never any kind of screaming fights when I wanted to do The Day the Laughter Died in the midst of performing for 100,000 people a week. It was the ultimate late-night set in front of non-fans, whoever was in the club. I would go on at around 11pm, and stay on there for about three hours at Dangerfield's in New York. People would curse me out, walk out, and we just left it all on the album for everybody to hear. That album has become a lot of comics' favorite comedy album of all time. That was the beauty of Rick. I didn't come up there to prove anything at that point. I came up to be funny without nothing loaded.
You have a number of stand-up dates scheduled this summer. Will you be doing another TV special?
I don't even know if I'll do another special again. I loved what I did with Showtime with Indestructible. I did it with my sons opening the show playing music, and it was exciting as fuck. To do that as a family was what I wanted to do.
Then it must feel good to have them with you on Dice.
I'm so excited about the show. It feels really good. I'm happy about the way people have responded to Dice. The four letter word has definitely returned.