Once upon a time, way back in the late 1980s, Andrew Dice Clay‘s smutty nursery rhymes, Elvis-on-steroids accoutrements and blue-collar, Brooklyn-inflected delivery helped propel him to the upper echelons of stand-up comedy. Underperforming movies and sitcoms followed, but personal problems and parenthood ultimately caused Clay to largely bow out of further career pursuits. Then, in 2011, a recurring role on HBO’s Entourage brought him back from the doldrums. He’s since filmed a Showtime special, created a popular podcast, and landed a role in the latest Woody Allen film, Blue Jasmine (in theaters now). Rolling Stone spoke with Clay about his updated career track, his Brooklyn history and the responsibilities of being a father.
You’ve said that you have a vision for this stage of your career. What is that vision?
I don’t want to have the career I had. A lot of people are asking me if I’m gonna tour again. I love the comic that I am, but I want to do a film like Blue Jasmine, and other films hopefully, where I’m challenged as an actor, because that’s what I always wanted in the first place. I never set out to be a comedian. I just didn’t want to go to acting school. I figured I would go on comedy stages and almost develop my own method. So I used comedy stages, and the whole “Dice” persona took off before the acting thing went through the roof.
But the role in Blue Jasmine is very different from your stage persona.
That’s what I’m saying. I love that I was able to drop all that other stuff, get into this whole new thing and work with these great actors. All I would tell Woody on the set was, “I just want to do a great job for you. I just want you to look at this and say the guy did his job.” That’s all I wanted from this. But I really enjoyed learning the lines and knowing the emotions I’d have to tap into. That’s the kind of acting I love. So hopefully there’s some more of that.
You and Woody Allen were both born and raised in Brooklyn. What do you think of the borough now?
I’m always gonna love Brooklyn. When my career took off, I actually bought a house there because I wanted to be near my family. But you can’t go back that way. I thought people would see that I’m very humble and I like to live back in the neighborhood. But they’re not looking at you like that, they’re going, “Dice moved in next door to me.” If I went to the Italian grocery down the block, within minutes cars are pulling up, people are getting out with cameras. So I had to move out of there. But I loved growing up in Brooklyn, going to Brighton Beach in the summer, or Coney Island, even the jobs I used to have.
What kind of jobs?
Everything from working at Baskin-Robbins to selling jeans on Kings Highway to working for Stanley Kaplan educational center, handing out the MCATs.
How has your stand-up audience changed?
Well, it changed the minute I did Entourage. Up to two years ago, I was drawing people my age or ten years younger. Now you have girls and guys in their early 20s sitting in the front row. That’s pretty exciting to me. I’m hip in certain ways, and audiences feel it. I’ve got pieces of my act where I talk about getting older, but I also talk about the new generation of women – they’re bleaching out their assholes, buffing ’em out and putting them on their Facebook page as a profile picture.
But it’s all cartoonish. And I think the media has caught up to me with that, and understands that this is a persona, this is a goof. It’s a joke.
How much more perspective do you have now versus when you first hit?
It’s like anything. When you’re a kid, you think about things differently. I’ve been in the business 35 years, so I’ve gone through a lot. I walked in years ago to create the ultimate comedic hero for people, a bigger-than-life type of comic, and I did that. It was great, it was controversial, it was exciting – it was crazy, is what it was. But after I went through a divorce, I felt a responsibility to raise my two sons the right way. At that time, it wasn’t about career moves, it was about bringing them up. And it paid off, because we’re as close as you could possibly be with a parent. My kids aren’t gonna be like the kid from Glee [Cory Monteith] who died from heroin. All I could think about is, “What’s the real reason behind this?” That’s when I look at the families and I go, “Where was somebody for this guy? Where were they when he was twelve and fourteen and sixteen and eighteen?” My kids come to me with everything, and even the reason for my resurgence is because I like to teach them by example. Now they’re old enough to understand this is what could happen if you learn your craft and you go after it and you never let that fire just burn out inside of you. They saw my light get derailed a bunch of times but then they saw me get on track. That’s what the journey of life is.