The former king of comedy defends free speech, says political correctness is 'ruining everything.'
Andrew Dice Clay became the most divisive man in entertainment long before the dawn of Outrage Culture.
At his peak, Clay sold out Madison Square Garden on two consecutive night. He also got benched by both “Saturday Night Live” and the MTV Video Music Awards for his outrageous shtick, which by today’s standards would be dubbed “toxic masculinity” on steroids.
No other performer can make that claim.
When the white-hot spotlight faded, Clay maintained a healthy career performing in clubs and theaters. He also earned raves for his dramatic chops, given his excellent performances in both Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” (2013) and “A Star is Born” (2018). He played Lady Gaga’s fame-hungry father in the latter.
Clay recently made national headlines again by announcing the “Mr. & Mrs. America” tour. He’ll be teaming with Roseanne Barr for a national co-headlining run. Clay reflected on his colorful career on Los Angeles’s “Man Up” radio show, which I cohost with Antonio Delgado and Ron Pearson.
“I got on a Rodney Dangerfield Young Comedians Special on HBO in 1988, and thank God you could say what you wanted then,” says Clay. “That was a Saturday night and by Monday I was the biggest comedian in the world. I couldn’t care less about comedy; I wanted to create something else, bigger than comedy. From 1989 to 1994, I was doing shows for 80,000 people a week for five years, but eventually can’t take that pace.
“Don’t forget that years ago comics were just opening acts for singers, good for 10 minutes and what I see today is the same — it’s mediocre, not great stuff,” he continues. “Ninety percent of what they’re putting on TV, I’m going ‘Really?!’
“What I do love is how hot comedy is. Everything goes in cycles. Comedy really started heating up again five years ago, it’s definitely full swing. If you’re anything, you become a master of your craft. I have a black belt in comedy, and I’ve learned that the best rooms for comedy are really the intimate clubs. They’re built for that.”
Born Adam Clay Silverstein, the comedian drew inspiration for his “Diceman” persona of a trash-talking wise guy from Elvis Presley’s swagger. He proudly trafficked in the most offensive jokes imaginable, including his bawdy take on classic nursery rhymes.
Critics loathed him even as he made millions off his gigantic fan base, but he notes “everything goes in cycles” and takes pride in his current acceptance as a dramatic actor.
“It’s really what I started out to be — more of an actor than a comic,” notes Clay. “But through that whole thing, my comedic chops built and so did that career. The acting is fun and I got to work with some great directors like [Martin] Scorsese [in the HBO series ‘Vinyl’] and Woody [Allen], but I get bored when I’m on a set. I don’t want to be on a set a long time. With live shows, I show up, hit the dressing room and then before you know it, I’m crushing the crowd. It’s what I love most.”
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“I felt Roseanne got in trouble for nothing, and we’re living in a day and age where you can lose a whole career over something you said,” says Clay, referring to the racially-charged Tweet that cost Barr her ABC sitcom last spring. “To me, that was First Amendment stuff and I went through it 30 years ago and no one had my back. I’ve known her for 30 years and I know she’s not a racist, and you really can’t hold people accountable to what they say or do when they’re on Ambien or a drug like that.”
“I totally didn’t get it and thought it was dumb, so I brought it up in a conversation with her and I brought her on stage in Las Vegas and the audience went nuts,” he continues. “I sorta had her back and said we’re gonna tour, I don’t care what I say, I don’t bend or fold with the political correctness. It’s ruining everything, not helping. You’re trying to monitor what comedians are saying? That’s all we have is the words.”
To hear more of the extensive interview with Clay, which includes some surprising reflections on fatherhood and his hot dramatic acting career, visit The Man Up show’s official web site.