More than 20 years ago, comedian Andrew Dice Clay made it big by pioneering a new brand of crude stand-up. His dirty nursery rhymes, racial epithets and stories about women made his albums multiplatinum and drew the ire of equality groups around the country. The controversy just seemed to fuel his fame. His performance at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards was so outrageous that the “rock star comedian” became the only person to have been banned from the network. Still his star grew. Clay sold out Madison Square Garden in 1991 and opened for Guns N’ Roses at the Rose Bowl in 1992.
But the era of political correctness eventually caught up with Clay. Add overexposure and a lack of new material to the backlash, and the large gigs dried up. So Clay resigned to playing smaller stages, often in Las Vegas, a short drive from his home in Los Angeles.
Clay’s life continued on its slow path toward obscurity, and then the economy sank. To avoid filing for bankruptcy, Clay sold a house and signed a contract in January 2010 to perform for 28 weeks in the Hilton’s 350-seat Shimmer Showroom. “The money I made is what you call sick money,” he says about the good times. “What I got paid would make you nauseous.”
During his residency, he gave in to the temptation of playing blackjack (or “Dice Jack” as he calls it) to pay his bills. “When you gamble long enough, it’s going to turn on you,” he says. “I went crazy when I won, but I ended up losing three-fourths of it back.” The lifestyle was inevitably catching up to the 53-year-old comedian, and he returned to L.A. after his stint at the Hilton to escape the haze of gambling, partying and performing. He sought refuge by spending time with his sons and 27-year-old second wife, Valerie Vasquez.
But Clay wouldn’t have much time to enjoy the refuge he sought. While at Starbucks, Clay ran into old friend and producer Bruce Rubenstein. The two began reflecting on Clay’s career, and then Rubenstein popped a question that shocked him: Why have you never appeared on Entourage? Clay brushed off the question.
Turns out the show’s producer, Doug Ellin, is a huge fan of Clay’s comedy. And before he new it, Clay had his comeback. Ellin offered Clay a recurring role on Entourage’s last season, which is set to return July 24. “It’s crazy, in one e-mail this guy changed my entire career,” Clay says.
The ink was barely dry on the news release announcing Clay’s new gig when he became a hot commodity once again. “I was just writing a book like everyone else,” he says, “and now all these people are coming at me [with offers] for concert tours. That’s how Hollywood is. One day nothing can be going on and the next day you can be king of the hill again.”
Clay is quick to point out that the bad times are never enjoyable, but in true defiant fashion, he’d always remained ready to stage the resurgence he’s now experiencing. His plans include “being the biggest comic in the world by New Year’s” and negotiating a deal to perform at the 7,500-seat MCU Park in Brooklyn.
Playboy Comedy presents Andrew Dice Clay, The Lounge at Palms, June 23-25, $60 and up, 944-3200. The new season of Entourage debuts on HBO in July.