Twenty years ago, Andrew Dice Clay ruled the world of standup comedy — and offended a lot of people in the process.
Yet, today, he's less about the naughty nursery rhymes and more about being the best dad he can be.
"That's really been my life," says Clay while driving his 16-year-old son, Dillon, to his water-polo game. "People always ask me what the difference between Dice and Andrew is. I don't want walk around my house with a studded leather jacket cursing like a maniac."
Clay, 53, is making a comeback of sorts on the current — and final — season of HBO's Entourage. He plays a washed-up version of himself, who co-stars with Johnny Drama (played by Kevin Dillon) on the animated show Johnny's Bananas. When the show tests well with audiences, Dice walks out in demand of a bigger paycheck — even though it hasn't even aired yet — putting Drama in a bind between his career and a friend.
Clay, once one of the most polarizing (and popular) figures in pop culture, always knew the day would come when he'd attack his career again. Family, however, had to come first. "When kids are 7 and 11, if you have any kind of hard and good head on your shoulders, you take care of your kids," says the father to Dillon and Max Silverstein, who turns 21 on Aug. 30.
"If you had them, bring them up," says Clay. "I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. For me, that's my biggest accomplishment."
Entourage came at just the right time . After the rough breakup of his second marriage in 2002, the "Diceman" backed away from show business and put an emphasis on raising his boys. "Kids get one chance to grow up half normal in this world," he says. "If you've got one good parent taking care of them, that's about as good as it gets with a broken family."
But doing standup club dates here and there wasn't sufficiently paying the bills, not to mention child-support payments. Last summer, he went to Las Vegas to raise some money through gambling — which he had given up 10 years ago along with smoking cigarettes. He ended up losing more money than he won.
After he returned to Los Angeles broke and burnt out, Clay met his son Max at a local Starbucks and ran into an old friend, screenwriter Bruce Rubenstein. He mentioned to Clay that he should do a walk-on role on Entourage, as comedians such as Pauly Shore and Bob Saget had done in previous seasons. Right there in the coffee shop, Rubenstein took out his Blackberry and emailed his pal, Entourage creator Doug Ellin.
It turned out Ellin was a big fan of Clay's, and he was actually at the last comedy special Clay had taped 14 years ago when Ellin himself was a struggling comic.
"I call him my Quentin Tarantino," Clay says of Ellin. "What he did for me with Entourage is what Quentin did for (John) Travolta with Pulp Fiction."
Already, Clay has seen some fruits of his new gig. He's been talking to Barry Levinson about the director's upcoming Gotti film, will return home to Brooklyn for a one-night-only show at MCU Park Oct. 1.
It's not too far from where Clay made history in 1990 when he sold out two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden— still the only comedian to accomplish that feat — but Clay insists he doesn't want to repeat his former career .
Despite his run of selling out arenas all over the country and appearing in movies in the late 1980s, Clay's "hardcore" material was frequently labeled misogynistic and offensive . He was banned from MTV for life in 1989, and in 1990, when Clay was the host of Saturday Night Live, musical guest Sinead O'Connor refused to be on the show with him.
"When my kids have asked me about my career in the past, I go, 'You know what? I was like the Lady Gaga of standup comedy.' That's how big it went, only I was a comic and there was a lot of controversy surrounding," says Clay.
Clay says a lot of comedians on stage are very insecure, but he was able to craft a confident "Dice" persona for himself that was more rock star than comic. That rubbed some the wrong way, while to others, he was a hero.
"Whatever doors were left, I broke down for other comics to be influenced and follow," says Clay. "Now I'm going to go out and do it again, but it is a different time. My material is hardcore, but we live in a hardcore society. I don't sugarcoat but I'm also not running for president."
Clay is currently working on a new standup album and hopes to release a memoir. After his 2002 divorce, he wrote one out by hand in capital letters. "When my attorney looked at it, he was like, 'The FBI's going to put this in a plastic bag and study it,'" jokes Clay. "I'll need somebody to work with me on it, but it's time."
He says he's not great with computers, but his wife Valerie, 26 — whom he married in 2010 after a year of dating — has a Twitter account and Clay wants to start his own .
What he wants most, however, is to guide his children in what they want to do. His son Dillon is into academics as well as swimming and water polo, and Max, who once appeared with his dad on Entourage , is a budding standup comic.
"He's almost like a Seinfeld with an edge to it. He does make fun of his old man," says Clay, laughing. "There's nothing more fun for me to do than watch him working on his stuff.
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