Mitzi Shore, the owner of the Comedy Store, died Wednesday, April 11, at age 87. Below is a July 17, 2011, profile from The Times about comedian and actor Andrew “Dice” Clay, focusing on his personal life, career and early interaction with Mitzi Shore at the Comedy Store.
Raunchy comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay, 53, banned for life by MTV in 1989 during his heyday, is a recurring character on the new season of HBO’s “Entourage,” beginning next Sunday. He plays himself as a has-been comedian who gets a shot at making a comeback as an animated character — and who is determined to get revenge on Hollywood for years of dumping or ignoring him.
So where have you been?
I brought up my sons. I went through a bad divorce, and both my boys live with me. When I went through that breakup, I really didn’t care about the career. It was more about bringing them up in a very solid way. I’m from Brooklyn, and people who are from where I’m from are very grounded. I never wanted a divorce, so when it happened, you know, I was like, if I don’t accomplish bringing up good sons, then I’ve done nothing with my life. My youngest is 16 — his name is Dillon — he’s so great in school, he wants to go to college, he’s very focused, down to earth, intelligent, great kid. Max goes under Max Silverstein [Clay’s given surname], he’s a stand-up comic, he’s 20. To me, he’s like an edgier version of [ Jerry] Seinfeld. Also very smart, intellectual but regular. Because I’m very regular at home.
How did your “Entourage” gig come about?
To be honest, during the recession, I was going broke, basically. The gigs I was getting just weren’t paying enough money to make my monthly nut, plus, even though my kids live with me, I still have to pay child support for one of the kids and alimony. I didn’t have any money, so I gambled in Vegas, because I was playing a little place in Vegas, and I used to gamble heavy over 10 years ago. And I started winning a lot of money. But of course by the end of the summer, because it is gambling, I lost most of it, and I came back to L.A., and I told my new wife, Valerie, “I’m going over to Starbuck’s to have coffee with Max. I don’t want to know about show business, bills, nothing.” And I’m sitting with Max, and this guy comes over that I haven’t seen in 14 years. His name is Bruce Rubenstein. He [co]wrote the movie “Bullet” that Mickey Rourke did with Tupac [Shakur].
So the next day I go for coffee with Bruce again and he said, “Why don’t you at least do a walk-on on ‘Entourage’? A lot of comics do that.” I go, “You know what? It never happened.” And he goes, "['Entourage’ creator] Doug Ellin thinks you’re the greatest comic ever and wants a meeting with you today.” I go, “How do you know that?” “Because I’m emailing him right now.”
And we met with Doug the next day, and I walked away thinking it’s going to be a little walk-on, which is great. But then they make an offer for a lot of the season. It was a whole character arc. I play myself. My son, Max, is in it.
He plays himself?
Yeah. I started calling Doug “my Tarantino.” And what I mean by that is Quentin Tarantino is such a fan of John Travolta that when he did " Pulp Fiction,” he put Travolta in that movie, and it made Travolta the star that he should truly be. That’s what Doug Ellin basically said to me. He goes, “Look, in one season I’m going to blow your career through the roof.” Doug Ellin, I would have to say, gave me my biggest shot other than Rodney Dangerfield. And Bruce Rubenstein became my manager. It’s a pretty unbelievable story that I was playing to 120, 150 people a night in Las Vegas to booking Cyclone Stadium, which I’ll do Oct. 1. It’s a minor-league ballpark in New York. It’s just how my career has always gone.
But your career hasn’t just had ups and downs. You’ve been reviled. How was it being on the receiving end of that?
It was rough. It’s like being put in a wood chipper. But when I think of the history I created comedically as a stand-up, I took it to a rock-star level. I was doing like 100,000 people a week in concert. The rock-star image was never done as a comedian. It’s a certain kind of performing style, which I learned from Elvis. And Mitzi Shore that owned the Comedy Store, when she first met me — I’m not tooting my own horn — I was 21 years old and she said, “There’s never been a comic other than Lenny Bruce who’s a very handsome comic and you have that whole Travolta-Stallone look, and you’re going to be a huge movie star.” And then when Rodney [Dangerfield] put me on his special, I just went absolutely through the roof. I know the material is raw, but we live in a tough world and not everything is said so politely, especially when you want to make people laugh.
Your old act, which was full of homophobic, racist and misogynistic humor, is pretty dated in 2011. Look at what happened with Tracy Morgan recently.
Yeah, he’s a comic, and from what I understand, he actually apologized to the guy he insulted. But a comedic act is a comedic act, and a joke is a joke. That’s the difference between making fun of any race, which I have no problem doing, or anybody. I just have no problem with it because I’m doing it comedically. It’s not my true feelings. I didn’t do anything any different from Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy to Martin Lawrence.
Are you still doing your old act?
No, I have new material. We live in a newer world and a tougher world than we did 20 years ago. I watched a show with Dr. Phil a couple of months ago about pornography and how men in America are averaging 23 hours a week between everything from porno they buy to Internet porno, and for me not to make fun of that onstage would be, well, I’m not the comic I say I am.
That’s different from homophobic humor. That’s making fun of behavior, not identity.
The jokes I told years ago were not hateful jokes. They were comedic jokes. It was really the gay activist groups that made more of a deal out of it than it was, because if they attacked me, they would get attention. The same thing with the NOW organization. But everything I was doing was more or less just about making people laugh. I would say to my wife, “Don’t they realize I’m just a Brooklyn bozo? What are they making out of this?”