If controversial stand-up comedian Andrew Dice Clay was going to be cancelled, it would have happened 30 years ago. It’s not something the “Diceman” — as he was known during his meteoric late-'80s rise to fame — worries about today.
“They didn’t call it cancel culture when my career took off, but that’s what they tried to do to me back then,” Clay, 63, told the Current during a recent interview. “I’ve sort of been grandfathered in, so now I can say and do whatever the hell I want.”
On August 12-13, Clay will make a tour stop at the AT&T Center’s Terrace Club for a pair of 8 p.m. shows. With major concert tours pushed back due to the pandemic, the arena recently transformed its restaurant into a 300-seat comedy venue. Clay will be the first comic to headline the new space.
During our interview, Clay talked about why his style of comedy wouldn’t work if he was a new comedian today and how his recent diagnosis of Bell’s palsy lends itself to comedy. He also bragged about what living musical legend he recently shared a birthday cake with.
What do you think about the AT&T Center opening a comedy club inside its venue? As a comedian, do you like the more intimate setting?
When I toured Texas before, I was probably doing the main room at the AT&T Center, but that’s not the dream anymore. I’ve really been enjoying doing shows where audiences who were once in the nosebleed [seats] can see me up close. This started during the pandemic, where I would go out and play these smaller places, and I would be so happy. I enjoy the intimate setting.
What do you talk about these days on stage?
I’m not gonna get into that. You’re talking to the greatest comic on Earth. I’m certainly not living off my past, I’ll put it to you that way. I’m still very edgy. I’m edgier than just about any comic out there.
Do you still find that your reputation precedes you when you tour?
Years ago, when I would do places like San Antone and Dallas, they would write me up as the Hoodlum of Humor and the James Dean of Comedy. The minute my career went through the roof, it went from that to the "Comedy of Hate" in the New York Times. I was like, “Wait a minute, last week, I was the coolest comic ever.” I can’t really pay attention to it. I dealt with it and built the career I always wanted. Now, I’m back on the road doing it more.
So, if you were a 20-year-old comedian just starting out today, how do you think your original material would play?
You couldn’t do it. All these guys are getting destroyed for saying anything. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for that stuff to end. When people are counting their steps – looking down and counting 10,000 steps a day – you know things are getting fucking boring. You gotta start having some fun again in the world. When people are taking the time to change the word “manhole” to “maintenance hole,” are you kidding me? These are the issues?
You were all over the news today because you were recently diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. How are you feeling?
I’ve already done eight shows with no problems. I address it with the crowds just to let them know why my face looks a little screwed up. The show continues and it’s amazing. Do you hear a problem with me? No. I mean, the first day I got it, I sounded like Elmer Fudd. But after that, I was all good. I went to the right doctors, and they said, “Your brain is perfect even though your thinking is nuts.” They said it would go away in about three weeks.
You sounded a bit frustrated today on social media because some journalists are writing about the palsy, but also saying that you’ve been on hiatus for a long time. Have you ever really left show business?
Let me tell you something, it was in People. I’m getting calls from TMZ. The only thing that bothers me is when they write that I’m making a comeback into comedy after 20 years. If there’s one thing I never stopped doing, it was stand-up comedy. There’s no vacation from the world of stand up. I was in Dallas two years ago, so where is the 20-year layoff?
I know the palsy is likely to subside after a few weeks, but how do you find humor in that?
The very first night I had it, it was hard to say the F-word. I would say it and it would sound like I had a vibrator in my face. So, I just started making fun of it. It doesn’t hurt. There’s no pain involved. It’s just that your face is a little fucked up. I went to see Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga the other night and had a blast. Gaga was telling me about this massage I needed to get. I was like, “Alright.” I didn’t even want to talk about it. When you’re the best-looking comic to ever walk the Earth and you get palsy face, it’s funny.
Is performing on stage today just as fulfilling for you as when you first started in the 1970s?
It’s more enjoyable now because of everything I’ve done in this business. With all my knowledge, I feel no pressure when I go on stage. Of course, I give them some of the classic stuff they came to know me by, but most of it is all brand new.
Some comedians in your position would just stick to their greatest hits, no?
I couldn’t do that. I would quit the business before I did that. I’ll always keep developing [my comedy].
So, you want to be like Tony Bennett then — 95 years old and going strong.
You know, to see that man at 95 standing on the stage at Radio City Music Hall, he might as well have been 40 years old. He was belting out songs like he was just a young guy. It was amazing to watch. It was an honor to be there. It was his birthday, and I got to eat some of his birthday cake.
Is it easier or harder to make an audience laugh today than it was when you first started?
They love it more than ever because all these other comics are getting pounded for saying anything offbeat. If you’re a young comic and you’re doing a big special, you’ll have the network going, “You can’t say this joke or that joke.” That could wreck a comic’s whole act and keep them from hitting the level they want to hit. That would frustrate me.
Besides your stand-up comedy, what else are you looking forward to doing?
Well, I don’t know if my girlfriend wants sex tonight …
$92-$137, 8 p.m., August 12-13, AT&T Center, 1 AT&T Center Parkway, (210) 444-5140, attcenter.com.Get our top picks for the best events in San Antonio every Thursday morning. Sign up for our Events Newsletter.