Penthouse Retrospective

by Allan Sonnenshein Originally Published: April, 1991

Andrew Dice Clay | 30 Years Ago This Month

If Andrew Dice Clay has his way, Rocky Balboa will always be with us to overcome the odds.

Penthouse Magazine - April, 1991Little Boy Blew …

Like Stallone’s underdog pug — whom Clay, swapping black boxing shorts for black leather jackets, claims as his inspiration — “Diceman” (the Andrew Dice Clay nom de comedy) now finds himself rising from the canvas, a bit battered and blue, struggling to hold on to the heavyweight title of comedy. In his corner are millions of fans clutching their sides in laughter; standing over him are grim-faced referees wishing him down for the count and thinking: There oughta be a law against comics poking fun at women, gays, blacks, Jews — well, everybody and everything.

As the champ, Diceman had an obligation to keep ’em laughing, and as long as. they were, he ignored those who were loading the dice against him. When Nora Dunn and Sinead O’Connor refused to appear with him on “Saturday Night Live,” Diceman performed, and the episode’s ratings soared to equal those of the glory days of John, Danny, and Chevy. When MTV banned him for life, Diceman went elsewhere and broke records by filling the largest arenas in the country.

But success breeds jealousy and envy, and an “I could have been a contender” line of comics joined the social referees. Jay Leno, in search of a punch line, attacked Diceman in a national magazine. “I can’t find the joke, I can’t find the joke,” complained the man who sits in for Johnny. Leno went on to compare Diceman to ex-Ku Klux Klanner David Duke and the fallen Marion Barry. Several other comics joined Leno in taking swipes at their former friend and colleague. Still, the champ didn’t go down.

Soon it was time for the media fly-weights to give it their best shot. GQ entitled an article about Diceman “The Comedy of Hate.” The New York Times took on the cause of American Womanhood in its attack on Diceman. Time was less ambitious and only defended his ex-wife when swiping at the comic. The most ambitious attack came from The Boston Globe, when it defended Western Civilization from the onslaught of Diceman’s humor by comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini. After a mixed year of sweet success from admiring audiences and fans and bitter attacks from the sorts who enjoy closing down museums and record stores, Andrew Dice Clay pulled off a Rocky Balboa. He returned home to regroup and prepare himself for next year’s battles.

The Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York, is one of the more scenic areas in this borough of neighborhoods. Down at the bay, dozens of fishing boats leave early every morning, returning late in the afternoon when the day’s catch is unloaded on the dock, wrapped in newspaper, and sold for the cheapest prices in the city. Across the street from the bay are Italian family restaurants that seem to have been there forever, small tackle and bait shops, and a small club called Pips. This is the heart of the neighborhood where Andrew Silverstein, a.k.a. Andrew Dice Clay, was born 32 years ago.

During its three decades, many famous bands and comics have performed at Pips, but as most people in Brooklyn will tell you, this is the spot where Andrew Dice Clay was born. The story — true, untrue, or exaggerated — has become part of the neighborhood folklore.

It was Amateur Night, sometime in 1978, when anybody who thought he was funny could get up on the stage and try to make the tough Brooklyn audience laugh. Andrew walked up to the small stage dressed like Jerry Lewis’s Nutty Professor, inspiring the rowdy crowd to make catcalls and threats on his life. It was Brooklyn’s version of the West Bank. Keeping his cool, the suffering nerd asked the hostile audience to try and imagine the Nutty Professor swallowing a magic potion that would turn him into the cool John Travolta. The club’s lights went dim, the comic made a few changes, and when the lights came up, there was the hero of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. The hostile crowd went wild with delight and laughter and never stopped applauding until Andrew Dice Clay left the stage.

Growing up, Diceman knew he was going to be an entertainer. Schoolwork, hobbies, and sports never interested him. His first love was the drums, which he played in the band at James Madison High School, and later at clubs and hotel resorts. Although a musician and not a comic, he was always funny in the same way that keeps him in trouble today. Once Andrew and a friend were walking in the school hallway when they were supposed to be in class. A patrolling teacher spotted the two black-leather-jacketed AWOLs and prepared to take them to the dean. Without missing a beat, Andrew grabbed the unsuspecting teacher, tossed him against the wall, and demanded: “Stop! School police. Spread your legs and raise your hands. You are under arrest.” Before the shocked teacher could recover, the “undercover officer” had fled the school.

The Andrew Dice Clay who appeared onstage that night in 1978 at Pips was not yet the Diceman. At that time, most of his material consisted of impersonations and the stand-up’s stock-in-trade, one-liners. The persona of the Brooklyn tough making crudely hysterical observations about life was nowhere in sight. That character was not born so much as it evolved over years of onstage trial and error. By the time he finished a two-year stint in 1988 on the television series “Crime Story,” playing the gangster Max Goldman, the Diceman was upon us. Somewhere along the line he rewrote the Mother Goose nursery rhymes into versions definitely not suitable for children. By 1990 Andrew Dice Clay was America’s hottest comedian.

Mention the name Andrew Dice Clay, and if whomever you are speaking with recognizes it, they will definitely have an opinion. We love that.

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