While the shows he’s been cast in have yet to air, one of the more unlikely success stories of the young year has to belong to Andrew Dice Clay, who is attached to a pair of premium cable series. Clay, a household name 25 years ago for his shocking comedy routines, plays a cocaine-addled radio mogul in the much-anticipated HBO drama Vinyl, which debuts Feb. 14, and stars in the Showtime scripted comedy Dice, which premieres this spring.
Clay’s heyday may have been 1990, when he sold out Madison Square Garden twice. Yet Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse’s Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture, posits that Clay never completely faded from the spotlight, mentioning turns in Celebrity Apprentice 2 in 2009 and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. “People talk about Dice having a comeback,” says Thompson. “When you look at his career, I don’t know that he ever really went away.”
The Vinyl Countdown
Clay plays Frank “Buck” Rogers, a man of outsize influence over the record industry, in Vinyl, which comes from executive producers Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter. Scorsese directed the pilot; casting director Ellen Lewis brought Clay to Scorsese, who gave him the role.
“A lot of people forget that before he was the ‘Dice’ character, Andrew was already a very talented working actor,” Winter tells B&C. “And while Dice is a strong presence, his acting supersedes that and he manages to create a new character every time out.”
Clay says he jumped at the chance to work with the legendary director: “Working with Scorsese, that was it.”
Showtime debuts Dice in the spring. At the TCA press tour earlier this month, David Nevins, Showtime president and CEO, described the six-episode series as “the only slightly exaggerated stories” of Clay as he works to resurrect his career in Vegas. Scot Armstrong (Old School, The Hangover Part II) directs.
Dressed in black, including a Capitol Records Tower T-shirt, Clay discussed the show during press tour, opting for an outdoor perch to accommodate a seemingly endless litany of cigarettes. The series was hatched when he presented a sizzle reel to Showtime brass that Gary Levine, president of programming, describes as somewhere between a teaser and a pilot. “It’s over the top, it’s fast paced, it’s funny, and it’s got heart,” Clay says, with some, but not nearly all, the bluster of his stage routine. “Any show that’s a comedy should have a little heart in it.”
Levine says the show is a fun mix of Clay’s outrageous past and more pensive present. “With Dice, you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “He’s dynamic, he’s polarizing, he’s funny.”
Fox21 Television Studios is producing Dice. Guest stars include Lorraine Bracco, Adrien Brody and Wayne Newton.
Premium cable represents a homecoming for Clay, who’s had stand-up specials on both Showtime and HBO, including 1995’s Assume the Position. Not all of his TV work has taken off. He was the first contestant fired on Celebrity Apprentice 2, clashing with Donald Trump. A 2007 VH1 reality series was a bust, and the less said about a 1995 CBS sitcom, Bless This House, the better. Clay says meddling producers doomed the reality series. “It wasn’t reality,” he says.
Hickory Dickory Dock…
Clay is a family man these days, actively involved in the showbiz careers of his sons, who are in the rock trio Still Rebel. (In a much earlier chapter of his career, Clay was a drummer and singer.) “The reason I do this is to teach them by example, how to get there,” he says. “To show them, if you believe, you can.”
Dice-as-role-model is a far cry from the outlandish entertainer of yore, whose routines were so misogynistic that, when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1990, cast member Nora Dunn and musical guest Sinead O’Connor begged off that night. Clay shrugs off the criticism. “What I do on stage, I do for comedy’s sake,” he says.
The Vinyl role may not be long-term, but Clay says Dice can conceivably roll on Showtime for a few seasons. “Once I saw them writing it with heart,” he says, “I was like, alright—these guys know what they’re doing. I can do this for a few years.”