Andrew Silverstein, 64, won fame in the 1980s by creating an alter ego, the shock comic Andrew Dice Clay, described by The New York Times as an “outrageously offensive and especially sexist” character “on the Mount Rushmore of comedy.” The first stand-up to sell out two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden, he’s lately made a name for himself as a go-to supporting actor — he shared a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born. Now he’s playing Butchie, a mob guy, in Pam & Tommy (Hulu, Feb. 2), based on the true story behind the first-ever viral video, the sex tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. He told AARP 10 things you probably don’t know about Andrew Dice Clay.
1. He wanted to act, not tell jokes.
I started out to be an actor. I couldn’t care less about comedy. But instead of acting school, I got on a stage every night. The whole comedy stand-up career took over. It just became a phenomenon. It hurt the drama for a while. The last decade I’ve gotten to work with the likes of Scorsese (Vinyl) and Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine). Doing those kinds of roles is what I really started out to do. I’m glad I’m getting to do that now.
2. He ran with the cool kids.
The ’80s and the ’90s was a decadent time in rock ’n’ roll and comedy. I hung with Billy Idol, Guns N’ Roses, and some would become real friends. It was crazy, like, I couldn’t believe it. Tommy Lee — he was with Heather Locklear then — he really liked me. Tommy grabs me and he goes, “Would you want to do the Garden with us?” I couldn’t believe he would even talk to me. This was before my career took off. I said, “If you're crazy enough to take me on, I’m crazy enough to do it.” Of course, I never heard from him. We reconnected when I went to a Bon Jovi concert.
3. He shows respect.
I used to go to Crave on Sunset Boulevard a lot, and Pamela Anderson was always there with her girlfriends. I would sit right next to her, but unless I knew somebody, I wasn’t getting into another celebrity’s face. I didn’t want to be bothered, and I didn’t want to bother anybody. Unless you lock eyes and you sort of say hello — next thing you know, you’re talking.
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4. He’s confident about his comedic chops.
I did a Michael Mann series [in 1986] called Crime Story with Dennis Farina. It was great. Expensive, so they wanted to cancel it. I tried to tell Michael Mann, “Don’t cancel it. I’m going to be the biggest comedy star in the world.” He goes, “What are you talking about?” He sort of chuckled and went, “Look, I think you’re a terrific actor. I wish you luck with your comedy skit.” He canceled the show. Four months later my Rodney Dangerfield young comedian special aired and I went through the roof. I started doing 20,000 seats a night. Two years later at a party Michael goes, “What would you think if a younger guy is telling you, an older producer, ‘Give me four months, I’ll be the biggest star in the world’? What would you think?” We laughed about it.
5. He’s evolved.
At that time “Dice” was like a robotic cartoon onstage. It was a certain time in history. The younger “Dice” never even thought about that stuff, but it’s been about 34 years since my career took off and so you evolve. When I hear my older performances I go, “Wow, that was crazy.” I enjoy performing more now. I’m more myself onstage today than ever.
6. He raised a pair of chips off the old block.
My sons have a rock band, Still Rebel, and they’ve done Ozzfest and Sonic Temple festival. One of them goes back and forth with stand-up. But they’re doing it their way. I would take them up hiking in Runyon Canyon when they were young, and to Gold’s Gym. You know, teach by example. Now they are men. They do it on their own.
7. He won’t hide infirmities.
This summer I wound up with Bell’s palsy. It’s about 75 percent better. I did a ton of shows, from Detroit to Jersey. When your lip is down to your chin and your eyelid is down to your nose, you feel a little vulnerable. I would make fun of it. I didn’t hide. A lot of celebrities, they get a little thing, they try to hide. That’s one thing that’s very real about me. It’s just show business.
8. He’s resilient.
I’ve been called the Rocky of comedy because every time I’ve gone down — and it’s been a couple times — I really do keep punching away. I really do believe in going after your goals, your dreams. Even if you don’t get all the way, you might get halfway there, and that’s a great thing rather than not trying. Other comics would say, “I can’t believe you’re going to do this tour anyway, with Bell’s palsy.” Why wouldn’t I? I’m a comedian. I sound like Elmer Fudd. You just put it in the act. You put it out there and be truthful to the crowd. After I tell them about Bell’s palsy, I tell them about every kind of doctor, the pecking order of doctors, where it starts, where it ends. I just make it all funny.
9. He owns his age.
I’m at the gym all the time, pumping weights. Why not, if you can? I pulled my calf muscle this summer. I made fun of it onstage: “Do you know how I pulled my calf? Not on a treadmill, not on an elliptical. I rolled over in my sleep the wrong way and I got a pulled calf for three months already!”
10. He’s never giving up bagels.
My girlfriend will go, “It’s unbelievable. You eat two bagels a day and you don’t put on an ounce.” I sort of figured it all out because I’m not giving up bagels ever. I love pasta. Like I say, you gotta live. I’m gonna eat what I want to eat. I’m going into the gym and working it off.
Gayle Jo Carter, the former entertainment editor at USA WEEKEND magazine, has interviewed newsmakers for AARP, USA WEEKEND, USA Today, Parade, Aspire and Washington Jewish Week.