More than three decades after becoming the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden, Andrew Dice Clay is playing considerably smaller venues. But when he comes to the Mall of America's House of Comedy for four shows this weekend, he'll be bringing something he never had in his heyday: prestige.
Thanks to critically acclaimed roles in "Blue Jasmine," "A Star Is Born" and HBO's "Vinyl," the taboo-busting comic is being reassessed as a formidable actor, a label that seemed unimaginable back when "Saturday Night Live" cast member Nora Dunn refused to share a stage with him and MTV banned him for life.
Not that the 63-year-old performer has suddenly transformed into Jimmy Stewart. Those who catch his act in the Twin Cities will still get dirty nursery rhymes and his signature bravado, much of which was on display last month when he called during a bike ride in Los Angeles.
Q: You're one of the first headliners to get back on the road during the pandemic. What went into that decision?
A: I'm sort of glad I'm one of the firsts. I've always prided myself on being the first to do this or that. I've just been sitting around. My only creative outlet has been [the celebrity video app] Cameo. You only have to do a minute, but I've been giving people 22 minutes. So it's time. I'm trying to be as safe as possible. I miss people, even though all they do in normal times is complain. That's not going to change. Once they get out there again, forget about being nicer to each other. That's been my problem in life. I see through all this.
Q: Are you finding audiences are more appreciative than usual?
A: We did a place called SoulJoel's in Pennsylvania. It was a big tent. Twenty-seven degrees. I was in the heaviest sweater I had, a hoodie under my leather jacket, a T-shirt over a tank top, long johns, the heaviest socks money could buy, fur-lined boots and fingerless mittens. I don't smoke anymore, but I hold cigarettes. When I dropped my pack, I couldn't even bend over. That's how bundled up I was. Then there was a train 30 feet behind the stage.
The crowd was also freezing, but they were so happy to be out. I gave it as much energy as I would in a theater show. A lot of comics who have been doing this as long as I have lose the fire. I've got a big mouth. I've always said that I'm the greatest. If you say that, you owe it to your audience to get up and prove it.
Q: You had a promising acting career going before you took off as a comic. I remember you from "Casual Sex?" and "Crime Story." Did the stand-up success force you to put acting on hold?
A: When things heated up, the press said it was the demise of Western civilization. They hated me. There was a lot of backlash and that hurt the acting career. It just did. But I still had to turn stuff down. The money for concerts was ridiculous.
My manager had a fight with the producers for this sitcom called "Dear John" because I turned down the part that went to Jere Burns. I hate those kind of sitcom shows. I'd rather do something more dramatic. I'm pretty close on finishing a deal to do a gangster project from Amazon Prime.
When I got cast in "Crime Story," the producer Michael Mann didn't even know I was a comic. When he told me they were going to cancel the show after two seasons, I told him to wait a few months, that I was going to be huge. He basically wished me luck with my little skit.
I ran into him at a party two years later. We were having a drink and he said, "Let me ask you something. If you were me, and some young kid said that in four months he was going to be the biggest star in the world, wouldn't you think that sounded silly?"
Q: What's the secret of pulling off arena shows?
A: I knew I could be the biggest comic in the world, and I'll tell you why. I figured out at a very young age what my image was going to be. I studied Elvis, Muhammad Ali, not other comedians. That rock 'n' roll personality was in movies and TV, but not in stand-up. People had never seen anything like it. Joe Rogan does arena shows now and he always gives me credit, which annoys other comics. This producer I know, Gene Kirkwood — he did "Rocky," "The Idolmaker" — he told me that when they make the biopic about me, they are going to have to film those concert scenes like they were as exciting or more exciting than a heavyweight fight.
I'm friends with Louis C.K. I think he's one of the best writers out there. But I wouldn't say he's the most exciting guy on stage. It's like going to see Kenny G in concert.
Q: Do you miss the big shows?
A: You know what? I did them for a long time, and then I stopped. I got claustrophobic. I like looking back at those days, but I love the kinds of projects I'm doing now. I love being able to see people laugh and smile. Comedy clubs are king.
Andrew Dice Clay
When: 7 & 9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Where: Rick Bronson's House of Comedy, Mall of America, Bloomington.
Tickets: Limited, $59.95; moa.houseofcomedy.net.