Andrew Dice Clay didn’t expect to find his next Big Shot eating his lunch on the sidewalk.
And yet there he was, sipping a Coke and softly radiating in the imperturbable tranquility of a clear skied January day when Dice approached, filming the man and sheepishly asking in a nasally voice, “You heard I got the new phone?”
Dice’s Instagram gag is to walk up to strangers and insist they must recognize “this famous face of mine.” Most instead softly protest — “I dont know you,” one lady recently said – while most simply scurry away. Sidewalk lunch guy, on other hand, couldn’t be bothered to do either — and simply looked up at Dice and earnestly replied, ‘Congratulations.’”
“I couldn’t get home fast enough to show my girlfriend,” Dice tells Billboard. The sidewalk lunch man was now a Big Shot, a title Dice bestows on the people he features on his Instagram channel, which has 400,000 followers. “If there was an actual casting session for a TV show on Big Shot, he would have got the part.”
Dice is in the midst of prepping for his own showcase moment, with a big return comedy comeback show to be held at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 15. “35 years ago they would not have allowed me on the same block,” says Dice of the famously classy venue.
After all, Dice made his name in the late ’80s and early ’90s with a foul-mouthed routine that exploded across television like a hand grenade, shocking TV audiences and galvanizing millions of fans who bought up his comedy records and paid to see his concerts. Dice, whose real name was Andrew Silverstein, became an overnight star and arena headliner, becoming the first (and to date only) comedian to sell out two nights at Madison Square Garden.
His agent Dennis Arfa, now at AGI, would field calls “from every promoter in the country, from Ron Delsener to Stu Green to Bill Graham,” Dice tells Billboard. “And honestly, they didn’t know if I was a singer, a magician or a juggler. They just knew I was the guy who went on sale and in 48 minutes sold out.”
Dice’s material would make him and those he worked with millions, but the crass nature of his jokes about sex and women — as well as his targeting of gays and immigrants — became a growing problem for those around him. His refusal to soften his material (he recently told Joe Rogan, “Dice doesn’t get f–ked, Dice does the f–king”) would eventually be his undoing, although his flame would burn out much slower than history portrays.
While Dice’s gigs were being protested by gay rights groups like Queer Nation, it was powerful gay men in Hollywood – record producer David Geffen, 20th Century Fox’s Barry Diller and manager Sandy Gallin who developed Dice’s act and protected him for years.
In 1990 Diller would part ways with Dice, spiking a multi-movie agreement with him on the eve of the launch of his first film the Adventures of Ford Fairlane — a move that a 2023 episode of Vice’s The Dark Side of Comedy about the comedian equated to a death knell for his career. But the truth is that Dice was far from done with television, remaining active in TV and touring for another decade. He inked deals with ABC, CBS and HBO, and launched the 1995 sitcom Bless This House on CBS without any real opposition from within the entertainment business.
Dice performed his final show at Madison Square Garden in 2000, inked a deal with SiriusXM in 2005 and stayed busy for the next 20 years doing occasional TV work, radio appearance and standup gigs. His recent comeback began seven months ago, when comedian and longtime friend Bill Burr convinced Dice to warm up the crowd at one of Burr’s headliner gigs.
“When we walked in his dressing room for the show, Bill stood up with a big smile and went, ‘Dice, you’re gonna do some time, right?’” Dice recalls. “The minute I got introduced, the New Jersey crowd went absolutely nuts.”
It’s not just Burr either – podcaster Joe Rogan, comedians Sebastian Maniscalco and Jim Norton, radio megastar Howard Stern and dozens of other high-profile comedians have long supported Dice and cited him as an inspiration. And while he has never apologized for his past remarks toward gays, women and immigrants, he has softened his personality, and even slightly dialed back his famously filthy routine for one of his comebacks shows at the Wiltern in LA last year.
“I’m less ego and more self-deprecating,” he explains, noting that he enjoys mentoring younger talent and is more eager to share the spotlight with others — like the deadpan man eating his lunch on the sidewalk.
“One word, that’s all he need to get the part.” Dice notes. “One word to let the world know that this man is a genius.”