On the eve of the release of his new memoir, Sheepshead Bay native Andrew Dice Clay sat down with the Village Voice and recounted how he got his start in comedy.
The foul-mouthed comedian never intended to be a funnyman; he was a theater geek aiming to be an actor. But to warm up to the stage, he decided to tackle what he called “the toughest club in the country” – Sheepshead Bay’s Pips Comedy Club, formerly on Emmons Avenue.
Here’s what he said about the 1978 experience, and how it led Andrew Silverstein to become the Diceman:
That night would change my life. September 13, 1978. When I went on for the first time at Pips, that became my home until I came out to L.A. But I was very prepared to go on at Pips because I came up as a musician, as a drummer, and singer and entertainer. I was more into theater, so when I was thinking about getting on a comedy stage, it was more about having an act already. I didn’t want to “go up there and see what happens,” and I prepared a certain kind of act. I would come onstage as Jerry Lewis’s character from The Nutty Professor and take my magic formula, and turn into the John Travolta character from Grease.
At the time, Travolta was just the biggest star in the world. I mean, he was coming off the heels of [Saturday Night] Fever. We’d resembled each other since he was in Welcome Back, Kotter. We really looked similar; I could do a dead-on Travolta. But when I saw Grease at the Brighton theater in Brighton Beach and I saw him sing and dance, I said, “I have the act. I know what I can do.”
To perfect the act, Dice rehearsed at Kings Highway’s Fly Studios, then watched Grease and Fever over and over again, jotting down notes on the dance cues. He continues:
And that night when I went on at Pips, I came onstage as Jerry Lewis. My whole family was there: my parents, my sister, my grandmother, my friend Johnny. It was amateur night, and when I went on as the Nutty Professor, they’re booing me because I’m this nerd: “Get the fuck off the stage!”
But the club owner knew when to shut the light when I was doing my transition, took my magic formula. When I turned around as Travolta, they went ballistic, like it was Travolta. They were throwing tables over. You talk about a 90-seat club, with the air conditioning right in the ceiling: the toughest club in the country to play. When that would click on it was like a tractor going on. And I got hired to headline that weekend. The owners come over and they go, “Who’s your manager?” I look over at my father and go, “He is.” And that was it. I never came offstage for 10 years, until I made it.
Apparently, the comedian, who will also play a ’70s radio-station magnate in an upcoming Martin Scorsese series for HBO, feels Brooklyn is even worse than the bad, old days of the 1970s.
Brooklyn was a different world back then, and today it’s even worse. ‘Cause today it’s more bullies. That’s all you read about. And I always hated bullies. I wasn’t a bully in any way. I was tough, I could fight, but I wasn’t with the 15 guys coming over to one guy to terrorize him and kick him in the face. I hate that attitude.
Anyone remember Dice from the old ‘hood? Tell us about his performances at Pips!