Saturday, April 14, 2012

Andrew Dice Clay

There’s a U2 song that I don’t know that well. I couldn’t identify it if it was coming through my stereo speakers, but I’ve known and admired the title for a decade. “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” came to mind as I watched one of my former favorites, the legendary Andrew Dice Clay, standing closer than I’d ever imagined, performing at the Comedy Club on Friday night.

Let me give you my Dice history, so you understand how much I appreciate what this man brought to comedy. In 1989, I was finishing up my four years at Bard College, a liberal arts school of extraordinary vision and incredible diversity. This place, more than any other, encouraged me to explore everything while never feeling compelled to surrender any of my uniqueness. I made friends from other countries, other cultures. I embraced my humanist tendencies and feminist leanings. I became socialized, politicized, mobilized.

And I saw the HBO special “The Diceman Cometh.”

Cliché as it may be, my world was rocked.

I laughed from the opening flashbacks (love me some Julie Warner, mistakenly listed as Julie Werner in the credits), through the solidly-written and beautifully-performed jokes and nursery rhymes, at the greatest boy scout camping trip of all time and the back alley epilogue. What stuck in my heart, though, was the very grateful man I watched thank the audience at the end of the show. He obviously had acting skills, so I could have been taken in by a professional fake sincerity. It didn’t seem that way to me, though. I thought I had watched a talented actor present a well-developed character in a delivery that felt more like a one-man show than a stand up routine. I was hooked.

When the Dice character first hit the stage, there was something new about him. Insult comics had been around for a long time, but such blatant misogyny and obscenity was rarified air. Having spent my entire teens and early twenties feeling like I was supposed to be sexually free, but bearing the weight of the reputation that came with those choices, the Dice character was one I had to love.

Many of my more staunchly feminist friends were not as amused. They were quick to take offense, as much of the world did. They called him a vile spewer of hatred, which I never understood. Seriously, “What’s the big fucking deal?” I spent a lot of time defending Dice, and never regretted it for a moment. I’ve always felt that losing my ability to laugh at things I may not support was an act of intolerance. If I can’t laugh at myself as a woman, I soon won’t be able to laugh at anything. Dice was a comedian, for God’s sake. It’s right there in the job title. He wasn’t the enemy. There were real predators, puritans and politicians inflicting actual suffering on women and children who needed to be dealt with. To a young woman who has never hesitated to talk about, engage in and write about sex, he was a bit of a hero.

And last week, my hero came to the Comedy Club.

The place was packed, with both Friday shows selling out. The atmosphere in the room was indescribable; people were drinking, laughing, throwing out their favorite Dice classics and obviously shivering with antici---------pation. The young comedian sitting across from me told me his whole life as a man was based around Dice’s act. I warned him that might not play well with some women. He did his own bit about how disappointed he was when he finally read Mother Goose and there were no uteruses anywhere in the book. Dice had obviously had an impact on many of us in the room that night.

As a performer, he knows the importance of the image, the spectacle, and he delivered. Security met him in the parking lot, walked him in through the bar, escorted him to the green room and waited. When it was time for his entrance, they walked him to the stage and took their positions on either side of the fake brick wall.

Gray sideburns aside, it was the Diceman. He lit his cigarette (without the help of the woman from the crowd who jumped up to assist and became an ongoing part of the show) and moved into his material. The opening warning – “There are people who leave my show feeling worse than when they came. It’s what I do.” – was both funny and apt. The lines were new, yet familiar. “Life’s too short. If you don’t like the dick you’re sucking, just get a new one.” I have some images (box lips, brown skirt steak) that may never leave my head. All around me, the room was exploding with every word out of his mouth.

And, while I was laughing, I couldn’t help feel a little awkward. The Diceman hadn’t changed much. The man behind the character, though, what about him? It seemed like he was trying to work in jokes that, although not far from the mythic material that made him larger than life, were at least a little new, a little fresh. His take on today’s aggressive woman was a nice acknowledgement that times had changed. Many of the fans surrounding me, however, seemed to barely be listening. They laughed deliriously, uproariously, but also kept screaming out “Hickory Dickory Dock!” and “Mother Goose!” I felt as though I was watching someone caught in the spotlight of their own past, trying to cover a larger area on stage, only to be pulled back to that one small circle by an adoring, but unyielding fan base. Being the savvy entertainer that I’ve never doubted him being, he gave us what we came for. He gave us the money shot. The audience shouted those nursery rhymes with their hero, their legend.

And that, friends, is when the U2 song title popped into my head. Andrew Dice Clay was trapped in a moment he couldn’t seem to get out of. That’s the feeling I had when I went home after the screaming, shrieking standing ovation we gave our hero. That’s the feeling I had when I sat down to write this review. Just to be more informed, I thought I should look up the lyrics and see what U2 was actually saying; it spun me around completely.

“I'm not afraid of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company….

I am still enchanted by the light you brought to me
I still listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see….

I know it's tough, and you can never get enough
Of what you don't really need now....

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

It's just a moment
This time will pass….”

I was surprised. Turns out, Andrew Dice Clay isn’t the one stuck in the moment. It’s us, his fans, the many people for whom his comedy means, has meant, something. Fans in a mid-sized city, in a small comedy market, who were still happy to shell out $50 a ticket to see Dice. Younger comics who cite him as the reason they get on stage every couple of weeks at the local open mics. And me, the smitten kitten who will never get “You got the bonus plan, honey” out of her head twenty three years after watching Andrew Clay Silverstein take the stage as Dice. We were stuck in that moment.

Andrew was just kind enough to join us for the show.

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