Monday, April 18, 2016 | 12:59 p.m.
For this phone conversation, Andrew Dice Clay is set up at his auxiliary “office,” a patio at Starbucks in the San Fernando Valley. Customarily, he is relating what it is like to be Dice Clay. “I’m doin’ the best that I can with what I got, y’know?” says Clay, who is still readily recognizable, visually and verbally.
As he talks, the conversation suddenly breaks.
“Hey, I’m on the phone here!” Clay calls out. “Amazing! This is me, I am on the phone. No, I don’t have a cigarette!” There is a muffled sound, and Clay returns.
“Still there?” he asks. “Why’d we stop talking?”
Because there was this disruption …
“Oh, it’s amazing,” he says. “People always want something. A cigarette, a light, money. Usually I’m a lot friendlier, but I am on the phone. Have some respect, y’know?”
Clay is in full stride at the moment, a TV star once more with a booking on the Strip. His sitcom “Dice” debuted April 10 on Showtime and has banked two of its six first-season episodes (the show has four more episodes in its 9 p.m. Sunday time slot, and you can find all of the episodes at Sho.com).
In the new series, Clay plays a character nearly indistinguishable from his walking-around personality: A onetime superstar comic performer slugging it out in Las Vegas to regenerate his career. In the premiere episode, Clay tells his girlfriend, Carmen, played by comic Natasha Leggero, “I was doing 80,000 tickets a week. Eighty thousand. Now I’m doing commercials. That don’t sit well with me.”
Created by Scot Armstrong (co-writer with Todd Phillips of comedy vehicles including “Road Trip,” “Starsky & Hutch” and “Hangover III”), the series is enlivened considerably with visits from Clay’s friends in the Las Vegas entertainment community. Wayne Newton, Criss Angel and Rita Rudner are all effective in their visits to the Dice world.
“I’m telling you, Criss Angel is a very good actor. He just takes over. Wayne, too, I worked with in ‘Ford Fairlane,’ and he just takes hold of a scene. These people are friends of mine and were totally dedicated when we were working on the show.”
Clay says he was intrigued by the project simply because no sitcom based in Las Vegas had ever made it to a network or cable outlet. “You had dramas going back to the original ‘Vega$’ with Dan Tanna (Robert Urich in the famous role), and a lot of movies that had been set there, but I have a residence in Las Vegas, I work there, so why not?”
The work is currently performed at the Tropicana, where Clay returns to the Laugh Factory for shows titled “The Filthy Truth” at 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (tickets start at $49 and are available at TropLV.com). Over the past six years or so, Clay has cut a path around town, performing at the then-Las Vegas Hilton and Shimmer Cabaret, the since-closed Riviera and Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel. He’s been selling particularly well at the Laugh Factory, where he fills the 300-seat room.
“The setup there is the best actual comedy club I’ve played in years,” Clay says of the club designed by Brad Garrett for his first club on the Strip, then taken over by Laugh Factory founder Jamie Masada in April 2012. The club’s operator, Harry Basil, is a comic with more than 30 years of experience as a performer on the Strip.
Laugh Factory is not a big room, but it is an effective funhouse. Another of its headliners is legendary impressionist Rich Little.
“It seems like a tiny room and a tiny stage, but it is a great room for comedy,” Clay says. “I have a lot of room to move around and interact. I love it there.”
But Clay is forever seeking that bigger room, especially since he appeared on HBO’s “Entourage” in 2011 and was effectively cast in a supporting role in the 2013 Woody Allen film “Blue Jasmine” that won Cate Blanchett her first best actress Oscar.
Then, as now, Clay is using his newfound series as a way to perform for large audiences across the country. He’s booked seven theater dates on the East Coast in May, then returns to the Tropicana on May 28 — the big room, the 1,100-seat Tropicana Theater.
“The way things are going, with all the national attention, I could fill the showroom three times if I wanted to,” Clay says, noting that his April 5 appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” has further boosted his marketability. “I was on the show and flew out of New York early the next morning, and by the time I landed, the first amphitheater was booked, 1,500 tickets sold.”
But Clay has no Las Vegas dates scheduled after that May 28 date at the Trop. He likes Laugh Factory well enough as a home base, but also notes that he has been talking with Treasure Island (hotel owner Phil Ruffin is said to be a Dice fan), which has hosted standup headliners over the years at the Mystere theater.
“Vegas is my home away from home,” Clay says. “The way the town has treated me has been great. The people who are coming out are loving the show. I mean, look, I am lucky in that I am doing the only thing I have ever wanted to do since I was a kid. It is hard to put that into words — it’s a spiritual thing I feel that is hard to describe.”
The show reveals a side of Clay not often displayed for the public, behind-the-scenes moments when he is being chided by his girlfriend or makes an unintentionally offensive remark to Carmen’s soon-to-be brother-in-law. In that scene, Clay and Carmen are attending her brother’s wedding to his gay partner, and Carmen’s brother notes the nervousness of planning the big event.
Clay cuts in with, “Brides are always nervous on the day of. It’s gonna be OK.” This leads to the “bride” to call out Clay for his insensitivity. “This ‘bride’ doesn’t appreciate callous remarks from a guy who refers to women by calling them ‘piglets.’ ”
Clay explains that those reference are saved for the stage in his comedy routine. “There is a big difference in Andrew, who is the guy standing in front of you right now, and the guy onstage when I am performing.”
Andrew Silverstein is the name in reference here, Clay’s legal name. He’s a funny guy, self-effacing and approachable. Just let him finish his phone call, OK?
Tropicana Las Vegas sits on the south-east corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, an intersection which has the most adjacent hotel rooms in the world, also making it one of the most busy. The hotel has 1,658 rooms, three restaurants, a 62,011-square foot casino and a spa.