Mark Bres­lin

Standup caused con­tro­versy wher­ever he went, in­clud­ing Toronto

Richmond Hill Post - - Contents - MARK BRES­LIN Post City Mag­a­zines’ hu­mour colum­nist, Mark Bres­lin, is the founder of Yuk Yuk’s com­edy clubs and the au­thor of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing Con­trol Freaked.

Read­ing An­drew Dice Clay’s jus­tre­leased au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, The Filthy

Truth, brought back waves of nostal­gia. It’s hard to be­lieve that for a pe­riod of about four years the foul-mouthed shock comic was the hottest thing in standup com­edy. And, soon after, the cold­est.

He was the first comic to sell out are­nas, the first comic with a payper-view spe­cial and the first to in­spire le­gions of pro­test­ers of­fended by his sex­ist, racist and ho­mo­pho­bic ma­te­rial.

His de­fence was al­ways that it was an ob­vi­ous put-on.

Born An­drew Sil­ver­stein, the book chron­i­cles his not ter­ri­bly unique Brook­lyn up­bring­ing: A tight-knit Jewish fam­ily. Not much of a stu­dent. A fascinatio­n with gambling. An ob­ses­sion with sex at an early age.

So much of the first half of the book is about Clay’s prof­li­gate sex life, that you might won­der when he had time to per­form. Th­ese sto­ries are colour­ful, but if he weren’t fa­mous, they’d be ir­rel­e­vant. You want him to get to the good stuff, which is his strange rise in the com­edy world. And here the book does not dis­ap­point.

He sneaks into the his­toric Pip’s in Brook­lyn. He moves to Los An­ge­les and takes us be­hind the scenes at the in­fa­mous Com­edy Store. He shows us how he slowly de­vel­ops the Dice­man character mod­elled on the cheap Brook­lyn hoods he knew and an ado­ra­tion of John Tra­volta and the Fonz.

What Clay brought to the ta­ble was an over-the-top show­man­ship that was the an­tithe­sis of the worka­day ob­ser­va­tional ma­te­rial of con­tem­po­raries such as Leno, Let­ter­man and Se­in­feld.

The best part of the book con­cerns the forces that con­spired to top­ple him from his perch. He was sell­ing out are­nas but also of­fend­ing many. This didn’t stop him from be­ing man­aged by Sandy Gallin (who also man­aged Michael Jack­son), hav­ing his movie pro­duced by Joel Sil­ver ( Lethal Weapon, Die Hard) and be­ing fi­nanced by Barry Diller (head of Fox).

The Ad­ven­tures of Ford Fair­laine was sup­posed to take him to Elvis lev­els but spun out when his cre­ative tri­umvi­rate got cold feet from all the bad press and buried the pic­ture. Then they aban­doned him. He slowly faded from view un­til he was res­cued by HBO’s En­tourage and a juicy part in Woody Allen’s Blue Jas­mine. He was ex­cel­lent in both.

He ac­knowl­edges that in his prime he was con­sid­ered ev­ery­thing that was foul in Amer­i­can com­edy.

At a press con­fer­ence for a Toronto com­edy fes­ti­val in the early ’90s, the first ques­tion I got was, “You’re not go­ing to book An­drew Dice Clay, are you?”

“Naaah,” I shot back, “We couldn’t af­ford him.”

Not long after, I was drawn into de­fend­ing him on Shirley Solomon’s show, The Shirley Show. On a show about of­fen­sive hu­mour, then-mayor Bar­bara Hall’s top aide on racial af­fairs ripped into me for giv­ing Dice his first net­work TV spot on The Joan Rivers Show.

“I wouldn’t cross the street to save your life,” she spat at me.

What I said back to her can not be re­counted in th­ese pages, but amaz­ingly, the net­work left it in, and it can be found on YouTube. But Clay summed up the is­sue best in his new book.

“The Dice­man was a character who am­pli­fied cer­tain at­ti­tudes that mil­lions of peo­ple had — not only am­pli­fied those at­ti­tudes but ac­tu­ally made fun of those at­ti­tudes by mak­ing fun of him­self.”

An­drew Dice Clay is on the re­bound thanks to a new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy

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