The standup on working with Scorsese and his new Showtime series 'Dice'
Credit: Niko Tavernise/HBO

Comedian Andrew Dice Clay has had the kind of colorful, controversial, rollercoaster career that we do not really have the time to summarize here. Suffice it to say , he was the first standup to sell out Madison Square Garden, Saturday Night Live cast member Nora Dunn found his defiantly un-PC stage persona so repugnant she boycotted the episode he hosted back in 1990, and by the mid-aughts, Clay’s career had nosedived to such a degree that he seemed to have taken up permanent residence in pop culture’s garbage can of history. “I was going through a big divorce, I was going through the recession, just like everybody else,” he says. “Things were very lean for me.”

These days, Clay is in the middle of a full-blown renaissance, one which began back in 2011 when he was cast as himself on Entourage. The comedian subsequently got good reviews for his performance in Woody Allen’s 2013 film Blue Jasmine, and this Sunday, HBO viewers will see him play a coked-up radio station mogul in the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot of the music biz drama, Vinyl. He is also the star of a new, Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque sitcom called Dice, in which he mines humor from his career collapse. Executive-produced by Old School screenwriter Scot Armstrong, the series premieres April 10 on Showtime.

“I was finally able to do in a sitcom what I always knew I was capable of doing,” he says. “Scot Armstrong, this guy just let me go. And when a director lets me go, I can give my best. I’m off the chain!”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get the role in Vinyl?

ANDREW DICE CLAY: Actually, I was in Vegas, getting ready to go onstage at the casino, and my wife Valerie says, “Did you call [your] manager?” And I said, “What am I calling him for?” I’m about a minute away from being introduced. And she goes, “Don’t you check your texts?” And I go, “Why? What’s so important?” And she goes, “I’m not supposed to say, but you got the part.” I go, “What part? I haven’t even gone up for anything?” And she goes, “The Scorsese pilot!”

It just blew my mind, because I didn’t read for it. Marty just wanted me for it. And for the first minute I was onstage I was in shock. I had to tell the crowd what just happened. And that’s how that came about.

Vinyl showrunner Terence Winter told me that Scorsese had never heard of Ray Romano, who is also in the show. But he did know about you?

Yeah. What’s funny is, Marty wanted me to come in a day early, just to hang out. So, when I got to hang out with him at his place, I said, “Before we even start, I have a question for you.” And he goes, “Yeah, what’s the question?” You know, he talks fast. Hysterical. One of the funniest guys I ever met. And I go, “In 1990, I lived in a Brooklyn apartment, and did you used to call me, and laugh with me, and then hang up?” I said, “The reason I’m asking is, it sounded exactly like you, I treated it like it as you.” And he goes, “Yeah, that was me.” And I go, “So, why didn’t we ever work together before?” He goes, “You had to grow into it.”

Wait, so you are telling me that in 1990 legendary Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese — who you did not know — would call you up just for a chat?

Yeah. He would say, “It’s Marty Scorsese.” I was excited. Like, Why’s this guy calling me? And we would laugh for a half-hour. But I never had it confirmed that it was really him till I asked him face-to-face. That’s why, even when I put out a book (Clay’s 2014 memoir, The Filthy Truth), I didn’t write about that. Because I was never sure. Because it could have been somebody posing as him. But I went with it. I wasn’t going to question it till I met him one day.

What was it like to work with Scorsese?

We just started laughing, and that’s all we did through the entire shoot. Just the greatest guy ever. You know, this guy, he sees something in somebody, and he lets you flush it out on the set, and just become what you need to become. That’s why he’s Scorsese. I mean, honestly, the Woody thing was a giant thing for me. I really couldn’t believe how journalists were writing about it, in a very positive light. And now, with this thing, I’m going, “Are you kidding?” [Laughs.] Because, really, all the way back, it was about acting. I did comedy because I just wanted to be onstage and act every night. So, finally, you get these kinds of directors that want to work with you, and you just go, “This is amazing!”

I’m guessing you’ve met your fair share of dubious or shady or crazy folks in the entertainment business. Did you base your character in Vinyl on anyone in particular?

Well, I’ve dealt a lot [with] the record industry, and my sons — who are also in my show Dice — have the band Still Rebel. So, I’m dealing with a lot of record guys and record stations, from A&R guys to the programming directors at record stations, that can make a hit record. So, I sort of base it off a few people — just the attitude, the ego, of these guys [who can] take a song and make it a hit, because that’s what they want to do. But, in the late ’80s, when I had to deal with record companies, that’s when it was coke-infused, pot-smoking, drinking. You’re like, “How do they get any work done? They’re out of their f—ing minds!”

Tell us more about your show, Dice.

Well, Dice is [about] my existence from about seven, eight years ago, when I went back into Vegas, and I wound up performing in the back of a sushi restaurant. I wanted to start rebuilding my career. When I went through the divorce, both my sons lived with me. I felt [the responsibility] to bring up my boys, and bring them up the right way. So, they got a chance. You got to have parents that teach you stuff. And, so, I didn’t really care about my career. When I went through that divorce, it was all about my sons. What good is a career if you’re bringing up two idiots? If you have kids, bring them up! Then, I went to Vegas and started rebuilding. And, then, a few years later, I got Entourage, and this whole thing started up again — at a time when they were old enough to handle me being gone.

I make fun of myself in the show. I know the stupidity that I lived, so I’m not afraid to put it out there. Years ago, when I first hit, I wouldn’t show that side of me at all. I was a lot younger, and “Dice” was just a brick wall onstage. Now, I like making fun of my age. I never have a problem with age. It’s fun to make fun of everything falling off. When you’ve stood on the toilet and your balls are making iced tea, it’s fun to make fun of that. You know what I mean?

I get the gist. What about your costars on the show?

Natasha (Leggero)? Amazing. Funny. Funny. On the set, if we wanted to change a scripted line, she’s just game. She gets the joke. She’s the live-in girlfriend, with my sons, and Kevin Corrigan is my best friend.

In the trailer for the show, you have a funny moment with Adrien Brody. Do you know him?

I never met him before, but we became also instant friends. He’s just hysterical in this thing. He’s hysterical! He plays Adrien Brody, and I don’t want to give away the plot, but you can sort of tell what he’s doing in it. He’s becoming this macho — he used me to become this guy, and of course it’s a problem. Everything’s a problem!

You can see trailers for Vinyl and Dice, below.