Call it a case of art imitating life, or vice-versa. On the eighth season of HBO's "Entourage," Andrew "Dice" Clay plays a version of himself -- a once thriving comedian trying to claw his way back to the top.
In real life, too, he wants a comeback.
"I say it's like a heightened version of who I really am," he said in an interview with ABCNews.com last week. "I am from Brooklyn, I do get loud, I do get emotional."
On the show, Clay teams up with Kevin Dillon's Johnny Drama to voice an animated sitcom about apes. Clay thumps his chest, stomps his feet and flies into rages when, to paraphrase his real-life mentor Rodney Dangerfield, he don't get no respect.
That act stays on set. Prior to talking with ABCNews.com, Clay rattled off the weather report for a New York City morning news program. Despite rocketing to fame in the late '80s with his raunchy, anything-but-PC act and headlining back-to-back sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden (a record-setting feat that made him proclaim himself the "Undisputed Heavyweight Comedy King"), Clay knows how lucky he is to have scored a multi-episode arc on a very popular TV series.
"I am so appreciative that I was given this opportunity," he said. "The last decade was pretty rough. I went through a divorce, I lost some people that were very close to me, I had to focus on bringing up my kids. And it's the craziest thing to go from watching this show on the couch to being on television now. It's like surreal."
Clay landed the part after his manager learned that "Entourage" creator Doug Ellin is a fan.
"Dice took such a bad rap for so long but the truth is, he's a performer," Ellin said. "What's unexpected with this role is that you're seeing a real side of him. You're seeing that he's a little crazy but he's also got some rational thoughts behind that. You see humanity in a guy that I don't think most people saw for many years."
Humanity, sure. But humility? Not so much.
"There hasn't been one frame of me on television yet and I'm going into stadiums," he said last week, prior to the Sunday premiere of his first "Entourage" episode. "It started out as a walk-on, it's turned into this resurgence of my career. I'm going to tour again. I want to develop a show of my own to be on either HBO or Showtime. I'd like to do another comedy special. I think people really want to see it and I owe it to them to give them that. I've been talking to Barry Levinson about 'Gotti.' I want to do some roles that I can bite my teeth into. I'm still the best kept secret in Hollywood as far as an actor goes."
Unbridled machismo made Dice Clay famous, and he's still got that. But it's a different world now than when he performed to packed houses, spouting off nursery rhymes caustic enough to make Mother Goose lose her feathers. These days, comedians go to counseling after telling off-color jokes. Last month, Tracy Morgan incensed gay rights activists after joking that he'd kill his son if he were homosexual.
"I think it's stupid," Clay said. "It's taking away a comic's right, comedic licence. Tracy Morgan, he's a comedian in a club. He's not running for president. You don't have to go see guys like that if you don't want to hear those things. You go to see me, you know what you're going to get. I don't apologize for my language. If a guy comes out in a leather jacket and giant wristbands, it's not going to be that clean of a show. You want to see clean comedy? Go see [Jerry] Seinfeld."
Andrew Dice Clay's Second Act
The speed at which scandals erupt in today's Twitter-24/7-always-on-the-Internet culture disturbs Clay. He feels particularly bad for Mel Gibson, whose public image fell after his 2006 DUI arrest and crumbled last year when alleged recordings of him berating his then-girlfriend emerged online.
"Here's a guy who's been entertaining for years and people just look to take him down," he said. "He's made great films for people. They catch him screaming like a maniac, and suddenly everyone's out to get him."
But when it comes to comedy, Gibson and guys like him are still fair game.
"I do talk about those things on stage and I make fun of them," he said. "My whole point about any subject, whether it's Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, is that I love how people love pointing fingers. People just love to judge and get on that bandwagon of 'Look what he did!'"
Clay has infused his old act with new subjects: "Everything from getting older to technology to what people are really doing with technology, the new generation of women versus the old generation of women. I stay very current. I keep my ear to the street." On October 1, he'll headline his first stadium show in years at MCU Park in his hometown, Brooklyn, N.Y.
"Brooklyn taught me how to live life," he said. "It gave me the attitude I have, the nerve I have. They're aggressive people but they're great people. I want to do something really special there."
While he's updated his shtick, Clay remains a relic of the past. He doesn't blog. He doesn't tweet. He refers to the Internet phenomenon as "links and Facebook and all that stuff."
"You know what I still take pride in? When I first went through the roof, it was a grassroots movement," he said. "It was word of mouth. It was before email, before twittering, before all the things that people do these days."
Of course, "all the things that people do these days" is how grassroots campaigns take off now. Campaigns for things like unheralded actors getting an Emmy award, a trophy that Clay covets, that "Entourage" could put in his reach, but that he can't quite hope for. Yet.
"You know it's so funny. I can't even think about that, where all this might go," he said. "When Doug Ellin or one of our directors says 'Man, you should win an Emmy for this,' I just say, 'I'm glad I'm working.' Let's put it that way."