And anyone who wasn’t a hard core fan probably figured he had simply outlived his day in the sun and just faded away, only to be reminded of him when catching showings of “Pretty In Pink” on cable.
That was certainly the case with me, until his name appeared on a local billboard advertising his show Saturday night at the Grand Sierra Resort.
“It’s not like I wasn’t out there working,” Clay said in a phone interview Tuesday from his home in Los Angeles. “I just haven’t been in public eye.”
It turns out he has been having a good year so far, starting off with a splash at the concert industry’s Pollstar Awards on Feb. 11, where Clay was invited to present an award but literally hijacked the show with 10 minutes of new material.
It turns out that the idea of a surprise attack at Pollstar wasn’t Clay’s idea. In fact, the Pollstar people didn’t want him to perform at all, Clay said.
“My agent (Rich Super) he goes ‘Imagine if you went on the Pollstar awards and actually did some of material you’ve been doing. You’ll blow them away.’
“I didn’t know if I still had in me ’til I was introduced,” Clay continued. “It just snapped in me. My agent looked at me and said ‘You’ve played on greatest stages in world. You’re never more comfortable than when you have a microphone in your hand.’ ... I also knew that if I was to go home and tell my boys I didn’t try that would be worst thing.”
So he did. Clay went out to the podium and, dressed in a pinstripe suit (also his agent’s idea) launched into classic Dice form. Love him or hate him, there he was talking and acting just like he did when he played to giant arenas.
“I just felt it,” Clay said. “The audience was dead silent through whole show to that point then I got to the mic and let ’em have it.
“(After the show) the people who asked me not to perform thanked me. They told me I turned a nothing event into an event.”
That personal “historic moment,” as Clay calls it, may have been the shot in the arm his career and his confidence needed. Since then he said he has been playing to increasingly larger audiences; he just finished a successful stint in Canada and said that he was asked to come back in May because his shows sold out so quickly. Last week on Carson Daly’s TV show, the host, after introducing Clay as “the godfather of stand-up,” asked Clay how it felt to be on the edge of becoming even bigger than he was almost 20 years ago.
“The franticness feels like 1988 again to me,” Clay said. “It’s exciting. I don’t want it to go away. I haven’t been this excited in years. In Canada they rushed the stage.”
Clay said he never really considered permanently hanging up his comedy gloves, but that his life over the last decade has been nothing more or less significant than for other people. He has endured a failed marriage “like millions of other people,” he said, and he is now focused on raising his sons, Max, 17, and Dillon, 13. Both boys are talented musicians, Clay said, and Max is even doing some comedy of his own.
“Seinfeld with an edge,” Clay called his son’s efforts. And even though dad can’t resist giving some feedback on the material, Max always insists that it’s his humor, not Dice’s.
“I’ve really focused on bringing up my boys and making sure they have good heads on their shoulders,” Clay said.
When talking about his new threads, Clay describes the pinstripe suite as “an extension of the leather” and “almost like Dice growing up.” When he talks about his affection for his sons, it does seem like Dice has grown up.
But listen to his routine and on stage he’s the same Dice Man. He still insults people who bug him with his Brooklyn drawl and plethora of four-letter words. People who hated him before will still hate him, but he doesn’t care. In fact, he’ll tell those people where to go.
But for the people who do love him — and there seem to be plenty of them — there should be plenty of opportunities to go see Dice in the near future, and he thinks the world is ready for him again.
“I think it’s the temperature of the country,” Clay said. “We’re going through a war and the last time I really took off Desert Storm happened. When people are angry and upset they want to laugh I’m the guy who makes them laugh really hard.”
Tickets to Saturday’s show are on sale by calling (800) 648-3568 or logging on to www.grandsierraresort.com and clicking on “Entertainment.” If you purchase online, there is a 25-percent discount. Regular prices range from $38.50 to $71.50.