My first visit to the Television Critics Association press tour, many years ago, was brief but memorable. One reason was this – the hotel room next to mine was occupied for a day by Andrew Dice Clay.
At the time, Clay was about to star in a CBS sitcom, Bless This House. It was a ridiculous show, with Clay playing an Archie Bunker type, a postal worker with strong opinions and a loving wife (Cathy Moriarty, slumming after an Oscar nomination for Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull) and two kids.
The show existed because Clay was beyond notorious. In the late 1980s, he'd been an extraordinary success with his stand-up act. He could fill Madison Square Garden for consecutive nights. The act was mainly raw, sexist, racist humour. Or what passed for humour if you didn't appreciate the vicious attitude to women and non-whites.
Clay's notoriety had reached a peak when he was scheduled to host Saturday Night Live and both cast member Nora Dunn and musical guest Sinead O'Connor boycotted the show in protest.
Clay had made half-hearted attempts to explain that his show was an act. The horrible attitude wasn't his. But he became a pariah. Bless This House was his door back into mainstream entertainment and CBS was happy to help – his name would kick-start the ratings.
The show lasted 16 episodes and was cancelled. Clay immediately returned to doing his stand-up act, in which he sneered at the show and claimed to be having sex with Moriarty. He went on Howard Stern's radio show to declare, "The Diceman is back." Stern asked him about rumours that he'd been difficult, yelling and screaming obscenities at people during the making of the show. Clay sort of acknowledged he'd been difficult. He was. I heard the yelling and screaming, and more.
Dice (The Movie Network and on-demand) is Clay's umpteenth return. Who was asking for, or anticipating, the return is anybody's guess. The show (made for Showtime) is a mess, a strange and misguided attempt to mine Clay's descent from showbiz glory to almost anonymity, for comedy.
Comedians mining their personal lives for material on TV isn't new and the classic example – perhaps part of the harebrained inspiration – is Louie, easily one of the best shows of the last decade. But Louis C.K. is an adult, a sensitive man bewildered by the world. Andrew Dice Clay is still playing a jerk, a man trying to claim that his fondness for repulsive, sexist humour makes him authentic.
The show's premise is meant to be both funny and revealing.
Clay is living in Las Vegas and he's "Andrew," not the crude, belligerent guy he played on stage. He's got a live-in girlfriend (Natasha Leggero) and some buddies, mainly a guy named Milkshake (Kevin Corrigan), who exists to make Andrew look smart and funny.
Nothing on the show makes comic or dramatic sense. On the one hand, this "Andrew" claims to have spent the fortune he earned and is now broke. On the other hand, he gambles away $100,000. On the one hand, he's obscure (a guy selling him windows has never heard of Andrew Dice Clay), and on the other hand, people in Vegas seek him out because he's still famous.
There are foul-mouth rants galore as Clay tries to anchor his character in a man out of time, a middle-aged guy perplexed by bank machines charging him to withdraw cash and hotels charging for valet parking. Meanwhile, in the opening episode, he's obliged to attend a gay wedding, and he's fine with that. In fact, he's just peachy keen to congratulate the two guys getting married.
There is so much shouting and swearing that it's headache-inducing. Watching it, I started taking notes, as usual. And then I stopped. All that noise took me back to the day Clay was in the room next to mine. And I'd rather not go back to that. It was, like this show, pathetic, and a lot of noise about nothing.
The Pass System (airing on Reel Insights, APTN, 7 p.m.) has generated many news stories.
It is filmmaker Alex Williams's sweeping look at a system that required any First Nations person to acquire a pass to leave their community for any reason. Instigated at the time of the Canadian Northwest Rebellion of 1885 (called "Resistance" by the filmmakers), it stayed in place for 60 years. Forgotten or hidden – there is debate about how or why the federal government managed to lose almost all records – the existence of the system is only now being examined closely.
The point of keeping the system in place was, obviously, to keep First Nations people from towns and cities. Various historians and other academics give their views, but the most powerful voices are those of elderly people who experienced the system first-hand.