POSTED: Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 2:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 2:04am
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Andrew Dice Clay, one of the hottest and most controversial comedians two decades ago, sits on his front porch late at night, plotting his comeback.
"I was almost like self-exiled from the business, you know, other than going out and making a living for myself, I wasn't really making any career moves," Clay says, talking with fellow comedian Tom Green. "I was bringing up my family."
Green, who was on "Celebrity Apprentice" with "Diceman" in 2009, had his camera rolling when Clay invited CNN to hang with him a recent Friday night -- just days before his first television comedy special in 17 years airs on Showtime.
"I want to be able to make people laugh as hard as they possibly can, and I really think they need that," Dice said. His TV special premieres at 10 p.m. New Year's Eve "so people can just have a couple of drinks and just laugh until it hurts."
Clay rose to iconic status in the 1980s, selling out hundreds of large arenas -- including New York's Madison Square Garden two consecutive nights in 1990. He acted in movies and performed on HBO comedy shows. But after a tough divorce, he decided to focus on raising his two sons -- Max, now 22, and Dillon, now 18 -- who lived with him.
A career resurgence started last year when he landed a role in the final season of HBO's hit series "Entourage." He played himself with his older son, Max, also in the show.
Clay's back in Las Vegas, headlining at the Hard Rock Casino in February.
Woody Allen saw his five episodes on "Entourage" and gave him a major dramatic role in his next movie, due in theaters next summer. His co-stars include Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett and comedian Louis C.K. His being in a Woody Allen film is "kinda shocking," Clay said.
Shocking, though, is something the 55-year-old Brooklyn-born comic is known for. Critics frequently scorned him, calling his act racist, misogynist and homophobic. His jokes about gays, women and midgets are still there in his new material.
"I make no apologies for anything I did on that special, or any joke I tell because that's the thing about jokes," he said. "That's all it's meant to be taken as. Whether they're clean, dirty, it's just humor. You know, it's just jokes. This society today, the politically correct, I think people are just sick of it."
Politically incorrect jokes, however, have seriously hurt comic careers in recent years. Think Michael Richards and the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. Or Tracy Morgan and his anti-gay humor.
"Some of these comics are on like CBS or ABC, so, you know, it's the powers-that-be that turn around and go 'You've got to apologize for what you said.'" Clay said. "And that's just wrong because, you know, comedy is like the last art form where you can get up there and just do whatever you want. You know, like they say, you are the producer, director, writer, star. And if they take that away, you know, that's what America is, that's what we were built on, freedom."
Clay knows what it is like for a network to turn on him for his humor. MTV banned him "for life" after his performance on a 1989 MTV awards show. The ban was recently lifted.
"I've been getting in trouble my whole life and I really don't care what anybody thinks of what I do on stage as a comic," he said. "I know there are people out there who don't even like this kind of comedy. Turn off the TV, turn the channel. Don't watch me. But I have millions of fans out there that have been waiting for this special and waiting for me to come back like this."
And Dice is back -- still with his edgy, expletive-filled humor and a cigarette as a constant prop.
He chain-smokes through the front-porch conversation, but you won't hear the profanity.
"I certainly don't walk around my home or being with my family and just using profane language all the time, but on stage, it's a constant," he said. "Because I'm also hammering these different points across and because a lot of it is sexual, I just use the real words."
You will see his sons on stage, though. Max, who also does stand-up, plays drums, while Dillon is on guitar on singing. They are two-thirds of a rock group called "L.A. Rocks."
His ex-fiance -- comedian Eleanor Kerrigan -- is his opening act in the Showtime special. With Eleanor sitting on a child-size plastic chair next to him, Dice calls her, "The greatest opening act I've ever had -- as a woman." As he enjoys her reaction to the backhanded compliment, he throws in, "She's a killer."
Despite their romantic history, Eleanor is a frequent visitor at his Los Angeles home. She and his wife are "like best friends." Sister wives, he jokes.
"When I got together with Valerie (his wife) I told her there's one woman in my life that, you know, I can't turn around and say 'I can't see you anymore,'" he said. "Eleanor helped me bring up my boys, you know. It's almost like she is an ex-wife, but one I get along with."
As for the smoking, Clay got some electronic cigarettes for Christmas. While he says he may rotate them into his personal routine, don't expect to see them in his hand on stage when he's reciting his infamous versions of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. For that, it's the same Dice you've seen for decades.