If there’s ever someone you wouldn’t expect me to praise, it would have to be Andrew Dice Clay. He was banned for life by MTV and from many radio and television programs for his use of foul language and “politically incorrect humor” — one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live refused to appear during the episode in which he made a guest appearance. In terms of “defining deviancy down” when it comes to language and references in the media, he exceeded even Howard Stern.
But he provides an interesting footnote to the appearance of Josh Orlian on America’s Got Talent, as previously discussed by both Rabbi Adlerstein and myself. In contrast to Howard Stern, who I have since been told has a non-Jewish mother, Andrew Clay Silverstein grew up in a Jewish family in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.
On Shabbos I mentioned Josh Orlian’s AGT appearance, and my reaction to it, while speaking at a Kiddush. I was seated across from a corporate entertainer and comedy magician named Avi Frier, who is also the former publisher of the Florida Jewish News. Honestly, I didn’t know the “corporate” part or what sort of language Avi chooses at his appearances, so I didn’t know what he, as a comedian, would think about my remarks. But after I sat back down, he told me that he had been in contact via email with Orlian’s father, and had related the following story — which I include here with Avi’s endorsement.
At the height of Andrew Dice Clay’s career, Avi was the last of four acts opening for him at an appearance. There was a heckler in the audience who was giving each of the comedians an extremely hard time. Avi resolved to stay with his script, but eventually he was distracted by the incessant heckling. So he said something which, he reports, successfully stopped the heckler, but employed language “inconsistent” with the yarmulke on his head. I’m sure we all sympathize, and again, Avi endorsed saying this story in his name.
Immediately following his act was the main event. And Andrew Dice Clay stood up at the open mic and asked if “the magician” was still present. Avi raised his hand. And Andrew Dice Clay Silverstein, in front of the crowd, said he had a good act and a good response to the heckler. But if Avi was going to talk like that, he added, “take off the […] yarmulke!” [Demonstrating again that foul language can get a laugh where otherwise a remark would barely get a smile.]
All of the other comedians gave Avi a pat on the back for the call-out and praise from one of the world’s top comedians. But Avi was sitting there thinking about how right Clay was. Even the leading foul-mouthed comedian of the day knew that the yarmulke represents a different, higher standard, incongruous with choices of language and topic made by others.