Backstage with Ron Onesti: The Diceman Cameth and Went
Ron Onesti: The Diceman Cameth and Went
His comedy is brash, some have referred to it as downright vulgar. Since the late 1980s, he has been selling out performance after performance, from being the first comic to sell out two consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden, to nightclubs, theatres and performing arts centers, from Las Vegas to Australia.
He is Andrew “Dice” Clay.
At the risk of a few eyebrow raises from loyal readers, I would like to share MY experience with “The Diceman”, because at the end of it all, he has proven to be a good person, and a good friend.
I remember growing up with the ever-present threat of a bar of “Dial” hand soap in my mouth if I used any sort of profanity. To go from that to knowing a guy who would be on his second truckload of soap by now, is truly a culture shock. But I also grew up on the streets of Chicago so there is little that can really shock me!
That being said, watching his show is a combination of back-slapping laughter and head-shaking in disbelief of what had just been said. I would rather leave more to the imagination than risk being removed from the paper, so I will fray from giving examples of his material.
And I use the comedian’s term, “material” lightly. Very little of his ninety-plus minutes on stage is scripted. It is more of a state-of-the-union address by a fellow who finds that every day occurrences are far from normal when it comes to interaction with people. It is a mix of his philosophies with his perspectives, his observations and his pet peeves.
But it is my time with him before and after the shows that truly amazes me.
Before a show he is laser focused, does not want to meet anyone, and just wants to be left alone in his dressing room or backstage. But sometimes, he starts on a rant, or has a “bit” he wants to talk through, and its off to the races!
Just before this last show, we sat and talked about his two sons and their music, his latest Las Vegas, movie and television roles, his newest girlfriend…the usual topics that we catch up on. It is very interesting to talk to him. First, his face is so recognizable it is just cool to be talking to him toe-to-toe. His hair is no longer dyed black, but his physical condition is that of a young man twenty years his junior.
The last time he appeared at our Arcada Theatre, he loved our T-Shirt designs. He wanted two of every design, a couple of XLs with the sleeves torn off to be worn on stage, and a couple of XXLs to be worn during his daily workout. The problem was we had just come out of COVID, and we really did not have any inventory. So I promised to send them to him as soon as they came in.
Well, a year went by quickly, and supply-chain-challenges prevailed as it took that long to get the shirts in. When he arrived at our Des Plaines Theatre recently, his dressing room was laced with t-shirts from both venues. I gave him plenty as gifts, hoping he would proudly wear “O Shows” swag on one of his many social media posts. The problem was that it wasn’t exactly the design he had wanted.
So he started “busting my onions” about that. And as we continued volleying insults back and forth, his creative energy took over. He stopped me and said, “This is magic, I need to record this!”
So for the next thirty minutes, we performed this four-part skit on his phone about how he was upset that I didn’t have the right shirts for him, and I was upset that he didn’t appreciate the dozen shirts I DID have for him! The problem was that he decided to do all this at 7pm in his dressing room, the same time he was to hit the stage!
Still, we did take after take, with the Director in him taking over. He set the stage, scripted my response and put me in place for the camera. I was going to hire an agent to represent me after all of this!
Now, we are thirty minutes late from the shows start time. And he didn’t care. THIS production was important!
But he was so intensely into this “production,” it took over any sense of responsibility he had to his loud-clapping audience. That is how committed the guy is. He is constantly “on”. And as I watched him from backstage, I saw his mind working as he read the crowd, and responded accordingly.
Once again, he did not disappoint with his hard-edged (to say the least) brand of comedy. But what it also did was bring folks back to laughing again, in a way that reminded folks of better times. Especially when he did his naughty-nursery rhymes for his encore. If you are not a seasoned Dice fan, these jokes are definitely not for the weak of heart. It’s a type of comedy that is for a very specific type of person.
Yes, Dice has stood the test of time, and maintained his place in show biz for over forty years, a feat difficult for even the best comics, actors and vocalists of our day to accomplish. He truly is a professional, definitely “All-in,” with no signs of stopping soon. He lives in an “Over 21” world, with an “Under 21” locker-room approach to his daily life.
If I was to compare a Dice show to anything, I think it could be ironically compared to the expletives yelled in a “Dice-game” after one rolls a seven with the entire night’s winnings going back to the house. Multiply that by about a thousand, and THAT’S a “Dice” show!