Everybody Loves Dick! An Interview With
There have been times in the past couple of years where one could easily imagine that actor/comedian Andy Dick is more famous for his high profile substance abuse problems than he is for the ground breaking comedic genius he•s expressed on the now legendary Ben Stiller Show, News Radio and his eponymous MTV series. With the release of Andy Dick and The Bitches of the Century (on Milan Records), Andy Dick can now add the title of “recording artist” to his already impressive resume. But let•s get one thing straight up front: according to Dick, 36, who spoke with Ink 19 on the phone while vacationing in the desert resort town of Palm Springs, California, this collection of original rock tunes that could also be euphemistically referred to as porno novelty songs, “is not a comedy album.” Andy made this album in order to exorcise — and take the piss out of — some demons from his past. Whether anyone else gets it or not, well, it doesn•t matter. For Andy Dick, it•s all about the process. In this highly candid interview, Andy Dick discussed the cathartic aspects of his first foray into music, the twisted conceptual performance art of his live show, and his friendship with Marilyn Manson. Dick also revealed some behind the scenes moments of his work on The Ben Stiller Show, and shared his fond memories of working with the late comedian, Phil Hartman. It•s going to be a pretty wild ride, so buckle in tight now.
Let•s talk about The Bitches of the Century, which is a great name for a band. When did you first decide to make this record?
We actually first made it about three years ago and [at the time] I wasn•t happy with it. I•ve been revamping it, revitalizing it, rehabing it — no pun intended — for the last three years or so. It really came together in this last six months, which is how [the finished CD] is now. I really like how it sounds. There were more tracks on the older album but I pared it down to just ten, so it•s ten really good tracks… some of my favorite ones. I saved my other favorites for the next album.
Have you previously recorded a straight comedy album?
Nope [yawns]. Though I•ve been asked to, I never sat down and fleshed one out. This is not a comedy album either; this is more of just, you know, it•s like a band. It•s this weird little Velvet Underground-y kind of… what was I using as an example before? It•s just a pet project. It really is. Ah, it•s like The Velvet Underground. It•s fun and we just have fun doing it.
Who•s in the band?
The band is The Bitches of the Century and for the album we got a bunch of studio musicians as well. But it•s my friends Andrew Sherman, Tim Walsh, David Windham, and Tim Keane, and then we rotate-in drummers. For some reason we go through a lot of drummers.
Do you find the drummers are spontaneously combusting?
Yeah! It•s weird… The last one we had for the live show we just did at the Key Club [in Los Angeles] last Thursday, his name was Ungallah, seriously, that•s his name.
Who do you imagine will be the target audience for this record?
Oh, it•s a very small one. I would just say people who are my fans. I think that I•ll have a lot of people that will be surprised and happy, and then there•ll be a lot of people that will be disappointed, because it•s not comedy. It•s not like my TV show — The Andy Dick Show on MTV. There will be people who will buy the CD because they•re fans of The Andy Dick Show and then they•re going to fall into two categories: They•re going to love it or they•re going to hate it, seriously. I like the music [on this disc], and I don’t like much — my taste is very, very narrow — so if I like it somebody else is going to like it. I know that I have a small but very strong following. The people that like my stuff really like it, but it•s not a large group of people. There•s people that definitely have a distaste for me, I•ve noticed. I can•t do anything about that, I just like doing this with my friends.
Also it•s a great way to express what•s going on with me, kind of like what Eminem does, but I think he does it brilliantly and way better. I can•t do what he does. He tells his story to music and it takes some of the [sighs] — what•s the word? — it just takes some of the taboo off, when it•s music. It takes some of the stigma off; when you tell your story in music it•s a little more light-hearted and not so serious. Instead of going on stage and just telling a monologue that•s the story of my life, I kind of put it to music. Then you can get distracted with the music, or you can listen to the lyrics if you want, because it really tells the story of what I•ve been going through for awhile. There really is something behind it.
So, the song “30 Days and 30 Nights” would be a true story of your experience in rehab?
Yeah that•s about rehab, I was in rehab twice. I say that in the song that I went back the second time because I had so much fun the first time. It•s really easy to miss a lot of the words I•m sure.
Were you really in there with [Stone Temple Pilots• vocalist] Scott Weiland, because you mention him in the song?
We had crossed paths, but at the time he was doing one of his rehabs where he kind of jumped ship. But he•s totally clean and sober now.
Yeah, until the next time.
Exactly… we•ll see what happens.
Tell me about your live performances. What kind of stuff goes on when you play live?
[The thing about the record is] Really weird. It•s so eclectic, I•m sure that if you listen to it, you might think “I•m not sure I like it.” You have to hear it a couple of times…and if you see the live show that goes along with the album then you really appreciate it. There•s a whole, very well thought out, very calculated live performance art. It•s more like a long and extended performance art piece that has a lot of music to it. There are things in there where I take you on a musical trip. But it really is like an LSD trip where I really fuck with your head. If I told you what went on now, I•d wipe out a large part of my audience because I wouldn•t be able to fuck with their heads. They think that things are going on in the show that really aren•t going on and vice-versa. Like, they•ll think that something is part of the show that isn•t, and they•ll think that something isn•t part of the show, but it really is. That happens to a large degree, [to the point] where you can get upset. I•ve had people shaking and crying because [laughs] they think that something•s happening [spontaneously] that is really, actually a part of the show, but I design it that way. I design it to be very Andy Kaufman-esque.
So, the element of surprise is very important.
Yeah, to me it is. It•s just fun for me, personally, to kind of mess with people a little bit.
Have you see performers like The Genitorturers and The Impotent Sea Snakes?
I•ve never seen them. What do they do?
The Genitorturers are sort of a dark, industrial/dance band that are into on-stage body modification and bondage and stuff like that, and The Impotent Sea Snakes are like this freaky band that put on a live sex show and set shit on fire.
Yes! I would definitely have aspects of both of those bands — if you can call them bands — that•s exactly up my alley. I have a beautiful 19-year-old naked woman, fully naked, and for most of the show she sits next to a 500-pound guy who•s a friend of mine. He•s an integral part of the show, but I can•t really reveal what he does. I can say that the girl helps me shave my balls •til they•re bleeding. Whether it•s real or not…
It•s like the Penn and Teller thing?
You must come and see the show, yeah. The whole show is like that. I mean, for The Impotent Sea Snakes and that other band, you think that what went on went on, but to do something like that night after night after night, they•re probably doing some sleight of hand up there. But they got you! And I get people on a nightly basis. I get people who saw this show five years ago, who saw one of my bits from this show that I did — just this one bit at the Aspen Comedy Festival — and they still think it•s real. I can•t even tread water backwards to say, “No no, you don•t understand, it•s part of the show!” and they•re like, “OK, whatever!” It•s almost like I•ve done it so well that it•s backfiring on me. Like, people think I•m that much of an idiot [laughs heartily]. I wish you•d seen the show, it was PACKED at the Key Club, 500 people. But really the album is just a natural thing for me to do because people won•t shut up about, “When•s the album coming out!?” Literally, it•s been five years of people e-mailing me, asking me on the street, “When•s the album coming out!?” I•m just kind of an asshole if I don•t put an album out, even though, honestly, it•s not even going to be in the top 100. It•s not like that, it•s not like Adam Sandler•s “Hanukkah Song.” There•s nothing they can even really play on the radio, you know? That•s why I say it•s like The Velvet Underground; it•s so eclectic. Nothing from The Velvet Underground was ever [played on the radio]. People have compared it to Frank Zappa, and his stuff was never played. It•s all fun and all, and maybe interesting to some people, but for the most part people are just going to go, “What? I bought it but I use it as a coaster for my coffee.”
How were you inspired to write “Love Ninja/The Stalker Song”?
I love that. An ex-girlfriend of mine inspired that song. I•m with her right now actually; we•re on a little vacation with a couple of my ex’s and all my kids [Andy has three children, ages 14, 7 and 4, in Palm Springs]. It was completely inspired by her. In my younger days, I was much more jealous than I am now. I•m still a jealous kind of person but I was, like, sickly jealous. I stalked her and she had this boyfriend at the time named Kevin and… actually we shot a video to that song and I kind of recreated some of my escapades, where I was peeking over fences and through shrubs and what not.
Like a “How to” video for would-be stalkers!
It kind of is. In the video, [the stalker character] creates this balloon contraption where you•ve got like 50 big red helium balloons and he tries to float above the fence to get an aerial view of her, but winds up just crashing into her pool in this contraption. I directed the video.
Is the song “I’ll Fuck Anything” based on the character of Frank Booth from Blue Velvet?
No, although I did see Blue Velvet. You know, it might have been, because my friend Paul Henderson came up with the line. Paul•s in my show, he weighs about 500 pounds. He•s the big guy I mentioned earlier. He actually pretty much wrote that song and then I helped with the little scenarios, the lyrics of the [scene in the] laundromat and the old woman who takes out her teeth and gums me, “if you please” — you know that line. But he actually came up with the [sings] “I•ll fuck anything that moves…” The whole writing process on every single song is very collaborative. There•s not like one person who wrote any one song. One or two of my band members will come to me or I•ll go to them with the beginnings of a song and then we•ll sit in the room until it•s done. Sometimes it takes months.
You mentioned that you directed the video, and I heard that you direct TV commercials as well.
Yes, I direct commercials as well. I get these really weird offers and then I have to bid on them and win the job. One offer that I have now, and I•ve already done this last year for the same company, is for Cash Value Cheese, this cheese out in the midwest. I did two spots for them last year and I•m going to probably do three this year. I also did some for the Utah Transit Authority, which was weird and interesting and they turned out really funny — they actually won an award. When I got sober, I just went off in all kinds of directions. I went off into the music, I went off into the directing, which spawned the whole Andy Dick Show, because I got to direct all the episodes of my show. I don’t know, it•s just another way to have fun, that•s all.
One of the things I admire about you is how thoroughly you•re able to lose yourself in the characters you portray and the impersonations you do. Like, when you do Tom Green, you ARE Tom Green. What•s that like?
That was just weird. You know, we shot that thing where he was on my show and he played me and I played him. We were watching some footage of the camera, and for like a second we both kind of got lost, in that I thought I was him and he thought that he was me. I just didn•t remember who was who…it was really trippy. Because you•re acting with the guy who you are pretending to be, but he•s dressed up as you. I mean, it really kind of messes with your head. Oh yeah, it tripped us both out.
You mentioned Eminem earlier, have you ever impersonated him?
No. I thought of it and we wrote up some things to do that. We were going to do this thing where Eminem gets a Burger King commercial and he•s like [imitating Eminem•s voice] “You better buy some fuckin• fries!” It was just like hardcore rap trying to get people to buy [Burger King], but it actually got too raunchy because he started talking about rape. [Laughs] You know what? It probably could have worked, but I think MTV might have thought it was a little too hardcore.
I saw your appearance on John Favreau•s Dinner For Five on IFC, which was a fun show. Did you and Marilyn Manson totally horrify Daryl Hannah?
I feel bad — I just don’t think she got a word in edgewise. She•s actually really fun and real laid-back and really funny and sweet and sexy. But I don•t think, with Manson and I going at it, she just couldn•t get a word in edgewise. I don•t think she was necessarily shocked or anything. But maybe she was. I didn•t see the episode and I don’t really look around to see if I•m shocking people. I remember just talking to Manson. And, you know, we•re kind of friends so he•s just… he•s weird, obviously. He•s weird and you get us together and it•s almost like we•re trying to top each other.
Manson did the painting of you that became the cover art work for your album, is that correct?
Yeah. He painted it in watercolors. There•s this part [of the picture] that you can•t see, but on the original he glued on this text from an old medical journal, I think it is, about drug abuse. That•s the dark area at the bottom of the painting. It•s a water color, and actually it•s gorgeous. I can•t believe it. It•s a picture of me with these weird red, inflamed nipples — which I do not have in real life, but I guess Manson only hopes. And then I am holding a joint kind of, you can•t say out of arm•s reach because I•m holding it in my hand, but I•m holding it way up here. Like, “Here•s the joint and this is about as close as I•m going to get to it.” I could describe it for five days and you still wouldn•t get the beauty of it. You wouldn•t believe that Manson painted it, he•s actually a very great artist. The thing is, he painted that for me as a present, not for the album, and I asked him if I could use it for the album and he said he would love it. He•s such a trip.
I wanted to ask you about some of your other work on TV. What was the funniest thing that happened while working on The Ben Stiller Show?
I really would have a lot of fun working with Bob [Odenkirk], from Mr. Show. Bob and I really wound up being in a lot of scenes together and he and I really got along, he was funny. We did this thing… what was the thing… oh yeah, I remember… “Mr. Pleasance.” We used to have this thing where, if our make-up was kind of half on or half off, it really looked like your skin was peeling from some horrible sun accident or something. It was really grotesque and it didn•t matter what your make-up was for; when you had this weird peeling going on [you] always kind of looked the same. A lot of times you•d have a bald cap on or you•d have a wig, and when you took the wig off you•d have a wig cap on, so you looked bald. So you almost always looked the same, and we had a name for a “character” that you were that weird limbo state, and his name was “Mr. Pleasance” — because he was so unpleasant. [Changing to gruff sounding voice] We had this character that was just going, “Gimme a kiss over here!” And we would contort our faces and do this thing where his tongue would be like a lizard, flicking in and out. That would just make us laugh and laugh and laugh. He•d be like [changing to gruff voice again] “Oh, it•s so good to see you!” He was extra, extra nice but he was just so grotesque. You•d have to see the skin hanging off. I don’t know why I thought of that. I haven•t thought of that in years. But Bob used to make me laugh a lot, and ahhhh, man we just worked really hard.
I took everything I learned on that show and, ten years later, I did what I could to do my version of what that was back then, and that was The Andy Dick Show. Ben Stiller was on, and Bob Odenkirk was on at least five times. I love my show too, I think my show was just as funny [as Ben Stiller•s]. I actually just found out on Sunday from the guy who runs Ben Stiller•s company, Red Hour, he told me that they•re going to be releasing The Ben Stiller Show on DVD. They•re going to have interviews and whatnot and backstage shit and all that. And they•re going to have the original pilot that nobody ever saw.
Oh wow, that would be awesome.
Yeah, it•s going to be fun. All of us are going to do interviews for that.
I wondered if you wouldn•t mind relating one of your fondest memories of working with Phil Hartman on News Radio?
That show was awesome. Well, there•s not just one memory with Phil, because he was just everything to me. My character was wrapped around his character. I mean, almost all my story lines involved him. Personally, he was just “the Guy.” He was the friend you never had, the father I never had, the brother that I wish my brother was [laughs], because I do have a brother, who I love, but you know. Phil was just the best guy ever and so generous and so content. He just loved life and you got the sense that he was just so satisfied and at ease and content with life. That would rub off, because for the most part I•m a little discontent or whatever. I•m always a little anxious, like “things aren•t good.” His demeanor was just so fantastic it would rub off.
He had a boat and he flew airplanes to Catalina… he was a guy that knew how to live and just enjoy the time on this planet. That•s what really always struck me about him. [I remember] going over to his house for holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving and, really, we were actually very close. Oh yeah… I can•t even really think of it, actually. It•s just maddening.
I•m sorry, I didn•t mean to bum you out. I just think of him a lot because he•s still so present in the work he left behind. Like when you hear his voice on The Simpsons, you can•t believe this guy is gone.
[Imitating Phil Hartman] “I•m Troy McClure. You might know me from my films like Don•t Eat the Paint Chips,” or whatever it was. And that•s the other thing, he was so funny and so generous on all levels. Every taping day he would go into the audience and talk into the microphone of the warm up comic. Just talk to the people, you know? They loved him and he would give it to them.
Do you still talk to Maura Tierny?
Oh yeah, I talk to Maura, Vicky and once in awhile I run into Dave Foley and Joe Rogen. But Maura and Vicky, for some reason, I really talk to them a lot. I like them both.
Did you have a falling out with Howard Stern?
Mmmmm… no, not really. I just got tired of [his show]. I took a two year hiatus from going on his show. I•ve been on it in the last six months though. You know, I love that guy because he just does what he does and you can either take it or leave it, and I left it for two years. I just wasn•t in a good place to expose my raw nerves to that kind of media. It can be too much. I think for most people it is too much, but I•ve got, like, alligator leather skin and I just don•t really give shit. But I had two years where I•d just gotten sober and I was a little shaky and I•d rather not be exposed to that kind of harsh asshole-ness [laughs]. It just wasn•t cool. But I do owe a lot to him because the very first time I played “Little Brown Ring” was on Howard Stern. I was with my friend, one of The Bitches of the Century, out in New York City. I knew I was going on Howard Stern and I didn•t have anything to talk about or to say, so my friend and I wrote this song, “Little Brown Ring” for The Howard Stern Show. We had a lot of songs as the Bitches, maybe a handful, but we wrote this for our appearance on Howard Stern and then it kind of took off. That•s what put Andy Dick and The Bitches Of The Century on the map! Mind you, it•s a very small map, it•s almost more like a pamphlet. It really is one of those tiny tour guide pamphlets that you open up for Disneyland — it•s not a very big map that I•m on. But we have fans! I have people to this day — and I•m talking about that was five years ago when I played “Little Brown Ring” on Howard Stern — who come up and sing the song to me. So, it caught on, it got into their marrow and their next question is “When•s the album coming out?” So, finally, that•s what this interview is all about: “Here•s the album, now SHUT UP!”