Andy Dick Takes on Howard Stern

By Joe Schrank 09/21/11

America's most compulsive comic on addiction, AA, Jews, Sex, Pills, Pamela Andersen, Coke, Courtney Love, Rehab—and his furious feud with his old pal, Howard Stern.

Comic Release: Andy Dick Comes Clean

Who is Andy Dick, anyway? Is he the mad cap star of News Radio and MTV's Andy Dick Show? Or just a 48 year-old tabloid flame out with odd ideas of fun (flashing his Milton Berle-sized penis, grabbing a security guard’s crotch, pulling down girls’ tank tops, peeing in cop cars and once managing to break 16 laws in less than five hours)?  Is he the raging anti-Semite who (jokingly?) slammed shock jock Howard Stern for being a “shallow, money grubbing Jew” with a “big fat hook nose,” or a reckless romantic who deluges his lovers with flowers and affectionately calls everyone he talk to “buddy” or “dude”? Even questions you’d think would be fairly straightforward—about, say, his sexual orientation—don’t come with easy answers.

The one fact that everyone, including Andy Dick, agrees to is that he's a life-long addict,  a talented performer whose career and personal life has suffered mightily as result of his ravenous appetites for alcohol, drugs and sex. Not long ago the high-flying comic was dubbed the “Angel of Death” after several of his closest colleagues (Chris Farley, Phil Hartman and David Strickland) died in the late 90s. "I have kind of survivor guilt about that," says Dick. "I don't know why I managed to stay alive while they just disappeared." Last week, in a remarkably candid interview with The Fix, the actor talked thoughtfully and soberly about his dozen trips to rehab, (including the de rigueur stint with Dr. Drew), his controversial contretemps with his old friend Howard Stern and his strong connection with other addicts desperately struggling to stay sober.  

According to the tabloids you've been to a multitude of rehabs in recent years. What's your latest count?

I think I'm up to 12 by now.  In fact,  I’m talking to you from a rehab right now: I checked into a new outpatient facility on my own accord a few weeks ago.

What's been your favorite place to dry out?

The one I’m in now, because it’s an outpatient place and because I picked it by myself. It’s called One to One, and it really is a one-on-one thing. My second most favorite was this place in Akron, Ohio. I went there when everyone I knew decided that all the other rehabs weren’t working and said, “Throw him in one of those places where the real derelicts are, because that’s what he is,” and so they shacked me up with the bottom of the barrel fuckin’ doomed to die derelicts—people who were either literally going to die or going to go to prison, and I slept on a cot next to them—six to a room. It was really like being an inmate but it was my favorite place because these people were just people—they were funny, we were all laughing all the time, it was a little bit like like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and we were having a blast. We were putting on little shows, staying up really late in the conference room. It was a shit house, by the way, it was horrible: it smelled, these people didn’t have teeth, and we were so fascinated with each other. But the other thing was, I’m always half a step away from being one of those people—we’re all just people, and I grew up with my brother, who was also adopted, and he’s a very, very hardcore alcoholic, and has not ever stopped.

You've also been to a bunch of fancy rehabs, too, like Promises.

Yep. I was thinking this morning about how I got thrown into my very first one, Promises. I was so mad at the time. But I was thinking, “You know what, it probably saved my life,” because I was in such a delusion; I was out of my mind, I didn’t know one end from the other, I didn’t know which way was up, and I was just kind of going crazy. And it sobered me up, obviously, and it was just my first taste of AA, my first taste of rehab, all this stuff, and it got the ball rolling: it got me to see that there actually is a different and better lifestyle and if you choose to do it, you can do it.

Courtney Love recently claimed you got her started on benzos again by slipping her a pill at the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson.

When did she say that?

In an interview she did with us.

That’s just crazy. She's just having a laugh. The thing is, A, I never do pills. B, people give me pills all the time. C, if somebody asks me if I have pills, I’ll give them to them if I have them, because I don’t do them. I don’t even know what a benzo is, and every time people give me pills, I never trust anybody, and when I’m drinking and smoking—that’s what I do, I drink, I smoke pot, sometimes cocaine, when I was doing that, but never pills. Everybody that I knew who died, there were always some pills involved, and I was frightened of that, so I never did them. I did them 20 years ago—I think I’d take a pill to come off of some kind of nine-day coke bender, but either she doesn't remember or what I said is the case, which is I gave her a pill that somebody gave me which I had no idea what it was, because she asked. I wouldn’t just say, “Hey, baby, take this, quick, hurry.” I wouldn’t do that. I’m not a pusher. I don’t do that.

But you remember that night?

I remember the Pamela Anderson roast very fondly. Courtney Love, Pam and I were in Pam’s dressing room. Courtney was trying to help Pam's  tighten up her dress because it ripped in the back because her boobs are so big, and Courtney was literally sewing her dress up with a needle not too expertly. We were all laughing about it; we were all just having fun. We were partying, we were having a fun time, and I think I caught glimpses of Pamela's huge tits—it was just a fun time. As I said, I remember that night very fondly. 

What’s behind the major fracas between you and Howard Stern. He seems  bit peeved that you referred to him as a hook-nosed Jew. Are you an anti-Semite as he claims?

Well, no, I’m not anti-Semitic, obviously. At the time [of his rant against Stern], I was under the impression that he and I were friends. I very much appreciate all that Howard's done for me. He's a stand-up guy. But after this incident I began to perceive that he was more of a showbiz friend than a real kind of friend. I’m very naïve and a very open, generous, happy guy. I thought, “Oh my god, this guy, when the mic turns off, he’s suddenly friendly and nice—oh, we’re friends,” but the reality is that the mic turns off and he just wants to keep up a pseudo-friendship so he can have me on as a guest again and call me a pole-smoking, dick-twiddling, cum-guzzling faggot. And that’s the thing, he’s called me every fucking name in the book. And he calls himself a hooknose Jew. 

I’d never even heard the term "hooknose Jew" before Howard said it on the radio, so I’m using his own term against him as a joke. The only thing that’s true and is kind of obnoxious and insulting is the hooknose part, but you've got to admit that it’s true: he’s got this gigantic fucking nose. The Jew part is more problematic. But if you call someone a Jew, it’s not an insult. The hooknose part is. My dad is not alive anymore, but he was Jewish. I was adopted into that family.

So you were adopted into a Jewish family?

Not really, my dad was Jewish and my mom was not, and one of the women I’ve had kids with is Jewish. I live with her now, I have two kids that obviously have Jewish blood, because she’s Jewish. She’s not anymore, but she has two other kids with another Jewish man who are Jewish, so I live in a house with two Jewish kids, and not only that, my whole team, from my agent to my lawyers, all of them…

Show business would be a difficult place for a Jew-hater.

That's very true, but I'm not a Jew-hater. If I hate somebody—and that’s a very strong word—I will hate that person briefly, as an individual. I’ll just be like, “I can’t stand that person,” and that’s how I was with Howard at that moment. I was just very upset, and I still kind of am, that I had spent two years trying to help him get Sirius satellite radio off the ground. He called me—this is all part of the delusion I was in, thinking we were friends, he’d call my cell phone and say, “I want you to have your own show, Andy, do whatever you want whenever you want, just come in and do your own show,” and I was like, “That’s phenomenal,” and we both agreed that I wouldn’t get paid, but eventually I would. Two years later, after I started saying, “Am I going to get paid? It would be cool if I could pay my guitar players and musicians,” because my show is very musical—it’s called The Shit Show, and I now do on my own: you can get it on ITunes for free. When I started it back up, it shot up to number three. I honestly feel that he’s just nervous that I can do what he does but I’m not a shock jock. Sometimes I even wonder if he’s doing all this—he got all somber when he was talking about his Jewishness, and it’s like, “Really?” He used to be this shock jock, now he’s not shocking at all. Nothing really is in this day and age. So we were doing my show on his Howard 101 station and some incident happened where some people stole some equipment, and they said they were with me but they weren’t with me: they actually caught the people and they had nothing to do with me, I didn’t know them, and they admitted that it was their lie to get into the building. They probably listened to it and just said, “Let’s say we’re part of The Shit Show.” I wasn’t even there, it wasn’t on the day I do my show, but they blamed me and they fired me. They fired me from a job I wasn’t even getting paid for.

People judge me, and they talk shit about me. If this is how they treat someone with the disease of alcoholism, it’s inhumane and utterly ridiculous.

How do you fire somebody who's not being paid?

They said, “We no longer need you,” plus they had filled up all their slots with all these other shows. I love The Shit Show, and so do other people. On my Facebook page today someone wrote, “Where’s The Shit Show?” and somebody else was like, “Yeah, what’s the hold up?” Because I haven’t been able to do it since any of this stuff that’s been going on in my life.

Do you think sobriety is harder for celebrities?

No. It can be harder, but it can be easier. There are obviously people who are not celebrities that have a horrible time and die, then there are people who are celebrities that don’t. The disease, as they call it, of alcoholism, is not picky. It has no prejudice one way or the other.

It’s the one truly egalitarian system in America.

I disagree on that part. People judge me, and they talk shit about me, and that irks me, because they probably know someone—I can guarantee they know someone—who is having the same struggle, whether privately or they know about it, and it is a struggle. It’s a struggle between life and death, and if people knew how fucking hard it was and how serious it was, and if they just looked around in their own lives and saw some person they loved and the struggle they’re going through, they would lay the fuck off of me, or people like me. They really would. My skin has been hardened over the years—it’s gotten very, very hard, like alligator thick, rough and hard. It’s taken years and years of people shitting directly on my head, but I think a person, if they were…I have a perfect example of it, the husband of the wife from the Beverly Hills Housewives, he got it all thrown on him all at once, and if it happens all at once like that, you kill yourself. It’s easy to just say, “Fuck this shit, if this is how people think…” People like us [addicts] will concentrate and focus only on the negative and be like, “Really, this is how everybody thinks?” And no, it’s not, what about your family, your friends and the people that love you, and your fans that fucking love you? You have to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives, you have to. Or I would hang myself from a shower curtain, I really would, I would have a long time ago. It’s absolutely ridiculous how people treat…I don’t even like to call it a disease, I’ll use your term and use the world’s term: if this is how they treat someone with the disease of alcoholism, it’s inhumane and utterly ridiculous.

Do you think addiction is genetic or related to how people are raised?

I think it’s a combo of every single thing. There’s no rhyme or reason to it: you either have it or you don’t, and it’s taken over or it hasn’t, and it’s either hardcore or not. I see people who say, “I’d prefer it if this person in my life did not drink, or didn’t drink so much,” or sometimes I see a person and I’m like, “That guy needs to have a fucking drink.” There’s so many gray areas to alcoholism, as you call it, it’s so hard for me to even just say that it’s a disease, it’s very hard for me to say that, because I believe there are many, many different flavors: I feel it comes in way more than 32 flavors.

Is total abstinence the only way?

I know that it is always personally the best way for me, but I’ve seen people—there are people in my life that can just cut way the fuck down and have a little, little bit. Someone I was dating…I don’t know if I ever saw her drunk, and then there’s people who shouldn’t not drink because they get suicidal. It’s like, pick up a drink before you pick up a gun.

Do you worry about your kids being addicts?

Luckily, I think one of them made it out of the jungle alive and kicking: he’s doing excellent, he’s 23, and he just kicks ass in every way. I have a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old, and the youngest is the only girl in the group. Those two, I’m trying to be there for them in these very formative years, and I don’t want to talk too much about my kids, but it’s tough, it’s really tough, not only what I have put them through all these years, but now being sober, just how I’m experiencing what they’re going through, and I worry way too much. It’s just frustrating when you feel helpless and you feel like you can’t do anything.

Getting onstage and making people laugh is a daunting challenge. Has using helped or hindered your career as a comedian?

I wouldn’t be who I am without drugs and alcohol, I wouldn’t be where I am and who I am, because I don’t know if I’d ever get over the hump of that first fear. I remember going onstage and I had to have a margarita, and I switched over to rum and Coke, but back then, I’d just have a few, one, two or three. I think when I auditioned for Second City, I might have had five, but over a period of time, I was so petrifyingly nerve-racked, I didn’t feel like I could get a line out of my mouth, or I’d have visible jitters onstage. I got into Second City with my audition: I was very lucid and smooth. But over the years, I’ve tried every single combination of drugs and alcohol, onstage. I was a comedy alchemist, trying to come up with comedy gold, trying to find out what’s the perfect chemical mixture I can do so that when I’m onstage, it’s just coming out of me perfectly? There’s no such thing. The best thing I’ve experienced in my whole life is 100 percent sobriety when I’m very grounded, I’ve been meditating, I’ve been exercising, I’ve been eating right. I know this sounds corny, but it’s when I’m this empty vessel where the comedy’s coming out of me, and I don’t even know where it’s coming from. It’s godlike, and I know that sounds weird to people, but if I’m not in a good place or I haven’t been taking care of myself—if I’m unhealthy, I’m not meditating, because I do transcendental meditation, that’s one strange thing that Howard Stern and I have in common, we both do transcendental mediation, and have for years, 15, and I’m 45 now. So if I’m not in a good place in the past, and I’ve been able to have one or two glasses…

I used to have this great chemical combo, it was pineapple, chocolate—that’s what Letterman would eat, a little bit of dark chocolate, a little pineapple—then one glass of red wine. When I was completely sober, I’d have dark chocolate, pineapple, and some green tea. So even in sobriety, I was experimenting with that, because I need to be a little bit up. If I could go onstage right this second, I’d be great. I feel great, I’ve been taking care of myself, I’ve upped my game on my health, self-care. But the tricky part to drinking or using drugs and going onstage is you think you’re funnier than you are. I have an album out where half of it…I did this on purpose, but I don’t say it anywhere on the album, I just did it for myself, and it’s on my damn iPod and I hate that it’s on my iPod, because when I go jogging, it will come up, and there’s one side of it where I’m drinking, a live show, and the other side is a live show in a whole other time period in a whole other city, and I’m not drinking, and I just remember the drinking one being better—I thought I was more smooth and this and that, but when I’m sober and listen, I say, “Oh my God, I just sound retarded.” I can just hear that I’m not clear, and the quality of my voice. The best medicine for comedy, to me, is sobriety: it’s the best thing to do. But if you just live in the meetings, it’s not good enough because a lot of those people are extremely addicted to caffeine and nicotine. I had a guy watch me go on—a sober companion—and he told me he doesn’t even drink water, he just drinks soda, and he smokes like a chimney, and he was very unhappy. 

Why do so many comedians OD?

I think that those people, the reason why they are so funny, is because they are uber-sensitive people: they have their finger on the pulse of humanity, on what it is to be a human, on the pathos and the ups and the downs and they’re sensitive beings that can get another person’s pain, but then they feel their own pain deeply, and that’s why they’re so fucking funny. They can express something to a degree where other people relate, and it’s something that’s very painful, and the other people relate and laugh because it’s just fucking funny, and then this pain is so deep that they wind up using drugs and alcohol to not feel so deeply, and then it just gets the best of them and they die.

Nobody will hire me, they’re completely afraid of me. If I hear one more time, “He’s the most talented, funniest person I’ve ever worked with, he’s brilliant, he’s a genius,” and then they don’t hire me, that’s maddening: that will drive a man to the brink of suicide.

So you think the depth of feeling for artists is more intense than for other people?

I completely do, I’ve done a lot of research on this. I have a friend right now who I constantly asked him, “So, if your girlfriend goes out of town, you just don’t miss her?” He doesn’t have these…I go into a…it’s not that he’s emotionless, but he just doesn’t feel the way that I do, and I’m talking about ups and downs. I notice I went to see a movie recently, a funny movie, a big comedy, and it was packed with 300, 500 people, but I was laughing the loudest. And I’m a comedian, but yet I’m laughing the loudest, and I’m also crying during a commercial for something. The commercials that try to tug at your heartstrings, they will get me.

All addicts have an inability to self-soothe. Other people have a more concentrated experience.

Exactly. I look at people just walking down the street with their shopping, they have their bags in their hands, and I’m like, “How can they fucking do it, how can people go through life as mundane…”

Do you think your reputation as an addict makes it harder for you to get jobs?

Of course. Nobody will hire me, they’re completely afraid of me. If I hear one more time, “He’s the most talented, funniest person I’ve ever worked with, he’s brilliant, he’s a genius,” and then they don’t hire me, that’s maddening, that will drive a man to the brink of suicide. The last two years have been horrible for me.

In terms of work?

In terms of having horrible, horrible thoughts, and I’m not a suicidal guy, I just love life so much, but it’s been so maddening that even I’m like, “What’s the point, if I’m not going to be a productive member of society that gives something to people,” and my biggest gift, I think is to give the gift of laughter, and if they ain’t buying what I’m selling, what’s the fucking point? That’s where I go to, all the time, lately, in the last couple of years. “What am I doing again?” And then I remember oh yeah, my kids, I have my kids, thank God.

What’s the craziest thing you ever did when you were high? 

I wouldn’t know, because I was probably so obliterated that I wasn’t even present, but I was just at a Trader Joe’s and somebody said, “Oh hi, do you remember me from a while ago?” and I’m like, “No,” and they’re like, “Yeah, I helped you, you were in the bushes.” That happened a lot…there was some kismet-y kind of situations that happened where one time I had passed out on the street in Hollywood and I woke up to headlights right in my face. I guess I was not in the street but I was in a parking lot, kind of, the headlights were in my face and a guy came out, and it wasn’t an old assistant, but a guy that played my assistant on The Andy Dick Show, so it was so strange to me that the actor who played my assistant is now, in real life, assisting me, and he took me home, and we actually hung out and had a great time. There are angels out there.

Who are you hanging out with these days—Courtney Love and Pam Anderson?

I never hung out with them. I think I went to Pam’s house once when she was still with Tommy Lee and our kids all played. We hung out all day, actually, we hung out for quite a while, and with Courtney, we hung out a couple of times in clubs, but no, I don’t go out, I hang out with my kids and I hang out with some great, normie friends, and a lot of sober people. 

That’s probably better for you than Courtney or Pam.

Yeah. They’re great people, but…I don’t hang out with celebrities, I feel weird about hanging out with celebrities. I feel they’re going to think I want something from them, I have a very weird thing about hanging out…that’s why I never hung out with Ben Stiller, I never hung out with Judd Apatow. I worked with them for a long time, but I always had this weird, “Oh, there’s no point to hang out, they’re just going to think I want something,” and I should have befriended them more, but I was just insecure, really. 

Are you resistant to AA?

No, I love it. I think it’s fun; I’ve never gone to a meeting that I hated, I always get something out of it. I’m always bawling my eyes out. The last one I went to on Friday, there was this woman, and I was like, “I know her.” I knew her and her mannerisms and her voice and her look, I knew her very well, and she said she was a counselor, and I said, “Oh, I guess I just think I know her, but I know I know her,” and her story was making me laugh hard, and I was crying my eyes out, and then I went up to her after to thank her. And when I saw her she went, “Andy!” and I’m like, “I know that I know you, but I don’t know what’s going on,” and she did the air-slap in my face, back and forth, going, “I was your therapist! You’d never listen to me!” and I almost started crying, and I said, “Well, I’m ready to listen now,” and I got her info and we’re going to talk again. I think I still can’t remember even one session with her, and I think it was an extremely difficult time in my life. The time I’m having now is horrible, I wouldn’t be surprised if I block out most of these last two years, but there was another time in my life when something very horrible went down—a string of things within a year, and I blocked out a good one to five years. I think I was seeing multiple therapists, she was one of them, and I blocked it out of my mind, I couldn’t even remember, which is very odd to me, it’s frightening.

There’s been so much written about your sexual orientation. Are you straight or are you gay? Does your sobriety affect the partners you choose?

I don't think getting high  affects my choice of sexual partners.  I just think  that when I’m drinking a lot, I just get sexually addictive. I just get more into sex—it’s just more an addictive kind of sex as opposed to a more relaxed, normal sexual experience with somebody. It doesn't matter who I'm sleeping with.It's more about getting off.

Do you define yourself as straight or gay?

I guess I define myself as bi these days. I like women and I like men. Nobody ever taught me, “This is right, this is wrong.” I think if somebody had taught me early on, or even if someone just said that it’s frowned upon in our society to be gay, then that probably would have been enough of a deterrent for me to say, “Oh, then I probably won’t go down that road,” or maybe it would have sparked an interest and I’d have said, “Oh, I want to try it.” But nobody ever talked to me and I never had boundaries, and it’s not a big deal to me. I just like beauty, and a lot of times that beauty comes from the inside.

Joe Schrank is Editor-at-Large of The Fix and CEO of the Core Company. He previously interviewed comedian Colin Quinn and Republican candidate Gary Johnson.

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Joe Schrank is a writer and social worker in NYC. He was one of the founders of TheFix and is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Gawker, Salon, and Fox News. Intoxicant-free for 18 years, Joe remains a depressed disgruntled alcoholic. You can find Joe on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.