If the name Andrew Dice Clay has any significance to you, it is, inevitably, as the blockheaded, spectacularlyleathered obscenity-dispenser who once looked like some combination of Mad Max and Liberace, who now looks like the guy who lives downstairs from your grandmother and can get you a great deal on calling cards. The perfect avatar for all that slimy, bicep-smooching late-80s male machismo, slicking his hair back in every reflective surface, winking at girls in skirts and when the girls snort in disgust he holds up his arms with a “WHATS-A-MATTA-HONEY?” and then tugs on his crotch and lights another cigarette. The definitive representation of the swaggering, filthy, bombastic “I’M HERE, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE WALKING” New York City, a place memorialized in heavy-handed Spike Lee montages, scored to car horns and relentless come ons, all intolerance and impatience and flamboyance, every accent like bad parody.
Andrew Dice Clay is that man. He is so that man. He is throwing you against a motel minifridge and he is chewing the button off of your jeans. He is shouting in your ear as you place his takeout order, and he is telling you to make sure they don’t forget his extra fucking ketchup, sweetheart. But he is also something else. In a sense, Andrew Dice Clay is the greatest comedian you’ve never heard of.
What’s It Like Being a Stand-Up Comedian in Saudi Arabia?
Breaking into stand-up comedy is notoriously hard in Western countries where there’s an infrastructure of clubs and agents and laws that allow performers to say pretty much whatever they want. But in Saudi Arabia, where the notoriously oppressive government still uses beheading as a punishment and women aren’t allowed to drive, among other things, it’s nearly impossible to be a comedian. The country’s stand-up scene is “burgeoning,” to be kind, or “pretty much nonexistent,” if you want to be mean.
So when Ahmed Ahmed, the Egyptian-American comedian, was performing in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the bookers wanted to find some locals to open for him, they had to hold auditions to find ordinary people who were funny enough to get onstage and tell jokes. An English teacher named Omar Ramzi got a Facebook message that said auditions were being held, tried out, and soon found himself in front of a thousand people doing stand-up for the very first time.
Omar stuck with comedy, and four years after his debut he had become famous enough to acquire a nickname (“the White Sudani”), made good money doing underground comedy gigs, and was featured on national TV and in the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper. The catch was that despite being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Omar had never received Saudi citizenship and was living illegally in the country thanks to a string of mishaps. After navigating the not-funny joke that is the Saudi bureaucracy, he eventually managed to flee to Cairo. I reached out to him through Skype to talk about the turns his life has taken.
VICE: So your nickname is “the White Sudani”? How did that happen? Omar Ramzi: Yeah. See, my mother’s Irish and my dad is Sudanese, and obviously most Sudanese people are dark-skinned, with African origins, but there is a small minority of white Sudanese that came from North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and places like that. My dad is from that small minority. We’re like the bluefin tuna of the human race—almost extinct.
What was it like growing up as part of that tiny minority? So, I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but I lived a very different life than most people—I lived in a compound, which is like a gated community. There’s several of them all over the country. The one that I lived in was called Saudia City, which is for the employees of Saudi Airlines. They had everything: They had their own schools—American schools, British schools—medical centers, pools… It was like a little city where the rules of the country did not apply. Women could drive and wear whatever they wanted to. There were parties and alcohol. And just outside the gate, you would see women all covered up with the black [burqa], like all ninja’d out, you know? They were like completely different worlds.
When you started doing stand-up, you were doing it in that wider world of Saudi Arabia. What was that like? It must be a lot different from what I think of as stand-up in America. The thing is, in the West, heckling is part of the norm in stand-up comedy. In this part of the world they don’t know about heckling. There’s no such thing. People sit down and they will respect you, even if you suck ass.
Omar’s first show ever.
That must be nice. Yeah, but it’s a bit of a challenge because they had a lot of rules. You can’t use profanity. You can’t talk about the government. You can’t talk about the royal family. You can’t talk about religion. So what is left to talk about? What is left to make fun of? I ended up making fun of the students I was teaching English to. I’ll tell you one of my jokes. I was teaching them the difference between “to” and “too.” After like three weeks of going through it, I thought, They must finally understand. So I asked who could give me an example of the difference between the words.
[heavy Saudi accent] “Teacher, teacher, I have the answer for you, teacher!”
[normal voice] “OK, go ahead.”
“For example, teacher, the one with the one ‘o’ teacher: ‘I want to go to the supermarket.’”
“Oh, very good, good job. What about the other one?”
“Yes teacher of course teacher. For example: ‘I want to go tooooooooooooooooo the beach.”
So you know, things like that, things that everyone could laugh at and that weren’t insulting.
Every tattoo tells a story and has a story—that’s two stories per tat! So every month we stop someone on the street and ask them to “tell us ’bout them tats!” We even say it just like that, with a southern accent. It gets people to open up. This month we stopped Gordon Penniweather in Park Slope, and he filled us in on the story behind a few of his many tats.
Thanks, Gordon—for the great stories and the cool tats!
THE SUSSMAN BACK TAT “Basically, I was drunk and made a bet on a baseball game with some guy in a bar. Can’t remember his first name, but his last name was Sussman. Funny story—we almost got into a fight because he was talking shit about my beloved White Sox, and in the course of stepping outside to hammer each other, we started laughing because I realized he was talking shit about the Red Sox, who I also hate. There and then we decided to bro down by getting tats and spent the whole night in an all-night tattoo parlor with me getting his face on my back. We were supposed to meet up again the next night to get my face on his back, but… never happened.”
THE “START TODAY” ARM “These three tats are actually connected. First, the bird happened. I was drunk and won a bet—this was at a poker game held in a tattoo shop. Anyway, some asswipe didn’t have the cash to cover his raise so he used his credit card to reimburse me for my win and let me pick any tattoo I wanted from a certain section. I wanted the Dude from Lebowski, but that cost too much. My girlfriend at the time was kind of cuckoo, so she chose the bird. Below that is the girlfriend—I can’t remember her name. It might have been Birdy or… Bethany? Something. She HAD a name, I know that much. I got it so I’d always remember who had picked out the bird tattoo. The “Start Today” thing on my wrist is a reminder to start saving to have tattoo-removal surgery done on most of my body. Pretty funny, if you think about it. I try not to think about it.”
An Oral History of the Recent Unpleasantness of Olympics Mascots
“I’m Wenloc, the Olympic mascot for London 2012. I love finding out about all sports, having fun and making friends.”
“I’m Mandeville, the Paralympic mascot for London 2012. I love trying new things and challenging myself to be the best I can be”
- 2012 London Olympics official website
Waldi the Dachshund (1972): Yeah, I was the mascot for Munich. First German games since the Holocaust. [Takes long drag on cigarette] So, you know… that worked out well.
Misha The Bear (1980): They had me pose with just about every goddamn sport you can think of. Fencing, running, sitting in a frigging wheelchair holding a javelin. After a while, I’d get panic attacks. I wouldn’t leave my trailer.
Sam The Eagle (1984): I was pumped. When it was over, I was all, what’s next guys? And they just laughed. I was like, huh? When’s the next Olympics? What’s the game plan here, you know?
Beibei the fish (2008): Between my Etsy shop and the Section 8 vouchers, I make out. But it’s tough. I don’t really have any savings.
Magique the Snow Imp (1992): I had some seasonal work at the Poughkeepsie County Fair, in the “tickle monster” booth. Obviously, that’s over now.
Schneemann the Snowman (1976): My daughter made me a gold medal out of the foil lid thing from a sour cream container. I just looked down at the floor. I couldn’t even cry.
Nokki the Snow Owl (1998): I haven’t been able to cry in years.
Hodori the Tiger (1988): They don’t make a 12-step program for people like us. [Pauses] Should I be using “people” in air quotes? I was never really sure about that.
Roni the Raccoon (1980): I’d gotten a settlement from a snowmobile accident and used the money to party every night. I started running with a bad set of guys—the Hamburger Helper Hand, the Phillie Phanatic, Eddie the Iron Maiden skeleton. It was a dark time in my life.
Copper the Coyote (2002): I started snorting a lot of that shit… what’s that called? Those glue stick things? Head On. That shit.
Sam the Eagle: I was doing a lot of jenkem, a lot of ground-up Yaz. What ever I could get my hands on.
Howdy the Polar Bear (1988): Bath Salts. Like from the Body Shop? I was smoking maybe 30 or 45 pounds a day.
Sydney the Platypus (2000): You set up rules for yourself. “OK, I’ll do handies, but I won’t turn tricks.” The next month, it’s like, “OK, I’ll turn tricks, but I’ll always use protection.”
Copper the Coyote: You can make good money at, you know, truck stops. [Pauses] Depending on what you’re willing to do.
Sam The Eagle: Guys would pay more if they thought I was one of the muppets.
Powder The Hare(2002): I tracked down Coal the Bear. He looked tore up. I told him, “I can get you work through my construction company. It’s not the easiest job, but if you settle in, we can fast track you for management in six months. One thing, though. We drug test. No exceptions.” He looked right in my face and—I’ll never forget this—he said, “Fuck you, you Jar Jar Binks motherfucker.”
Paloma the Dove (1968): My wife threw out all my Olympics stuff years ago. What are you going to do? I love that woman.
Izzy the Abstraction (1992): I still get royalties from that Super Nintendo game modeled after me. You need Windows 95 to play it, but it’s a pretty cool game.
Amik the Beaver (1976): I’m in Provo now, married, got a decent job at a company that manufactures industrial adhesives. Every now and then, one of the vendors will recognize me from the Olympics, and they get a kick out of that. But mostly, no, I don’t really think about it too much these days. I’ve moved on.
My name is Mike and I’m in love with bootlegs—all kinds. Records, video, you name it. This is my new column, to appear on Vice.com twice a month.
This particular column is going to be devoted solely to records. Here are a few of my most recent fave boots …
NEU!, Seasons of a Woman’s Cycle (1978) – Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother were German visionaries, which definitely explains why they decided to record a themed album based on a woman’s menstrual cycle. “Day 25” is my favorite song, but “Day 27” is INCREDIBLE, too. I love the tympani solo. On the German pressing, Klaus and Michael assume a frontiersman pose. On the UK pressing, Klaus and Michael are hugging a yellow plastic wizard’s hat. There’s also a 55 rpm version, but it’s impossible to play. (estimated: $1,500)
We answer your pathetic questions about dating, loneliness, and your inevitable failure.
Dear Hot Dog and Lady Bun, The guy I’m seeing still has his dating profile up on OKCupid and it really bothers me. I guess I thought he was more serious about me than he is. How should I bring up the fact that this bothers me?
Lady Bun Winks at You the Right Way Everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet after many years of unsuccessfully trying to meet strangers via fax. In fact, “internet” is derived from the words “intercourse” and “net,” because scientists realized that being online was the easiest way to catch penises and vaginas. Later, with the formal introduction of online dating, things became very complicated. Suddenly the idea of “commitment” was thrown in the mix and people like you started getting attached to their PPP’s (‘Puter Penis Pals). The internet makes it difficult for men to commit to just one of the many well-crafted online personalities women create to hide how fucking insane they are in real life. So how do you get him to stop browsing and start dousing you with commitment? Try some of these tips to finally get him to stop diddling his track pad.
• Tell him there’s a new dating site called “M’OK Stupid” and then create a simple website that links to the cover of USA Today.
• His wandering eye might stem from his need for variety. Why not try having crazy mood swings?! Your guy will be in a constant state of surprise, like a cat and his super bitchy laser pointer.
• Just like regular promiscuity, there’s no easier way to stop online trolling than with a virus. When he’s not home, click on every “Win A Free iPad” link you see and watch his Mac get a rare strain of iGonorrhea in no time.
Now that you’ve managed to make checking his dating profile harder, it’s time to communicate what you really want out the relationship with words that you chat from your mouth, not from a computer screen.
• “I know you think the grass is always greener but I’ve spent enough time mowing my lawn ‘down there’ to be your girlfriend.”
• “Please to stop using the internet to find girls and start using it to ‘Like’ the Quiznos Facebook page like the rest of us.”
• “I’d like you to press Control-Alt-Delete on that wandering dick of yours.”
I’ve eaten a lot of Zankou Chicken. Zankou Chicken is a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles that serve amazing Armenian fast food. I’d be more than content to have a chicken Tarna plate with their signature garlic paste for my last meal on Earth. If you can’t eat there anytime soon, you can listen to Beck’s brilliant soul epic, “Debra,” in which it’s featured. No one who’s eaten at Zankou is surprised that Beck felt the need to immortalize the restaurant in a song. It’s that good.
Several years after Beck wrote and released “Debra,” Zankou Chicken’s cancer-riddled owner, Mardiros Iskenderian, shot and killed his sister, his mother, and then himself. Apparently, he didn’t trust his closest relatives to run the Zankou Empire after he died.
I had eaten at the Hollywood Zankou chicken the night before.
Eight years later, Zankou Chicken has nine locations around Los Angeles and is running strong. A few months ago I went to the West LA Zankou, since it happened to be located between a couple of meetings I had. I hadn’t been in a long time, so I was excited. Their proprietary blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and garlic is as satisfying as a mid-grade sexual experience. It is genuinely exciting to eat their food; it’s like your mouth is learning something as it chews.
I ordered a chicken Tarna plate and a medium Pepsi. They gave me a number and I found a table next to a window. As I sat down I knocked over my Pepsi and its cap came off. The entire contents of the cup poured out onto my crotch. Twenty-four ounces of Pepsi soaked my jeans, its landfall centering on my penis and wreaking havoc outward.