Showtime’s “Dice” premiered in April 2016, and we were big fans of the series. Self-deprecating, vulnerable, full of shocks and surprises, but most of all really, really funny. The series, which takes place in Vegas is back for Season Two, starting August 20th at 10:30 pm on Showtime.
What we loved about season one is that Dice plays himself as a man who does insane things, gets in his own way, and behaves in a self-destructively way, and Dice the actor doesn’t hold back. Dice himself described it as “Dice ruins everything.” It’s brave in many ways, and the result is charming, funny, and it’s really fun. The series is so much lighter than many of the other shows that center around the comedy business of late and the good news is that season two not only continues with this winning formula- it ups the game.
We talked with the series creator and director Scot Armstrong about why the show works, how he got involved with the series, and about what we can expect in season two.
“Well, sometimes you just take meetings with people who seem interesting to you,” Armstrong said about how he first connected with Dice. “Then when I met him, his energy in the room and his stories from just what he’d been going through that day made me realize that he was hilarious in a way that I’d never seen. He’s definitely funny on stage, but his personality and just the stories of his real life are so preposterous. I also felt like I had an instinct that I could really write in his voice.” Armstrong said Dice’s performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine was an important factor in deciding to get on board with the series. “When I saw him in that Woody Allen movie being so good as a dramatic actor, it gave me confidence that I could work with him as a comic actor and do something different than he’s doing on stage.” And, he added, “the way he talks and the way he sees the world makes me laugh.”
Armstrong said that Dice came to the table with a willingness to be vulnerable and self-deprecating and to poke fun at himself and where his career is at right now, and that formed the basis of the show. Everything else evolved out of that first meeting. “When he wanted to go there, I saw the show,” he told me. “I could just picture it and then I started to build around it.” They created a short film- about nine minutes long- and got three offers to create a series. They decided to go with Showtime.
Describing the Dice character, and to some extent Andrew Dice Clay himself, Armstrong got to the heart of what makes this series so special; and for all of the character’s toughness, the key here seems to be vulnerability. “There’s definitely different sides to Dice. There’s the Dice you see on stage and then there’s the more vulnerable side of him. There’s the guy who’s slightly embarrassed that the whole world’s passed him by. But then there’s the guy who’s actually hyper-talented and can actually make a whole room erupt in laughter at the same time. Then there’s the guy who’s a little bit of a gangster still. He thinks like he follows the rules of a certain code that come from Brooklyn. Then there’s also just the guy who’s just trying to live his life who makes mistakes.”
For season two, Armstrong says they decided to take things further. In the first season, he said, you are always looking to see where your strengths are and set tone. In season two, they didn’t have to explain the show anymore. “We challenged Dice to go even further into his existential crisis of a guy who was on top of the world, who’s now in a little bit of a … He’s getting close to 60 and his life is totally different. He’s still in debt. He’s still in debt to the casino. He’s just trying to figure it out. That’s funny. Not only is it deep, but it’s also it’s hilarious. He’s a great comic actor.”
Most of the stories from both seasons come from Dice’s real life and many of them recent. And it’s a process to sort through all the stories Dice brings to the table and figure out which ones will go into the show. There are so many stories, in fact, they created a wall to sort them all out. He explained how the season gets put together. “At the beginning of the season, we have a wall with 200 really stupid things that Dice has either caused for himself or things that have happened to him in the last couple months.” Scot said he will have dinner with Dice and talk through stories, or Dice will text him things that have happened, or come into the writers’ room and just tell stories. His assistant puts all of the stories on index cards and adds them to the wall. “He’s great at moments. He’s great at anecdotes. He’s great at stories that have happened to him,” Scot said. “Then we also invent bigger themes and bigger stories and then weave all that stuff in together.”
On set, Scot says the team stays pretty focused. They have to be– they’re shooting 11 pages a day– which can be exhausting. So while Andrew is funny on set, there’s none of his legendary pranking taking place. Scot says he looks to create a collaborative inventive atmosphere on the set. “The table reads are super lively and funny. We’ll definitely take ideas and put them into the scripts. Everyone knows when they have a scene to do that they can bring their own personality to the show. I see every scene as an opportunity for the actor performing with Dice to bring the material where they want it to be. They can improvise. They can add stuff. They can mess with Dice. Dice can mess with them. Then I’ll direct it from there too.”
Season two promises even more of the big (and fun) celebrity guest appearances the show has become known for. Because the show is set in Vegas, a lot of Vegas celebrities will be coming through. “This year, you see Tony Orlando, Billy Gardell is big in Vegas, Yakov Smirnoff, Teller from Penn and Teller, those kind of Vegas celebrities.” Other guests are just Dice fans who want to work with him or are already Dice’s friends. “Ron Livingston is in it this year, David Arquette, Joe Lo Truglio, Andy Daly’s in the show this year, Laraine Newman, Mike Starr, Mary Holland is super funny, up and coming female comic. Then Michael Imperioli from Sopranos, James Woods is a big part of the show in episode four and seven. Then Mickey Rourke has a big part in the sixth episode.” The guests all play themselves or at least versions of themselves, so the part is written in their voice. “A lot of times they’re a little flattered that we wrote something so detailed in their voice and they’ll be excited to do it. We rewrite everything for the person. It’s like a heightened version of their real personality in the show,” Scot explained.
Showtime is giving fans an early chance to see the season two premiere of Dice early- right now in fact- and it’s free. The premiere episode takes the “It’s a Wonderful Life” premise and turns it on its side- asking what would have happened if Andrew Silverstein never took on the Dice persona? How would his life and the lives of everyone around him change. It’s a side of Dice you’ve definitely never seen before. Watch the episode and then tune in every Sunday at 10:30pm to see seven new half hour episodes.