Andrew Dice Clay on Josh Orlian

If there’s ever someone you wouldn’t expect to be praised on Cross-Currents, it would have to be Andrew Dice Clay. He was banned for life by MTV and from many radio and television programs for his use of foul language and “politically incorrect humor” — one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live refused to appear during the episode in which he made a guest appearance. In terms of “defining deviancy down” when it comes to language and references in the media, he exceeded even Howard Stern.

But he provides an interesting footnote to the appearance of Josh Orlian on America’s Got Talent, as previously discussed by both Rabbi Adlerstein and myself. In contrast to Howard Stern, who I have since been told has a non-Jewish mother, Andrew Clay Silverstein grew up in a Jewish family in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

On Shabbos I mentioned Josh Orlian’s AGT appearance, and my reaction to it, while speaking at a Kiddush. I was seated across from a corporate entertainer and comedy magician named Avi Frier, who is also the former publisher of the Florida Jewish News. Honestly, I didn’t know the “corporate” part or what sort of language Avi chooses at his appearances, so I didn’t know what he, as a comedian, would think about my remarks. But after I sat back down, he told me that he had been in contact via email with Orlian’s father, and had related the following story — which I include here with Avi’s endorsement.

At the height of Andrew Dice Clay’s career, Avi was the last of four acts opening for him at an appearance. There was a heckler in the audience who was giving each of the comedians an extremely hard time. Avi resolved to stay with his script, but eventually he was distracted by the incessant heckling. So he said something which, he reports, successfully stopped the heckler, but employed language “inconsistent” with the yarmulke on his head. I’m sure we all sympathize, and again, Avi endorsed saying this story in his name.

Immediately following his act was the main event. And Andrew Dice Clay stood up at the open mic and asked if “the magician” was still present. Avi raised his hand. And Andrew Dice Clay Silverstein, in front of the crowd, said he had a good act and a good response to the heckler. But if Avi was going to talk like that, he added, “take off the […] yarmulke!” [Demonstrating again that foul language can get a laugh where otherwise a remark would barely get a smile.]

All of the other comedians gave Avi a pat on the back for the call-out and praise from one of the world’s top comedians. But Avi was sitting there thinking about how right Clay was. Even the leading foul-mouthed comedian of the day knew that the yarmulke represents a different, higher standard, incongruous with choices of language and topic made by others.

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13 Responses

  1. Yehoshua says:

    I remember Avi fondly from his work in NCSY in the 1980’s, Atlantic Seaboard Region.

  2. dave says:

    I have nothing to add to the posts written by both you and Rabbi Adlerstein. You have both raised important ideas that we wish the parents of this child would consider. In fact, they could still make a positive statement by rejecting the invitation of this TV show to continue on the program.

    I want to thank the writers for objecting. Period. Too often we hear of these kinds of breaches and no one says anything, either because they don’t wish to be ridiculed as being square or some such, or because of apathy. But Chazal found that certain issues required them to be “mocheh”, to at the very least express their opposition to an action or attitude that they felt contradicted Torah in deed or spirit.

    You have done so with eloquence, and you speak for me and I suspect many others as well.

    Maybe we should pray for this boy too.

  3. Lisa Liel says:

    According to Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, Stern’s mother Ray Schiffman is definitely Jewish.

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “According to Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, Stern’s mother Ray Schiffman is definitely Jewish”

    – anyone who has heard her has no doubt that she is Jewish. This business about her not being Jewish is another HS shtick

  5. Mike S. says:

    While it is right to point out that this youngster’s very public behavior was improper and not to be emulated, this is now the third Cross Currents post pointing that out. I think you have reached the point where you are piling on someone who remains a twelve-year-old kid; any one of the posts would have been sufficient to make the point.

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      RYA wrote his post, with its different nuances, before seeing mine. Do you see no additional lesson in Andrew Dice Clay’s recognition of the significance of a yarmulke?

  6. CNS says:

    Does the same apply to the white-collar criminal who appears in charedi garb?

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      CNS: The difference is that the criminal knows he’s not doing the right thing, along with everyone else. He doesn’t go show it proudly on stage.

      Actually, I heard a story that many decades ago there was a Satmar chassid arrested for something… he didn’t actually do wrong, but they had an excellent circumstantial case against him and he knew it wasn’t likely to go his way. He bought a pinstriped suit, shaved his beard, and called himself “Z” instead of Yitzchak. Someone told the Rebbe, who replied that “Z” would get Olam Haba for that shave!

      Sadly, since then it’s become a much more frequent thing to see obviously-frum defendants. Ben Brafman gave a talk about good people who feel the need to cut corners here or there, sometimes not even for their own benefit but for a charity, and get in loads of hot water.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Perhaps, the issue is not the age of the participant, but rather the POV of his parents with respect to the actions of their son.

  8. Wolfman says:

    I have a confession to make. I never heard about Josh Orlian until I read about him right here. I doubt I am the only one.

    Is it possible that we are giving him way too much attention? Are we inadvertently spreading his sophomoric humor?

    I’m not saying I feel that way. I’m just tossing that question out there.

  9. c-l,c says:


    Please perhaps teach me.

    How come when modox make off with millions (e.g. 3 of the 10 board members of SAC with names like Noach, as well as other corporate scams) don’t we hear protestations of chillul Hashem? Might some of us be missing something ?

    While you’re mulling over that one, walk into a random gas station, and ask the attendant which type inevitably returns the money when they are undercharged.

    The answer: the black hatters

  10. Lisa Liel says:

    The issue isn’t the kid himself. The father (Joey Orlian) told some of the same “jokes” himself in 2011 during his first standup performance. The video is on YouTube for those who can stomach it. The idea that a father would tell such jokes to his child and then put the child on a national stage… and during discussions abot this on Facebook, a friend of their family, who was defending the act, mentioned that she’s heard the father telling off color jokes like these at the table for years. The child is a child. Our ire, or our concern, should be directed at his parents.

  11. David Z says:

    Lisa: of course. Who could possible have ire directed at that amazing 12-year-old boy? He’s adorable and amazingly talented, not afraid to be on a stage like that. Imagine what he can accomplish! And I guess some of that is his parents (if we’re going to blame them for the bad…). But of course any ire is with the parents. But I think this is a stage where the natural reaction isn’t ire, but busha… And thanks for the Howard Stern info. I had always hoped he wasn’t Jewish…. Ah, well. So two out of three judges were Jewish men. No claims of nepotism? 🙂

    CNA: No, it’s okay for white-collar criminals to dress like charedim. That what you’re looking for? Have you ever read Cross-Currents before today? I’ll tell you one thing–it certainly won’t help them in the courtroom (prosecutor here).

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