Comedian Andy Dick triumphed over personal tragedy, drug and alcohol addiction, and bad press to become one of Hollywood's most unforgettable -- and unconventional -- jokesters. Born on December 21, 1965 in Charleston, SC, Dick is the adopted son of the late Allen and Sue Dick. His father, an officer on a nuclear submarine, carted the family with him all over the world: Dick and his brood lived in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Yugoslavia before settling in Illinois. There, at Joliet West High School, Dick learned that the way to keep people's attention was to make them laugh. He began honing his comedic skills by giving a spontaneous standup routine during freshman orientation and eventually won the race for Homecoming King with the slogan, "Don't vote for a jock, vote for A. Dick." After graduation, Dick briefly attended a local college before abandoning school work for the Chicago comedy scene. He studied improv under Del Close and performed at Chicago's celebrated Second City and the ImprovOlympics while appearing in various commercials. By his early twenties, Dick was doing standup or improv every night of the week, but still worked various day jobs to support his then-wife, Ivonne, and their young son.
Dick labored as a delivery guy, a waiter, and as a tour guide before leaving Chicago for Los Angeles in 1988. The move was not an immediate success: Dick's agent dropped him upon arrival, and the comedian could not find a new one. He and Ivonne divorced a year later. Dick continued to perform at coffee houses and open-mike nights when Ben Stiller (whom he met in Chicago) tapped him to appear in the short film Elvis Stories (1989). Three years later, Stiller gave Dick his big break on Fox's The Ben Stiller Show. Performing opposite the likes of Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and Bob Odenkirk, Dick created the memorable characters Manson Lassie and Skank the sock puppet for the Emmy-winning, but short-lived, sketch comedy program. Dick went on to guest-host Talk Soup and appear on The Nanny, before making a cameo in Stiller's first feature film, Reality Bites (1994), and stealing the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now (1994) from its star. In the meantime, Dick met and romanced artist Lena Sved, with whom he had a son and daughter. In 1995, Dick played the son of agents 86 and 99 on Fox's doomed remake of Get Smart. That same year he had much better luck as the naive, bewildered cub reporter Matthew Brock on NBC's NewsRadio. The sitcom was a critical smash, making Dick a tabloid favorite. During breaks from NewsRadio, he appeared in the independent Bongwater (1998) and opposite Stiller in Permanent Midnight (1998), as well as lent his voice to the villain Nuka in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (1998).
Meanwhile, Dick instantly made headlines for his frequent drinking and marijuana use, as well as his unique living arrangement: Dick, Sved, and their two children shared a house with Dick's first wife, Ivonne, their son, and her boyfriend. For a time, this unconventional lifestyle appeared to work, more or less. But then, warning bells began to sound for Dick. It began when his Alcoholic Anonymous sponsor and friend since his Chicago days, comedian Chris Farley, died of a drug overdose in December 1997. Then, after a painful drugged-out phone call to The Howard Stern Show during which he discussed his narcotics addiction and disclosed his bisexuality, Dick checked himself into a rehab center. Shortly after his release, Dick's NewsRadio costar and surrogate father Phil Hartman was killed by his wife in a murder-suicide. A year later, Dick's mentor and friend Del Close also passed away. The next day, at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, CO, the obviously inebriated Dick shocked audiences during a reunion of The Ben Stiller Show by accosting Stiller and Garofalo. A couple of weeks later, he went bar hopping in Vegas with actor David Strickland, who tragically killed himself later the same night.
NBC canceled NewsRadio, which could not recover from the death of Phil Hartman. On the heels of the show's last episode, Dick crashed his car into a Hollywood streetlight and then fled the scene, which was filled with drug paraphernalia. He spent the night in jail before being sentenced to weeks of rehab. Dick emerged later that year with an awe-inspiring comeback. He guest starred as David Spade's romantic rival on Just Shoot Me and appeared as himself in Being John Malkovich (1999). He toured with his rock opera, Andy Dick's Circus of Freaks, and recorded voices for the cartoons Hey Arnold!, Dilbert, and King of the Hill.
Dick appeared in several independent pictures and filmed memorable cameos in Road Trip (2000), Loser (2000), and Dude, Where's My Car? (2000). He also reunited with NewsRadio alum Maura Tierney for Spade's prime-time animated series Sammy, before headlining the Family Channel Christmas movie Special Delivery (2000). Tierney then tapped him to appear in her husband Billy Morrissette's directorial debut, Scotland, PA (2001). Dick's biggest coup came in 2001, when MTV let him write, direct, and star in The Andy Dick Show. With such characters as Daphne Aguilera (Christina's mother's friend who lives on the same block) and Zitty McGee (an acne-infested supermodel wannabe), the series became one of the network's highest-rated shows and attracted scores of celebrity guest stars. Rolling Stone dubbed The Andy Dick Show "the funniest thing on TV" and gushed over the first installment of its 2002 season, which opened with an E! True Hollywood Story-like parody of Dick's life entitled, "The Little Angel Clown Who...That Cries."
Never complacent, the drug-free, alcohol-free Dick followed up his show's success with roles opposite Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell in Old School (2003) and on television in Less Than Perfect. Dick contributed a monologue to The Aristocrats (2005), then voiced the character of Boingo in the late 2005 animated feature Hoodwinked, a kind of madcap, CG-animated reworking of the Little Red Riding Hood story. 2006 marked Dick's busiest year yet, as the seemingly inexhaustible actor immersed himself in three major productions. Employee of the Month, a fall 2006 frat-boy comedy starring Dane Cook and Dax Shepard as fellow clerks comically vying for the affections of a sensuous co-worker (Jessica Simpson), finds Dick in an unusually low-key turn (as Lon, one of Cook's buddies). That same year, Dick provided a voice for Queer Duck: The Movie, the feature version of a Showtime animated series about a gay mallard (Jim J. Bullock). In 2006, Dick also agreed to be interviewed for Fired, Annabelle Gurwitch's celebrity-studded documentary about what it means to be sacked in the American economy.
Meanwhile, Dick voiced Mambo in director Paul J. Bolger's Happily N'Ever After (2007), an animated, revisionist satirical version of the Cinderella story; other stars in the cast include George Carlin, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr.. Dick was markedly less successful in the following years, largely due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol (he appeared in VH1's reality series Sober House in 2009). The same year he appeared as himself in the comedy drama Funny People, and in 2012 he joined Billy Burke and Crispin Glover for a supporting role in the crime comedy drama Freaky Deaky.
~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, Rovi