Clay began his stand-up career in 1978 when he auditioned at Pips comedy club in Sheepshead Bay, which turned into a headline spot at the venue the following week, billed as Andrew Clay. He started with an act mainly of impressions, which included a character named "The Diceman" based on Jerry Lewis as Buddy Love from The Nutty Professor which transformed into John Travolta in Grease. It took him three weeks to prepare the act. A picture of him on stage during his early sets at Pips was described: "[Clay] In a baggy white shirt, pants rolled up to his knees and a pair of thick glasses", with a black leather jacket underneath the shirt so he could seamlessly switch to his Travolta character when the lights went out. With his new act, Clay graduated to larger and more prestigious comedy venues including The Improv, Catch a Rising Star, and Dangerfield's. He recalled his father being supportive of his act during one performance at the latter. "He knew it was different right off the bat [. . . ] He saw it worked". The persona was more of a shock to his mother, but she got used to it and he recalled her laughing at his jokes.
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