Can a dancing Dick find out-of-comfort joy?


In its first 15 seasons, "Dancing With the Stars" has been won by seven athletes, three singers and two actors, plus a TV personality, reality star Melissa Rycroft and soldier-turned-actor J.R. Martinez.

So far, however, it's never been won by a comedian-turned-actor. Andy Dick -- wonderfully talented and consistently offbeat -- tries to be the first. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By MIKE HUGHES

In this do-over, retake world, “Dancing
With the Stars” is different.

This is live TV, for good or bad. “The
lights go on, the cameras go on and there you are, on the No. 1 TV
show,” Andy Dick said.

He's used to working live for most of
his career – ranging from improvisation groups in Chicago to
current stand-up gigs in Los Angeles. But that's in comedy, where
he's comfortable. “Someone told me, 'Life begins at the end of your
comfort zone,'” Dick said.

When the “Dancing” edition starts
Monday, almost everyone will be out of that zone.

Of the 12 contestants, only three are
know for doing dance-type choreography: Zendaya Coleman is a
16-year-old co-star of the Disney Channel's “Shake It
Up”;.Alexandra Raisman (gymnastics) and Dorothy Hamill (figure
skating) are Olympic gold-medalists.

The others are on new turf. There are
two country singers (Wynonna Judd and Kellie Pickler) and two reality
stars (Sean Lowe and Lisa Vanderpump), plus boxer Victor Ortiz,
“General Hospital” actor Ingo Rademacher, comedian D.L. Hughley
and Jacoby Jones, whose 108-yard kick-off return propelled the
Ravens' Super Bowl win.

Then there's Dick, not usually
associated with physical triumph. Even when he was the Homecoming
king in high school, he didn't dance – and didn't campaign regally.
“I won because of my slogan: 'Don't vote for a dick, vote for A.
Dick.'”

Still, he does have some nimble moves,
“All the way back to 'The Ben Stiller Show' (in 1992), I was
choreographing my pratfalls,” he said.

Now he has a pro (Sharna Burgess, in
her first time as a “Stars” regular) to choreograph and dance
with him. She's been taking it seriously, Dick said. “I thought,
'She's like my mom and dad!'”

That's serious company. “My dad was
the lieutenant commander of a submarine,” Dick said. “He ran the
whole family like a tight ship.”

Being in a Navy family meant a mobile
childhood. Dick was born in South Carolina, then lived in
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and Yugoslavia, before spending
his teen years near Chicago.

Then the disciplined kid became an
undisciplined adult, with decades of drug and alcohol problems and a
long list of arrests and rehab stints. Now he talks about the “old
Andy” and “new Andy” and hires people to supervise his
sobriety. “When I go to New York, they pass me on to someone else.”

He had plenty of time to party, because
his career wasn't challenging. “What I did for 30 years came
easily,” Dick said. “The 'NewsRadio' character I played (1995-99)
was basically me.”

His recent “2 Broke Girls” role as
a crazed puppeteer delighted the audience and Dick. ( “I loved it,”
he said. “The cast was phenomenal.”) It was also, he grants,
“right in my wheelhouse.”

Work has been easy, he said; “that's
when I have trouble.” Now, at 47, he's leaping out of that comfort
zone. He's taking orders and he's dancing – live, with no chance
for a do-over.

– “Dancing With the Stars,”
8-10:01 p.m. Mondays; results show, 9-10:01 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC

– 16th edition starts
Monday; there's no results show the first week, so the Tuesday spot
on March 19 will go to “'Dancing With the Stars: Exclusive First
Look”