Andy Dick came to our attention as the quirky reporter Matthew on the 1995 sitcom "News Radio." In 1999, after the deaths of his respected co-star Phil Hartman and friend Chris Farley, Dick smashed up his car, pleaded guilty to drug possession, and went through a drug program, where, he has said, he began talking to God. Since rehab, Dick has been as busy as anyone in Hollywood, appearing in a dozen movies, and creating "The Andy Dick Show" on MTV, which Rolling Stone called "the funniest thing on TV." As Owen on the ABC sitcom "Less Than Perfect," Dick builds on his "News Radio" persona of a gentle, lost soul, but one ready to snap at the most unlikely provocation.

In private, Dick is thoughtful, thankful, and serious about his spiritual search. He claims he's helped in this by his  co-stars Zachary Levi and Sherri Shepherd, both well-known in Hollywood's Christian circles. Called a comedic "saving grace" in this interview, Dick appears to be looking for some grace himself.

This interview originally appeared on Beliefnet in 2003.

What is Andy Dick’s definition of comedy?
Whatever makes you laugh.

What makes Andy Dick laugh?
I have a very dark sense of humor. I laugh when I see people in pain. Sometimes I think it is a defense mechanism from childhood, where you're in so much pain you have to laugh. It is a survival mechanism.

Over the last 20 years or so, comedy has gotten a lot more vulgar. Can comedy be clean? Does it have to be dirty and rude?
Yeah, I go there a lot. But I don’t think you need that. When I go there, it's to shock people. A lot of times people laugh because they are uncomfortable. . . . If you really look closer, there is pain involved. There is something that is painful that someone else can relate to. It is kind of a laugh out of recognition. Like, "Ah, I've been there."

It terms of being vulgar, I don’t think you need to be violent unless it's slapstick, violence to your self. That can be funny--we've all tripped and fallen on our faces. To be vulgar or nasty isn't needed. It's almost easier to do that. You have to be clever to not do that.

Do you think vulgar comedy has peaked?
It will always be around. Again, the vulgar stuff is easy. The subtle, more slice of life type of stuff, you have to be smarter to come up with that stuff. The people who do both or stay [subtle], they'll work longer. Why do you think Bill Cosby has gone from TV show to TV show to TV show?


Tell me about your religious background.
I grew up Presbyterian, just a basic Protestant upbringing. There were years in my life when I would go to church every Sunday and to Sunday school. Then I just phased out of it. I believed in God my whole life, and then strayed away from it in my teen-age years, until recently.

I struggled with drugs and alcohol. And I struggled with fame, which made me struggle [more] with drugs and alcohol. I got some success, almost by default. I was working in bars where you drink and you perform--they went hand-in-hand. It is a slippery slope and you can go down fast, and you can not come back.

Luckily, I always maintained a dialogue with God, especially in my darkest hours. You know it is like that footprints poem. It really is like that for me. When I was at my worst—I really am trying not to cry right now—I was really in contact with God, just praying with conviction to just please get me out of this.

I find it harder to pray when everything is going great. I try to be in that attitude of gratitude. That is what I love about this show ["Less Than Perfect"]. I love having [co-stars] Sherri [Shepherd] and Zach [Levi] here. If you notice, my dressing room is sandwiched between them. I am protected, surrounded by angels from heaven. They're here to help me. I actually struggled through the first part of this season. I've been on shows that have not been so good for me, that wound me up in that dark place. So I came in here apprehensive, like, "Here comes another one!" The last time I was on a show for five years, I went to rehab twice.

It has been the opposite here. I have these two angels protecting me. And we pray before every show. Just to have people like that around you brings you up to that level. I went to church with both of them. They took me to the Oasis Christian Center, which is great. I love it.

So are you saying you are closer to God now?
I've always been with God, even in my darkest hour. That is why I say I am alive. I mean, I should have died a number of times. But now I'm at a place where I can be of some service. When I was at my darkest place it was just like, "God help me. I can’t help myself, yet alone another person." Now I'm back on my feet, levelheaded, grounded, thanks to God, thanks to the people around me.