Artie Lange is not a God. He is human just as you and I are. And as he is human he is also susceptible to pain and faulty enough to trust in the wrong things to fix that pain. What specific demons truly tear at Lange’s soul are not know to me, or to you or to perhaps even those closest to him.
We know that Lange’s father was paralyzed doing his job and that he died when Lange was a young man, just starting out in the world. We know that Lange is an incredibly gifted comedian/actor/radio performer from his stand-up to his days on MadTV and The Norm Show to his 7 year tenure as a member of The Howard Stern Show. We know he has an addictive personality, from cocaine to heroin to alcohol to food. We know his addictions would appear to have cost him a relationship with the love of his life. We know Lange to be an overly generous person, someone that gives of himself easily and only asks that people treat him fairly. We know that he loves his family, doting on his mother and sister. Lange is full of contradictions as we all are and sometimes he does things that not only entertain us, but bother us as well.
So when you heard last week that Lange entered an outpatient rehab facility for undisclosed reasons maybe you weren’t so surprised given his past. Or maybe you felt an outpouring of sadness for him or hope that this is exactly what he needs to get his life on the right track. Or perhaps you scoffed at the news, because you feel you know something about Lange and don’t think it will take. Whatever the case may be, you don’t really know. Artie Lange is yours on loan, he is not yours to possess. If you feel he makes your life better by making you laugh or that you recognize something in you in him, that’s only a temporary issue in Lange’s life. When it comes right down to it, Lange needs to find out what makes him happy and to finally put to rest any of the demons that possess him. The man’s got a big heart and deserves peace. I for one wish him all the best luck in finding that peace and want to let him know here and now that if he ever needs anything, anything at all, that he can call on me as a friend.
Below is a full transcription of the conversation I had with Lange on Wednesday, July 30th.
Rock & Roll Ghost: What did you come away with after the trip to Afghanistan?
Just a whole new perspective on life, man. A lot more respect for the people over there. Just knowing how great of a life we have here. It really makes you think that. I’m really gonna look at these guys very carefully, the (presidential) candidates, it’s not an easy decision. They both say different shit that the soldiers would find interesting and boring and good and bad. It’s making me listen harder.
Is there anything in particular that happened that made you think about this more or that changed your perspective?
They were under mortar fire after the show, we’re walking to the bunker and I said to this kid, ‘What if something hits close and there’s shrapnel?’ And the kid dead serious said to me, this 19 year-old black kid said, ‘If there’s anything like that we’ll make sure it hits me or my partner, you’ll never get touched. This guy’s mission for the week was to protect us. I’m over there as a comedian, but I’m also a US citizen and it’s his job to protect me. This 19 year-old kid is saying that he’ll jump in front of shrapnel or a bullet to make sure that I don’t get hurt. That really made me think that one, they’re heroes over there, but two, if they’re fighting for something you really gotta make sure it’s worth it.
What was it like to be in those sorts of surroundings with people likeGary (Howard Stern show producer Dell’Abate), Jim (comedian Florentine) and Nick (comedian DiPaolo)? Did it make the trip easier?
When I suggested this and they told me this is going to be your tour. Artie Lange: Operation Mirth is what it was called. They said Artie you’re gonna be the headliner and you’re going to be able to pick the guys you go over there with. I picked guys who I knew were really funny on stage, but guys I wanted to hang out with because I knew it was going to be difficult for me to get through…not the actual shows, but the walking around bases and seeing some of the war from the perspective that we saw it at. I came back with a couple of past tours’ itineraries that they gave me to show where other people had gone and where we went. They let us go in deeper areas then say Billy Crystal or Robin Williams because we aren’t that famous. They said you’re going to be doing shows that are the most rewarding because they’ll be in the most dangerous spots where these special ops guys never see a show. And it was true. We went out and did what we had to do just to get the guys to laugh. You could tell they were coming in from a mission. And when something hit, like when a joke did really well and there was a ripple effect and it got an applause, that felt really good.
Was there any culture shock returning home? You were there for a week?
I was there for a week. There was, but I wasn’t moving there, so it was temporary. Your mindset is you can get through some of the hell as long as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that was coming home. I never felt in any danger because the soldiers were doing what they had to do. Everybody felt a little insecure over there, I just felt safe. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the people I was with. They very much let it be like, ‘We’re just going to take you through here and let you meet some people.’ We could have been in Missouri or something but it was a war zone.
How close are you to being completed with the book (Too Fat To Fish)?
The book will be completely done in 2-3 weeks. It will be out on November 11th. Which means we have to get it in within 2 weeks so that they can start printing them up. Actually, on August 05th we need everything done on it. We read it again and we loved it. I still have a couple more chapters to look over and proofread. It’llbe out on November 11th, that I can guarantee.
And are you touching on things that you haven’t done so on the show or in your act?
Oh yeah. I thought the act was a therapy session. The book, that’ll do it, man. You purge your soul.
Is there anything you’re regretting having put in there?
Well, we’ll see. There is one story that I refused to tell on the air that was supposed to be my revelation on Sirius. I discussed it with my mother and I said that I’m going to put it in the book. She still has qualms…I asked my mother about this one thing and I just don’t want her to…that’s the main reason I never told it on the air. Because in the book I’m able to tell it really, really properly and take the time to word it properly and tell it the right way. Not just say it on the Stern show and maybe the ball breaking turns disrespectful. I’m confident because I can explain it well in the book that it will be alright. Still, it could totally backfire, absolutely. As of right now it’s the only thing that I’m still iffyabout.You touched on it on the show, but how happy are you with how your shore house turned out.
It’s gonna save my life. It’s the best ever. Next time you’re in town you gotta let me know.
I don’t know the next time I’ll actually be in the are, but that’d be awesome.
Getting that theater where it was (referring to his June 06th appearance at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL), was a spur of the moment…next time hopefully we’ll be in downtown Chicago. But the shore house…everything that Howard and Robin said that their shore houses are doing for them and even Freddy (Stern cast member Fred Norris), people don’t realize that Freddy goes out east to the Hamptons a lot and he loves it there, too. It’s just so relaxing. You’re on the water and looking at the water. It’s the most relaxing thing ever.
Are your mom and sister staying out there to help decorate? I heard that when you had a party there wasn’t much furniture there.
There needs to be a lot of finishing touches done on it. People come over and visit me I tell them that you have to realize a lot needs to be done with it and they’re fine with it. But outside I have a bunch of chairs around the pool. That’s all anyone cared about. Going in the pool and sitting out there. I had some folding chairs set up. Each week as more construction gets done I can add more furniture.
It’s still under construction?
Not construction. But screwing in wall plates for receivers and stuff. My mom’s afraid that the wall people are going to trample over…I don’t know why. It’s my fucking house, I’m paying for all the furniture and I gotta wait for her to be happy to do it. That’s an Italian mom. I’m like, ‘Alright. (pauses) Let me know.’ (laughs) But my bedroom and the master bathroom and the other two bedrooms all work great. I should have done this earlier.
Do you feel like you have to do more shows now because of the house or is the house not so much a financial issue but are you keeping going just so that you can stop completely at some point? You’ve said on the show that the reason you’ve been doing more gigs is to pay for the house. And when I spoke to you last you had expressed going somewhere and living the rest of your life in comfort.
Well, it’s not Italy or anywhere in Europe…anytime I’ve been anywhere in Europe I’ve loved it. This house would be that place. It’s that nice. It’s brand new, it’s big. I still have to get used to getting around down there. As of right now for breakfast…if you go to the Hamptons they have a lot of little breakfast nooks and stuff, it’s made for people to be comfortable who have retired. Me I’m still having a Big Mac for breakfast ’cause that’s all they have around there. But they’re building it up. Being in the actual house is great. I don’t have to go Italy now I can just go to this new house. I gotta get you down here. When you come to New York for a little while I’ll have you down.
You recently made an appearance at the Bubbapalooza in Atlantic City. How close are you to the guys at the Bubba the Love Sponge® Show?
It’s funny, I think I’d be a lot closer to those guys if they lived up here. They’re just my kind of people. They’re working class. The show is nuts. The show is too nuts. Howard sometimes has to pull them back and for Howard to be doing that…(laughs) The analogy I always use is in New York City, John Gotti, the Gambino family they used to use this crazy Irish gang from Hell’s Kitchen…
The Westies. And in the 70s/80s Gotti was using them for murders. They were just murdering guys, cutting their heads off. Nuts.
I read the book about them and they made that movie about them with Sean Penn (State Of Grace). They had a guy that would take a dead guy’s hand and put the dead guy’s prints on a gun so the cops would be looking for a dead guy.
Nutty shit. So violent that the Gambinos would have to go ‘Listen guys, calm down.’ That’s our relationship with Bubba. We’re the Gambinos and they’re the Westies. I always say at least on our show we try to be ironic and clever. If we do a bit on the show called “The Shit Hit’s the Fan” we might have a guy on and tell him his wifeis cheating on him and see what happens when he hears that. With Bubba’s show when they do a bit called “When the Shit Hit’s the Fan” they throw actual shit in a fan. They’re nuts, but I love ‘em. Bubba’s a great guy. Brent’s a great guy. I like Spice Boy. I like all of those guys. I have a blast every time I’m with ‘em. I went down to Atlantic City because I saw that they were playing and I was going to be at my shore house.
How did it come about that you would not only come down there and hang out with them but you’d actually get on stage and perform?
They said to me if you come down do you want to say hi to the crowd? I said I’d say hi real quick. They asked if I wanted to do a spot and I said maybe I’ll do 15 minutes. I had all this new material that I had written for Afghanistan I needed to try. I ended up doing just under an hour. The whole show was almost four hours. The crowd got their money’s worth. That was actually one of the complaints…that it was a 3 ½ hour show. I gotta hand it to them they don’t have thing where ‘What if I suck?’ They don’t seem to care. It doesn’t suck, though. What they do is fascinating.
I got to see them perform up here in Indiana and I’m traveling to see them in Cleveland soon. You do listen to their show, then?
Oh God yeah! I’m a fan. I think that Bubba’s an amazing broadcaster. He has a gift for talking real fast. That crazy double talk, that special kind of language they have.
The way that they’re working right now, can you even remotely imagine doing what they do with two shows a day?
No! When I first went into Howard’s show I was thirty years old, the first time I went in with Norm (MacDonald). The first time I sat in Jackie (Martling)’s chair I was 32. Now I’m 40. It’s crazy. All of my 30s went by. I remember being a helluva athletic kid and being able to go through a crazy schedule like that. Now, today after the show I had a meeting with the people putting out my book about thecover of the book. I’m barely awake through this.
Editor’s Note: I spoke to Lange on August 07th and he informed me that he will reveal all about what is going on with him on tomorrow, August 11th’s Howard Stern Show (airs on Sirius satellite radio beginning 6 AM EST). He told me that he is seeing comedian Richard Lewis’ therapist and that he is getting a lot out of the sessions. I continue to wish Lange the best of luck and again offer my help if he ever needs it.