Monday, July 12, 2010

"Yeah, if you could get cable in the Port Authority bathroom"

For those who know me (too) well, you know that I have a number of guilty pleasures. Most of these revolve around the kinds of cultural things I like. I am admittedly pretty low culture, except possibly in the areas of film and literature. Even when it comes to books and movies, I either like the high-brow, or the low-brow, and find myself not interested at all in the middle brow. For example, I cherish Renior's La Règle du jeu and I love Animal House; The Brothers Karamazov and Stephen King's The Stand. I love Sanford and Son, Southpark (though I couldn't do a SP marathon), I am very happy that there are new episodes of Futurama on Comedy Central. Colbert and Jon Stewart, the former of whom I have both lauded and criticized, are part of my reportoire, and so on. So, I write this knowing that one or perhaps both of my readers might well say, Who cares?

I love comedy. A favorite past time, though one I rarely indulge in anymore, is listening to stand-up and comedy albums, everything from old Jonathan Winters, to Steve Martin, to Eddy Murphy, Robin Williams, and even old Woody Allen stand-up acts. At one time I owned every Monty Python album, my favorite being their Contractual Obligation Album. I have laughed to the stylings of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Redd Foxx, Norm MacDonald, Sam Kineson, Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle (another interesting story), and even Andrew Dice Clay. Another comedian I like a lot is Artie Lange, who is most famous for being Howard Stern's sidekick. Now, like most everyone, I do not listen to Howard Stern because I don't subscribe to satellite radio. I haven't listened to Stern's show more than 5 or 6 times ever. Of course, I like Artie Lange: Jack and Coke.

Artie filling in with AC/DC on Stern. Yes, it's more than a little ominous that an ad for Anna Nicole Smith's show appears

Artie wrote, produced, and starred in the movie Beer League, co-wrote the book Too Fat to Fish, which debuted at number one on the New York Times best-seller list. He was also a feature player for a time on MadTv, among other things (WARNING on content for MadTV  link). It was during his time on MadTV that he hit his self-described lowest moment, known among his friends and fans simply as "the pig story."

Lange has a long and comically well-documented (mostly by himself) history of drug and alcohol abuse. Anyway, right after the new year (2 January 2010 to be exact) Lange attempted suicide and has not really been heard from in public much since. Shortly before this episode, Lange was interviewed by Mandy Stadtmiller for the New York Post (at the link you can read or listen- CONTENT WARNING, or WARNING: CONTENT). In fact, it didn't appear in the Post until almost a week after his suicide attempt.

It is a fascinating interview, even if (maybe particularly if) you're not familiar with Lange. I am not a psychologist and I am not trying to analyze Lange, but I am struck after reading the interview and re-watching the MadTV clip by the truth in his comedy. I guess that's why I like those other guys, too. Self-hatred, self-loathing, I lived at that address for too long. Sometimes I still go for a visit. That neighborhood doesn't change much, a lot of junkies, drunks, and other self-destructive types. I just want to say to everyone there, "Amor, ergo sum and so can you!"

From the interview:

Lange: So you know, Mandy, I’m 42, I’m the same age Elvis was when he died. I remember thinking ‘when I was 33 I’m the same age Jesus was when he died,’ look at all Jesus did by 33.

Stadtmiller: Not as much as you, Artie.

Lange: I haven’t come close to that – he died for all our sins by 33 and all I did was, you know, tell some Mexican jokes at a club. And 42, Elvis died at 42. I’m 42, you know. He was Elvis. Part of me thinks it’s over. How much better can my career get? To me the Stern show is the best show of all time. I’ve been on it for a decade.

Like Carlin and so many others, Lange was raised Catholic, but now is a self-described agnostic. Using defeasible reasoning, he does not subscribe to atheism just in case he is wrong. See, Artie, defeasible reasoning?! You're smarter than you think! In any case, I'm sending some prayers your way. Get well.

For something shorter, you can read Lange's Q and A with New York magazine.


  1. LOL! Okay, so I missed that LAST sentence...I read the LONG interview.

    Funny, I have this new perspective on Lange. I always disliked him and Stern. GREATLY!
    After reading his interview, the darkness...I sympathize. Scary enough,I can actually Empathize!

    The Greatest tend to be the Darkest, not just in comedy...

  2. There's a lot that Stern does on his show that I can't abide, really and truly, but, oddly, Howard has always struck me as an okay guy, on the whole.

    Artie is great precisely because of his relentless honesty, which is the well from which he draws his comedy. I just hope he recovers from his January suicide attempt, whether he ever returns to radio or anything else.

  3. I've discovered those addresses are about a block down from humility and self-awareness. It just takes a wrong turn in the dark.

    Reading about Artie Lange leaves me feeling the tremendous urge to give him a hug and a deep gratitude that I've never been tempted by drugs or alcohol. I worked very briefly as a substance abuse counselor and I've been there for friends struggling with addiction. It breaks me heart to watch someone trying to free themselves. I doubt I'd have the strength to free myself had I ever been trapped in that torment.

    Yet, those struggles do bring the world gifts. The best humor so often stems from staring at the world as it is and acknowleding the absurd to be found there.


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