November 15, 2019

The Story Behind Artie Lange’s Breakdown

A reader of this blog sent me her story on Artie Lange, which I'll repost below.  It's a sanitized promotion-oriented piece, true, but I still read it with interest.  I haven't followed Artie since he left Stern, and I wondered what the real story was behind his apparent suicide attempt, and what he's doing now.   Were I to ever interview Howard, I would, Howard-like, dig deep into that period in the show's history, and what it must have been like to deal with a partner who was so brilliant, and such an addict.  Did it leave Howard mostly angry or mostly guilty?  Does he blame himself (or others) for not seeing signs or acting to intervene?  Or does he harbor resentment toward Artie?  These are two very funny comedians (yes, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard is a great comedian) dealing in publish with something that is so tragic…


…And made even more trafic because Artie was so great on the show.  Listening to repeats, his comic genius just shines.  Jackie was a character, but Artie was a comic– as great a story teller as Howard (and the Stern show is all about story telling) but coming from a darker, wilder place.   If only… 

Artie’s Career on FIIIII-YAAAAA!

by Elizabeth Eckhart

Comedian Artie Lange is probably most well-known for his nearly nine year tenure on The Howard Stern Show, but Lange’s nearly quarter-century career in show business has spanned across all mediums of entertainment, including television, film, radio, books and stage. Most recently, Lange has been the host of his own syndicated radio show, The Artie Lange Show.

Though he dabbled in comedy in his late teens, Lange’s stand-up career began in 1992, at the age of 24. After three short years of working the New York/New Jersey comedy circuit, Lange was selected out of a pool of over 8,000 auditions to be a cast member on the FOX sketch comedy show MADtv, on which he worked the first two seasons.

Though Artie’s time on MADtv was relatively short, then Saturday Night Live cast member Norm MacDonald took notice of his talent and cast him in the 1998 film Dirty Work, in which Lange received his nickname “baby gorilla” from legendary comedian Don Rickles. A friendship between Norm and Artie blossomed and led to Artie being cast in a recurring role on MacDonald’s ABC sitcom The Norm Show for its last two seasons.

Shortly after the cancellation of The Norm Show, Artie became a regular guest on The Howard Stern Show, frequently filling in as an on-air contributor, following the departure of head writer Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling. Stern Show super-fans quickly embraced Lange and his quick wit, vast film and sports references, as well as his ability to recite entire scenes from classic films from memory. Lange has also written two memoirs: Too Fat to Fish and Crash & Burn.

The Monkey on The Baby Gorilla’s Back

Lange has battled drug, alcohol and gambling addictions for much of his adult life, which he claims worsened after the death of his father, Arthur Lange Sr. One of Artie’s most infamous drug stories is the “Pig Suit” story, in which he brought production of MADtv to a halt during the filming of a Baywatch parody sketch. Dressed in a pig costume and full makeup, Lange left the set to meet his cocaine dealer and wound up snorting coke in his trailer between takes through a prosthetic pig snout. When he awoke in his motel room the next morning, he realized that he had defecated in his sleep. On a “Staff Revelations” segment on The Howard Stern Show, Lange compared the incident to “the horse head scene in ‘The Godfather’”.

In his 2008 memoir, Too Fat to Fish, Lange explains that his heroin addiction began after a comedy club owner told him that it was better for his liver than taking prescription pills. During his last few years on The Howard Stern Show, Artie’s behavior became very erratic and he gained a tremendous amount of weight due to his frequent use of the drug. Lange fought with staff members, fell asleep on the air and missed several days of work due to bizarre illnesses and injuries that he attributed to eating too much and doing too many comedy dates. In one such instance in 2008, Lange missed several days of the show and returned with a black eye and a stitched-up eyebrow. Though he initially claimed to have fallen out of bed in his sleep, he later admitted that he stumbled in his apartment while high on heroin and hit his face on a dresser.

In January 2010, Artie’s mother found him unconscious in a pool of his own blood after he stabbed himself in the stomach multiple times with a kitchen knife. Many media outlets reported the incident as a suicide attempt, but in a 2012 interview on The Bubba the Love Sponge Show, Artie refuted the story, stating that he was going through heroin withdrawals and binging on a dangerous cocktail of alcohol and antidepressants at the time and was trying to achieve a similar high from blood loss, rather than relapsing on the drug. After a life-saving surgery and short recovery stint at Jersey City Medical Center, Lange spent the following eight months in a New Jersey psychiatric ward.

Lange has been compared to several other comedians that have famously suffered from addiction, including Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor, but many have referred to him as the second coming of John Belushi, due to their similarities in appearance, comedic styles and addictions. Before the incident that almost took his life, Lange was being considered to portray Belushi in a biopic based on the Animal House star’s life, but the role has since been given to Emile Hirsch.

Lange Rebounds

Shortly after his release from the psych ward, Artie made a surprise appearance at the famed Caroline’s on Broadway, where he shared horror stories about his eight month ordeal. Soon after, it was announced that Artie, along with longtime friend and fellow comedian Nick DiPaolo, would be hosting a new sports radio talk show called The Nick & Artie Show, produced by DirecTV, in a joint venture with Premiere Radio Networks.

In January 2013, DiPaolo left the show over creative differences between him and DirecTV, and the show was rebranded as The Artie Lange Show. Since the rebranding, the show’s format has shifted more to general entertainment than sports, with Lange welcoming many of his comedian friends, like Adam Carolla, Lavell Crawford and The Reverend Bob Levy, as well as guests from the world of sports, like FOX Sports play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, retired Detroit Pistons power forward John Salley and Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard. Notable moments on the show include Lange’s interview of Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling and his first reunion with former MADtv co-star Orlando Jones since Lange’s 1996 arrest that cost him his job on the show.

Though the show is produced in New York, the only terrestrial stations that carry it are in Florida and Alaska, but the show is available nationwide on SiriusXM and online through the show’s website and the Stitcher app. The show is also simulcast daily on DirecTV’s Audience Network.