Psych Wards, Springsteen, and the Post-Stern Life of Artie Lange
Words by Audra Tracy — New Jersey
Artie Lange is going on a stand-up tour to show you, once and for all, that he’s a real quitter. Back in 2010, the comedian/actor/radio personality was so consumed by his heroin addiction that the entertainment world almost lost him for good. Since then, he’s swatted that devil off his shoulder and is enjoying a much cleaner state of mind. With his gig at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre around the corner, we spoke with Lange about psych wards, Springsteen, and how he’s still breathing.
“I could definitely be healthier, but I’m not on drugs anymore”, Lange candidly admits during our interview. “A little over a year ago I got back into show business”, he goes on, “and I have a new hour of stand-up. A lot of it is about psych wards and being in rehab, and what it’s like to be in this world again.”
Heavy material, yes, but that’s what his fans have come to expect from a man who, just two years ago, was in dire, dire straits. Not only has he lived to tell the tale, now he’s totally encouraging you to laugh at his expense.
The New Jersey native (“Exit 140″, to be exact) proudly credits his raw sense of humor to his home state. “Most of the funniest people in history come from Brooklyn, but Jersey is starting to become the new center of entertainment it seems”, he shares. “It’s a real interesting place to grow up. You’re in the shadow of New York City, but you still have that ‘second city’ rebellious attitude.”
Some famous Garden Staters have heavily influenced his musical collection, too. “My iPod has a lot of Sinatra on it because if you don’t, and you’re from Jersey, you’ll get arrested”, he deadpans.
“Anyone who knows me knows I love Springsteen”, he adds. “I’ve probably seen him about 40 times. I’ve become friends with Nils Lofrgen, the guitarist from the E-Street band, and he’s been giving me guitar lessons!”, Lange says, seemingly starstruck himself. “He’s a great guy, he’s doing it to help me keep sober.”
Although Lange jokes that he “got into show business to not work”, the man is definitely making up for lost time. Since his departure from the ever-popular Howard Stern Show, Lange has landed another book deal (Crash and Burn, coming this fall) as well as his very own radio show. Each weeknight he and fellow comedian Nick DiPaolo co-host The Nick & Artie Show, a sports/entertainment program broadcast from the heart of New York City.
“Direct TV built us a 7,000 square foot loft in Tribeca, like a man-cave kind of place with a batting cage, a pool table, a gourmet kitchen…and somewhere there’s two microphones we talk on”, he laughs.
For perhaps the first time in his career, Artie Lange might just be too busy to return to Stern. And he’s more than grateful that the two have remained tight despite all the controversy surrounding Lange’s split. “I saw Howard a few months ago and we had a great conversation and he gave me a nice hug”, Lange reveals. “He couldn’t have been more supportive – he’s the greatest guy, he’s been everything to me.”
Yes, things are finally on the ups for ol’ Artie. He managed to kick his demons, keep his friends, and came back swingin’. The only question remains, how did this Jersey boy beat the odds?
“My mother and my sister are probably why I’m still breathing”, Lange admits. “My father told me once, almost on his deathbed, that one of the keys to life was to ‘have strong broads around you’”.
“It’s unbelievable, I couldn’t have picked a better post-Stern life for myself”, he concludes. “I wish I could have gotten it in a smoother way, but I’m not really a smooth guy.”
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