Known as much for his many personal and health problems as for his gritty observational comedy, “Howard Stern Show” regular Artie Lange is nevertheless a skilled comedian and actor. If he can manage to keep his health intact — no small feat — his long-term career in comedy seems assured. Born in 1967 in New Jersey, the now seriously overweight Artie was not much of a student, but was a skilled high school athlete. His personal problems may have started, however, when Artie’s contractor father fell from a roof while installing a television antenna. The accident left his father a quadriplegic in need of constant care, and the family nearly destitute. Artie started on a quick downward spiral, drinking heavily, taking drugs, getting into fights, and generally developing a personal life that would lead either to an early grave or a career in comedy. An unsuccessful open-mic night appearance, however, left young Artie convinced that he could never be a successful comedian.
After his father died, however, 22-year-old Artie decided to give his stand-up comedy career another shot while working as a longshoreman. Things eventually turned Artie’s way. When Fox and producer Quincy Jones decided to develop a sketch comedy program, “Mad TV,” Artie was part of the original 1995 cast. That job didn’t go smoothly. Artie’s cocaine use and strange behavior escalated to the point where police were called in to the set and Artie tried to flee. Though Artie went into a New Jersey drug detox program and remained on the show the following season, sobriety didn’t seem to be in the cards and he was let go.
Still, show business can be strangely forgiving to people with actual talent, and a job in an unsuccessful Norm MacDonald film, “Dirty Work,” led to an appearance with ultimate shock-jock Howard Stern. Artie was asked back to the show several times and, when Jackie “Joke Man” Martling left his spot as the show’s resident comedian and gag writer, Artie replaced him. Of course, as a member of the Howard Stern on-air dysfunctional family since 2001, Artie’s torturous personal life has been more than fair game. Jokes about his addictions — not only to alcohol and drugs, but to fattening foods — were rife. And Artie’s stories of his darkly comic escapes — including a “Mad TV” incident involving him snorting cocaine through a prosthetic snout (he was playing a pig) and soiling his bed — became the stuff of legend among Howard’s legions of fans. So did his seemingly eternal on-again/off-again relationship with amazingly tolerant girlfriend Dana Sironi, although as of 2006, the pair appeared to be permanently “off.”
Also fair game are Artie’s more recent bouts with heroin, rehab medication and a sudden weight gain of nearly 100 pounds. Put together, this led to obvious concerns about Artie’s survival and — with sensitivity typical of Howard Stern fans — an Artie Lange “deathwatch” web site was created. When prankster/super-Stern fan “Captain Janks” spread the word he’d died of a drug overdose, many found the fake news all too believable. Still, this is what success looks like for Artie Lange. His burgeoning stand-up act lead to a comedy DVD, “It’s the Whiskey Talking.” Then, a short film included on the DVD was expanded into a feature film starring, co-written and produced by Artie, “Beer League.” The film was released in 164 theaters on the East Coast, where it predictably garnered mostly negative reviews and also failed to catch on at the box-office — but, for a movie so manifestly designed to be consumed in tandem with other products, there’s always a second life on DVD. More recently, Artie is also hitting the mainstream, with appearances on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” Comedy Central, a featured role on an episode of “Entourage,” and a recurring gig as “Kenny’s cousin” on “Rescue Me.”
If Artie can make fools of his deathwatchers and keep his heart beating, a long career seems to be in cards. On the other hand, if he straightens out his life completely, what will he talk about with Howard?
Artie Lange on the Web
An online database of Artie’s career.
Photos, interview and news, as well as Artie’s latest TV appearances.
Arties official web site. Includes up-to-date info on Artie’s stand-up appearances, video clips, and more.
It’s the Whisky Talking@MySpace
Artie’s MySpace page. Features more info on upcoming appearances, clips, and such vital information as Artie’s body type (“slim/slender”) and his religion (“Mormon”).
Artie Lange on “Fresh Air”
A terrific, in-depth interview in an unlikely venue, NPR’s prestigious interview program “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. We guess Nelson Mandela wasn’t available that day.
More about Artie’s messed up life and not-so-messed-up work.
on the Screen
“Beer League” was what it was, but there was something that made us happy about “Gotcha,” Artie’s episode of “Entourage.” In it, Artie played a “loser” frat-brother of super-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who shocks Artie by showing up with a beautiful wife and the news that, since their last meeting, he’s become a dot-com millionaire. It’s just nice to see Artie contented, if only in a fictional context.
Artie’s been burning it up live. In November of 2007, he did two major headlining gigs as part of the New York Comedy Festival, selling out Town Hall and working in a Boston appearance with Dennis Leary’s Comics Come Home in between performances. In a New York Post blog interview, Artie told Sean McCarthy that he was ebullient and described his years with Stern as “the happiest time in my life."
On psycho-active substances:
"Don't do drugs to be cool, do 'em because you hate yourself."
On what you might call fame:
“Have you ever Googled yourself? I did. Most depressing thing ever. People have websites hoping I die at 38.”
On being a Yankees fan:
“I was at Yankee Stadium one time at 5 a.m., but that was to buy angel dust.”
On idyllic nights watching Yankees baseball with his late father:
“My father would make me hold his beer while he rolled a joint.”
“The point of drinking in moderation is that sometimes you don't drink in moderation.”
On being Artie:
“Artie is going to do whatever Artie wants to do.”