Archive for September, 2007

Artie Lange: Q&A with SI.com

Howard Stern’s sidekick is an obsessed Yankee fan!

Last week Richard Deitsch interviewed actor-comedian Artie Lange at the New York City studios of Sirius Satellite Radio. Lange joined the Howard Stern show in 2001 and serves as the show’s de facto on-air sports voice. Here is their conversation:

SI.com: You are a Yankee season ticket holder, right?
Lange: Five rows behind third base. It’s like beachfront property with A-Rod and Jeter.

SI.com: Say you meet the hottest chick ever but she’s a Red Sox fan. What happens next?
Lange: That’s not a problem. If she’s hot enough, she can get me to say I love Rick Burleson during sex. Marriage might be an issue, though.

SI.com: Who’s been the best sports guest since you joined the show?
Lange: For me, it’s Lawrence Taylor. I’ve been here for three of L.T.’s visits. He’s always great. The weirdest and most interesting thing happened the first time L.T. came in. The interview went great. He’s always a funny, honest interview. So during a commercial he got on the cell phone and tells Howard: “Hey, my friend wants to talk to you.” He hands the phone to Howard and doesn’t tell him who it is. It took Howard a few moments to realize it was O.J. Simpson.

“L.T. had called him on the golf course and I heard O.J. talking a mile a minute. He was yelling at Howard, saying “I’m coming for you next, Howard. You’re f—ing with me. I’m coming for you next.” Almost goofing on him. That’s what I heard, though Howard never told me what he said. L.T. saw Howard squirming and was laughing. Howard, obviously, is one of the highest profile guys who has messed with O.J. from the beginning. That was the first time I had seen Howard flustered on or off the air. But it was also aggravating that it was 10 in the morning and O.J. was leisurely playing golf in Florida, desperately looking for the murderers.

SI.com: What do you make of O.J.’s latest troubles?
Lange: I think it’s the greatest news story since us winning the war in Japan. I think if O.J. wanted to secure being found innocent, he should have killed two of the people in the room with a knife. But because it’s just burglary and wasn’t in California, I’m sure he’ll get convicted. I’m very happy about it.

SI.com: You frequently discuss your sports gambling on the Stern show. What’s the largest sports bet you’ve ever placed?
Lange: I bet $25,000 on the first Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight and lost. I thought Tyson was going to kill him. At the time I was on Mad TV and Quincy Jones, who was a producer for the show, got everyone tickets to the fight in Las Vegas. I was making good money at the time, like $8,000 a week. But I never saved anything. I would cash the check, put a few grand in my pocket, send my mother $5,000 and just roll around town. I had $11,000 in the bank and lost $25,000 on that fight. It spawned the cocaine binge that got me arrested. That lit the fuse. Oh, and I lost another three grand at the tables.

SI.com: What is the exact moment you realize you just loss $25,000 like?
Lange: It’s lot a worse than the moment you lose your virginity.

SI.com: Nice.
Lange: It was such bad self-destructive behavior and it spawned a self-destructive week: I lost another $3,000 at the tables, scored coke, and the clothes that I watched the Holyfield-Tyson fight in Las Vegas were the same clothes I got arrested in four days later in Los Angeles. I had cocaine on me during a Sunday night flight with a network read-through the next morning. I did coke in the bathroom on the plane. Can you imagine if I got caught? I’d be getting out of jail tomorrow. Then after we landed, I immediately bet the Lakers-Rockets game. The Rockets were getting 8 from the Lakers at home and I hated the Lakers. It was the heyday of Shaq, and Shaq and the Lakers covered. I lost $5,000 on that. So the total was like close to $35,000. The first phone call I made from jail — I got arrested when I took a swing at a cop — was to my bookie. I said, “I’m in jail but I’ll get the money to you.”

SI.com: Do you still bet on sports?
Lange: Not like that — and not with a bookie. I’ll go to Atlantic City and the Borgata. I was always afraid if I started making big money in standup like I am now, I’d lose it. But I don’t have that degenerate thing in me anymore, which is fantastic. I stopped betting with a bookie almost altogether because no bookie will take my action. I’m a little too high profile. And I don’t do the Internet. It’s too easy. You pick up a phone, you don’t have to lay out any money.

SI.com: Your most proud sports betting moment was Super Bowl XXV?
Lange: Just because of the combination of winning money, which was a lot of money to me at the time because I was broke, and my heart being with the team that won. I had the Giants and the under. If Scott Norwood made that kick for the Bills, the score would have went over. I would have covered anyway but I parlayed the bet. I also won the coin toss that year and I had the Giants separately because they were getting 8 1/2 points. At the time I had a net worth of negative 800 dollars and I won about $1,300. That lasted for weeks.

SI.com: Rate Howard’s sports knowledge?
Lange: (laughs). On a scale of 0 to 100, around 7. It’s so funny: Jerry Rice is coming in and the only reason he is coming in is because he did Dancing With The Stars.

SI.com: Howard doesn’t know he played for the Niners or that he’s one of the best football players ever?
Lange: No. That’s frustrating because he’s going to ask him about Dancing With The Stars. He just doesn’t care about sports in the the same way I don’t care about comics or American Idol. I’m a sports geek. He’s another kind of geek. We’re all geeks.

SI.com: Give me a sports writer or broadcaster that pisses you off?
Lange: I used to hate [Yankee announcer] John Sterling but he has grown on me. The worst announcer ever, and this is going to break people’s heart, is Bob Costas. Now I love Bob Costas as an interviewer. I loved his Later show. If there was one guy I would want to see interview a rock or comedy person or even a guy like Howard, the one guy who does his research and really seems into it is Bob Costas. His interview with Bill Murray is the best Bill Murray interview I ever saw. But him doing a game? Ugh. He hangs out with comedians like Richard Lewis and he tried to make references like them and it never works. He puts in big, big words that are not necessary. And I’ll tell you, the other one is Vin Scully.

SI.com: Vin Scully?
Lange: I’m romantic about baseball but I don’t know if you remember the end of the 1986 World Series. They were showing Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens crying. Out of nowhere after a minute of silence, Scully breaks in and says: “Hey, Wade. Hey, Roger, hold your heads up high.” If they had heard him, they probably would have strangled him. Me and my buddies were in my friend’s basement and every stupid thing Vin Scully said we would put a marker on the board. It had gotten up to like 215 and when Scully said that about Boggs and Clemens, my buddy Chico got up and put a line through all of them. So while I know they are beloved, Costas and Scully have always gotten under my skin.

SI.com: So who do you like?
Lange: I love Bob Uecker. One of my greatest thrills was when me and Norm MacDonald sat in the booth with Bob Uecker and listened to him do two innings of a preseason Brewers-Cubs game in Phoenix. It was like watching a symphony. The guy would hit the button just as he was cursing. He would drop f-bomb after f-bomb but he knew exactly when to hit the button. It was almost like he was trying to impress us, like a ventriloquist drinking water. He was unbelievable. We asked him: Did you ever slip? He said, “Well I dropped a couple of f-bombs over the years but f— them. What are they going to do?”

SI.com: Did Uecker know who you were?
Lange: Norm had done a light beer commercial with him and we were doing stand up in Phoenix. I was opening up for Norm so he invited us to the game. We played golf with him. During the game we were at Uecker sees John Fogerty from Credence Clearwater Revival in the stands. Fogerty is with his seven-year kid. I guess his kid is a big Cubs fan. So Uecker says, “Hey, you guys are from this generation, you’ll f—— love this. There’s that f—-Fogerty. Hey, get him up here. He’ll sing something for you.” So a production assistant gets Fogerty to come up and he’s very uncomfortable. He barely knows Norm and he has no idea who I am. This is like 1999. So Uecker goes, ‘Hey, John, these guys are big fans, sing something for him. We’re like, ‘You don’t have to do that, Mr. Fogerty. He obviously didn’t want to sing and Uecker’s like, “I don’t know, the guy’s a singer and he don’t want to sing. These guys are comedians and I figure they’d like you.” So Fogerty leaves and Uecker goes, ‘Man, the guy is kind of stiff. You know that guy? We’re like, “Yeah, he’s Credence Clearwater Revival.”

SI.com: What teams do you support?
Lange: The Yankees and Giants, but I’m not as passionate about any other sport as I am in baseball. The Mets are a sacrilege. I remember in the late ”80s the Mets were thinking about signing Dwight Gooden. I would say to Met fans: “Look, two things have gotten me to go to Shea Stadium in the last 10 years. One is the Rolling Stones and the other is Dwight Gooden. So either have the Stones pitch or sign Gooden…But what was the question?

SI.com: (laughs). You were talking about your favorite teams?
Lange: Well, the Mets I hate. It’s all about the Yankees. I love the Giants, but if the Jets are winning and the Giants are not, I’ll root for the Jets.

SI.com: Besides you, who is the Stern show staffer with the most sports knowledge?
Lange: Well, guys who are not totally known and work in the back office are better than me. In the ”70s, ”80s and going into the ”90s, I could go position by position of every guy on every team in football and baseball. You get older, you do the road, and now I don’t know a lot of current guys anymore except the teams I like. There’s a kid in the back, Will Murray, who is very knowledgeable. He’s got me as far as modern-day players. As far as the core group, [show producer] Gary Dell’Abate and me are on the same level.

SI.com: Go around the field and give us your dream Yankee team?
Lange: Well, Thurman Munson will be the catcher because that’s from the heart. Any logical person looking at just stats would say Yogi Berra. So we’ll allow one little romantic thing. Lou Gehrig at first. I’ll give the nod to Willie Randolph at second. Then Derek Jeter at shortstop and Graig Nettles at third for his clutch hitting and defense. You want three outfielders or left, center, right?

SI.com: Your call?
Lange: Right field is Babe Ruth. Center field is Joe DiMaggio and the copout would be to put Mickey Mantle in left. Dave Winfield could be there in left, though. If I could not use Mantle, I would use Winfield.

SI: Two relievers?
Lange: Mariano Rivera and Sparky Lyle.

SI.com: A lefty and righty starter
Lange: Whitey Ford has to be the lefty. Let’s go with Catfish Hunter as the righty.

SI.com: Manager?
Lange: Miller Huggins? Nah, I’m not going to bother with that. Gotta be Casey Stengel.

SI.com: Your thoughts on Michael Vick?
Lange: Well, again, it’s the league sort of wussing out. The issue is not dogfighting. The issue is that he gets introduced through dogfighting to gambling. That’s what they are worried about. If it was just about dogfighting, they would not be uptight about it. I hope he is more addicted to gambling than to dogfighting because a guy with all that talent and money, he’s extra deranged compared to the guys who have to do it. Anybody that tortures a living thing like that you have to worry about it. I don’t think Michael Vick should ever play again. I would ban him for life.

SI.com: Is there someone in sports who you would love to get on the show?
Lange: It’s funny because me and Gary tag-teamed Howard to get Mickey Rivers on. We had him over the phone and it was a hilarious interview. You know who I would love to hear Howard interview and this guy has redeemed himself to me, even though I hated the team he was on and I hated him? Michael Irvin. If he was really honest, he would be a great interview for Howard.

SI.com: What about A-Rod?
Lange: That would be great if A-Rod came on. A-Rod and Jeter — I love them both as players — but they are the most boring, cliched-ridden interview givers ever. It is so dull. But those two full of truth serum is the greatest interview ever (laughs).

SI.com: How often do you go to Yankee games?
Lange: I split them with my uncle. We get 40 games apiece and we always go to at least one game together. The one game we pick is usually a late-season Red Sox.

SI.com: Has being on Stern helped regarding getting into sporting events?
Lange: The biggest difference is me at a Yankee game. It is actually becoming an issue going because I get mobbed. It is always really nice but it becomes hard to watch the game. They want to put me in a headlock or they buy me drinks and at 11 dollars a pop, they are not going to let me get away with not drinking. But it’s a great place to take a chick because I look really important.

SI.com: The best sporting event you have attended because of your celebrity?
Lange: The only Super Bowl I’ve ever been to was in Miami when the Falcons got their ass kicked by the Broncos. I wasn’t on Stern yet. I had already done Mad TV and Dirty Work, and I was shooting this big-budget movie, The Bachelor. We got done a week before the Super Bowl and one of the producers for a wrap party said to come to the game. I stayed at the Delano Hotel and got the ticket through him, so technically it was a show business connection. The game was crap. I wouldn’t go again unless the Giants were in it. But I was there all week and the five days leading up to the Super Bowl. The Delano Bar, well, I’ve never seen such a scene with hot chicks.

SI.com: What was that like?
Lange: What was it like? Every night it was Marcus Allen talking to five hot blonds.

SI.com: Do you frequent any sports blogs?
Lange: No. It’s 2007 and I have yet to send or receive an e-mail. My assistant Teddy gets e-mails for me. I have a computer at home that’s broken. I used to wear that as a badge of honor but now it’s kind of creepy. I’m the old guy at the end of the road who does not have a phone.

SI.com: You played high school baseball, right?
Lange: Union High School in Union, New Jersey. I played a lot of third base and shortstop but because of an injury my senior year, I played most of my games at first. I was actually an All-Country first baseman in 1985.

SI.com: Better fielder or hitter?
Lange: Hitter. I had really good hand-eye coordination. As a fielder, if it was in my range, I would get it. My senior year I hit .405 and led the team in homers and was second in hitting.

SI.com: I read a headline in a New Times newspaper not too long ago that read: Not Dead Yet; Artie Lange is a ticking time bomb. There are also a number of Web sites dedicated to your demise. Is it weird to read people predicting your death?
Lange: At 9:27 p.m. on Oct. 11, if I am I still breathing, a lot of people on the Internet are going to lose a bunch of money because that is the minute I officially turn 40. They have been predicting my death since I was 35. Again, everybody breaks balls in the Howard Stern world. There are five Web sites dedicated to my death. The only way it really affected me was I got turned down for this special life insurance. The guy Googled my name and saw four Web sites dedicated to my soon demise. It bothers my mother but it’s fine.

SI.com: What do you expect come October for your Yankees?
Lange: I think Rivera, as always, is going to have to show shades of when he was immortal. As Mariano goes, so go the Yankees. When they lose, it is usually because Rivera just missed it. Someone will also have to step up as a starter. The offense I’m not really worried about, but if Torre could find a way to use Joba Chamberlain and Rivera the same way he used Rivera and John Wetteland in ’96, that was like watching a symphony. A-Rod will win the MVP but if he does not have a good October and they lose, he will be booed mercifully and I will be one of them booing. If he has a good or decent October, it’ll be his town. That’s what I’m rooting for.

SI.com: You have to be on the air by 6 in the morning. Can you stay up to watch games?
Lange: The two worst things this schedule did to my life as a Yankee fan were 1) In 2001 when Scott Brosius hit the home run in Game 5, me and my uncle were at the game, sitting in the upper deck. We had sold the good seats. The difference between leaving in the eighth inning and leaving after the game is about three hours of foot traffic. I had to be at work for the show the next morning at 5:30. So it was midnight and I say my uncle: ‘We gotta go.’ I had been fulltime on the Stern show for two days. Could you imagine if I strolled in late? So we leave the game and we heard Brosius hit the home run as we were going over the George Washington Bridge. My uncle wanted to strangle me. The other thing I was I got offered to go to the Aaron Boone game but I had gone to three games in a row and I was so beat. I watched Aaron Boone in my bed with one eye open. I wish I was born rich but I gotta work for a living.

SI.com: Who is the best athlete in the world today?
Lange: Michael Jordan was a modern-day Babe Ruth. He had that kind of dominance. Currently, I’d say it’s A-Rod. When it’s all said and done, if he doesn’t get injured, he will have almost every major offensive record. Now if he can get a big, f—— hit in October, I’d love him even more.


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Artie Lange is a teddy bear of a comedian — if that bear ate too much, partied too hard and did a wicked impression of the lead singer for AC/DC. Listeners to Howard Stern’s Sirius satellite radio show have a fondness for Lange that’s as oversized as his appetites. Since replacing Jackie “the Jokeman” Martling in 2001, he has served as the earthy, unpretentious sidekick who helps balance Stern’s outrageous style and quirky neuroses. A prototypical guy’s guy, Lange reveals a surprisingly vulnerable side on the air when he talks about his personal life. He fascinates and worries his fans, who follow the intimate details of topics like his weight and his love life. Lange, who has appeared recently on HBO’s “Entourage” and FX’s “Rescue Me,” brings his raunchy humor to the Fox Theatre on Saturday. It’s a venue he has had his eye on for a while. A few years ago, he was in Michigan for a family wedding when he drove by the construction at Comerica Park. “I looked over, and I saw the Fox Theatre, and Chris Rock was playing there,” he recalls. “I said to my uncles, as a comedian, ‘I would love to play that one day.’ “

Q: Is it true you’ve talked about leaving the Stern show?
A: I did briefly, earlier in the year, touch on it, but it wasn’t for anything else in my career. It was for a sabbatical, to get healthy. I’ve suffered through battling demons my entire adult life: drugs, cocaine, heroin, overeating, overdrinking, putting myself through the stress of the life of a comedian. I’ve been off the hard drugs for a couple of years. I substituted that with eating.

Q: Your fans are always concerned with how you’re doing. Can I ask about your dating status and your health?
A: I had a girlfriend, Dana, for 4 1/2 years, and right now, that’s a done deal. In my head, as far as I know, she’s still single, and I’m very much single. Who knows? Something might be rekindled there down the road. … The biggest issue is my weight. … I’m 100 pounds heavier than I should be, and that’s terrible. It’s just self-destructive, lazy, bad behavior.

Q: With radio, it’s such a personal relationship. Do fans get really specific about your life when they meet you?
A: I was at a Yankee game a couple of years ago when I had told stories about how, because of my drinking and stuff, Dana would worry about me, and we were fighting. I was with three of my male friends, and there’s these girls sitting right next to us. They notice me. They’re, “Oh God, Artie, we’re big fans.” … They go, “How’s everything going?” I go, “Eh, I’m feeling kind of down,” just joking around. You bust people’s chops. As soon as I said I’m feeling down, the girls go, “Is it Dana?” — as if they were my relatives or my cousins.

Q:You’re a big sports fan. Any advice for the Tigers?
A: The Tigers, I have a personal relationship with. My grandfather, he was in World War II in a German prison with a guy from Detroit. … They got liberated together on V-E Day and became lifelong friends. In 1984, when the Tigers were playing the Padres, as a gift to my grandfather, he sent me and my cousin Frankie two tickets and a plane ticket to come to a World Series game in Detroit. I was 17; my little cousin was 13. We were at the game in ’84 when Gibson hit the two homers at the old Tiger Stadium. … We went through that crazy riot that occurred afterward. My grandfather’s friend was, like, 60, and me and my cousin were teenagers; we’re running through trying to protect him. People are turning over cars. I got a good dose of Detroit. Ever since then, even though I love the Yanks, the Tigers have had a place in my heart. Last year, I was rooting for them against the Cardinals. If it ain’t the Yankees, I wouldn’t mind seeing Detroit doing it.

Q: There’s a great scene in “Elf” where you’re a department store Santa and Will Ferrell says you smell like beef and cheese. Is that ever true in real life?’
A: Sometimes right after lunch. Normally I don’t.

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Heavy dose of Artie

Lange pushes his health for the sake of comedy and cash!

Tell a sob story within 50 feet of comedian Artie Lange and that’s likely the response you’ll get. Car broke down? Waaaaahhh. Mom’s in the hospital? Waaaaahhh. You stayed up all night playing poker, came home at 7 a.m. and ended up sleeping for 35 hours, thereby missing one of your best friend’s weddings? Waaaaahhh.

That last one actually happened to Lange about a week ago, and is another one of the “screwed-up loser stories” he specializes in telling as co-host of “The Howard Stern Show.” He’ll tell even more of them when he plays the Fox Theatre Saturday.

“My health is in shambles,” explains Lange, who recently ballooned past the 300-pound mark for the first time in his life. He credits his arduous schedule, which involves doing “Stern” four mornings a week and elsewhere touring as a working comedian. On the phone from his New York home, he admits he’s having a hard time staying awake, even though it’s only 2 in the afternoon.

In the past, Lange took Percocet, Vicodin, sleeping pills and finally heroin in order to maintain his schedule. He’s clean(er) now, but has replaced pills and drugs with food and watched his weight spiral out of control, a result of “self-destructive, lazy, awful living.”

But the work is good; he says he makes $100,000 on an average weekend doing stand-up, and quadruples his Stern show salary with outside gigs.

“I come from nothing, literally, less-than-nothing money wise, and I just can’t see myself saying no to $100 grand because I’m tired,” says Lange, who turns 40 next month. “Who knows, maybe I’ll die on the road because of it.” Waaaaahhh.

Lange had a healthy Hollywood career before “Stern,” appearing on “Mad TV” and in films such as “Dirty Work,” “Lost & Found” and “The Bachelor,” in which he played the second male lead behind Chris O’Donnell.

But it was on Stern where he cultivated his current fan base, and he knows without the show, he wouldn’t be playing gigs at places such as the Fox.

The last time Lange performed in town was in Dearborn in 2000, and the promoter took him by Comerica Park, which was then opening soon. Lange says he remembers gazing across the street at the Fox Theatre, where Chris Rock’s name was on the marquee.

“I remember saying to the promoter, ‘One day I’ll be back here, and I’ll be headlining the Fox,’ ” Lange says. “I haven’t been back since that trip, and sure enough, I’m playing the Fox. I’ll be like a little kid getting a picture of my name in those lights.”

Lange has several other Detroit stories — he was at Game 5 of the 1984 World Series, when Kirk Gibson won the Series with a three-run dinger — which he’ll share Saturday alongside those fan-favorite, trademark “waaaaahhh” stories.

“It’s the closest I can come to be an artist: Relaying these awful stories that were tragic at the time, and turn them into entertaining, comedic stories that people love,” says Lange, who will release “Too Fat to Fish,” a book partially based on his tales, next year.

“People love flaws and they love honesty, and that’s basically what I’m giving them.”

Funnyman Artie Lange plays the Fox Theatre on Saturday in Detroit.
Artie Lange
8 p.m. Saturday
Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Tickets $40-$75
Call (313) 471-6611 or ticketmaster.com

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The Reason For This Blog

I am a longtime listener of the Howard Stern show and an avid Artie Lange fan and I wish nothing but the best for the guy but after hearing about this on the show and reading this letter, I know it won’t be long before Artie Lange Is Dead.

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