Artie Lange

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This article is about the comedian. For the Scottish psychiatrist, see R. D. Laing.
Artie Lange
Lange at an event in Glendale, California in September 2006.
Birth name Arthur Steven Lange, Jr.
Born (1967-10-11) October 11, 1967 (age 47)
Livingston, New Jersey, U.S.
Medium Stand-up comedy, television, film, radio, books
Years active 1987–present[1][2]
Influences Richard Pryor,[3] Richard Lewis,[3] George Carlin,[4] Eddie Murphy,[4] Sam Kinison,[4] Howard Stern,[4] David Letterman[4]
Relative(s) 1 sibling (sister)

Arthur Steven "Artie" Lange, Jr. (born October 11, 1967) is an American actor, comedian, radio personality, and author, best known for being part of The Howard Stern Show and the television sketch comedy series Mad TV.

Lange performed his first stand-up comedy routine at age nineteen. He took up work as a longshoreman to help support his family following the death of his quadriplegic father before he decided to focus on comedy and developed a stand-up act in clubs around New York City. In 1995, Lange was picked as an original cast member of Mad TV before leaving halfway through its second season due to cocaine abuse and his subsequent arrest. After a period of rehabilitation, Lange was chosen by Norm Macdonald to feature in his comedy film Dirty Work (1998) which, from 1999 to 2001, led to several film roles and a place on Macdonald's sitcom, The Norm Show.

In 2001, Lange became a member of The Howard Stern Show until a suicide attempt in January 2010, as a result of a heroin addiction, placed him in a psychiatric ward for eight months. Lange returned to radio in 2011, co-hosting a sports entertainment program with Nick DiPaolo; after DiPaolo left in 2013, the show was renamed The Artie Lange Show and lasted until its cancellation in April 2014. Lange launched his podcast, The Artie Quitter Podcast, in January 2015 and continues to perform.

Lange has released two recordings of his stand-up comedy performances—It's the Whiskey Talkin‍ '​ (2004) and Jack and Coke (2009). He co-wrote, produced, and starred in his comedy film Artie Lange's Beer League (2006), and co-wrote his first memoir Too Fat to Fish (2008), which entered The New York Times Best Seller list at number one. Lange released a follow-up, Crash and Burn (2013).

Early life[edit]

Lange was born on October 11, 1967[5] in Livingston, New Jersey, and raised in Union Township, Union County. His mother Judy (née Caprio), of Italian descent, was a housewife, while his father, Arthur Lange, Sr., of German and Native American descent, was a general contractor who installed television antennas.[6] His sister Stacey is a fashion designer.[7] Two weeks after Lange's birth, his father went on trial for counterfeiting money but was spared jail time out of the court's sympathy for his young son.[5] In August 2003, Lange found out he is approximately twenty-five per cent American Indian after submitting a sample of his DNA for testing.[8]

Lange attended Union High School and took up baseball where he became an all-county third baseman.[9] He spent his free time working with his father, who in October 1985, when Lange turned eighteen,[6] became quadriplegic after he fell off a ladder and broke his back while installing an antenna.[10][11] Money soon became an issue in the family; Lange's mother took up a secretarial job and Lange proceeded to install antennas himself.[6] Lange recalled the situation: "We took out a second mortgage. Medicaid paid for a nurse eight hours a day. When my mother got back from being a secretary all day, she had to take care of him. Every night, she set her alarm clock to turn him so he wouldn't get bedsores."[10] In 1987, the family contacted celebrities asking them to donate items for auction. Howard Stern, the only one to respond, sent them an autographed jacket and said on the air, "Does this guy think that if he puts the jacket on he's going to walk again?", which Lange and his father found funny.[10] On February 1, 1990, four-and-a-half years after his fall, Lange's father died from complications of an infection.[5][12]

In August 1985, Lange was arrested for attempted bank robbery. He claimed he was trying to flirt with the teller by passing her a note that said he was armed and demanded $50,000. The teller took it seriously, triggering a silent alarm. His charge was reduced to disorderly conduct which required Lange to pay $500 in court fees and complete 25 hours community service in March 1986.[12][13] As part of his probation, Lange attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting from March to June 1987. Lange attended Seton Hall University for a short time before he decided to leave further education. On July 12, 1987, at age nineteen, Lange performed his first stand-up comedy routine at The Improv in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. He recalled, "I bombed for five minutes. Everyone thinks that they can do better. I was unprepared, I mumbled, and I forgot stuff. But I'm proud that I did it."[2] Lange would not attempt stand up again until four years later.[6] In 1988, Lange took acting classes for three weeks from Sandy Dennis at HB Studio in New Jersey; he quit after he could no longer afford them.[14] In February 1991, to help support his family, Lange took up work unloading ships at Port Newark as a longshoreman.[15]


Early career[edit]

In September 1992, Lange quit his job at Port Newark to focus on a comedy career.[15] During his search for work, his regular form of employment was driving a taxi in the New York City area.[16] The flexibility of the job allowed him to perform twenty minute sets at the Comic Strip and resume work afterwards.[17] Within the year, Lange landed a role in a dinner theater play, touring restaurants and catering halls across New Jersey.[18] He then co-formed an improv troupe called Live on Tape, which led to the group performing sell-out shows at Caroline's on Broadway in Manhattan.[18] The success of these shows resulted in Lange being taken by William Morris Agency and meeting Peter Principato, his manager for the next ten years. Lange then took up roles in commercials which were a "big step up".[18] During this time, Lange developed an addiction to cocaine and alcohol.[19]

Mad TV[edit]

In May 1995, at age twenty-seven, Lange flew to Los Angeles to shoot the television pilot for Mad TV, a sketch comedy show picked up by the Fox network.[20] He was picked as one of the eight cast members selected from the 8,000 that were screened. He moved to Los Angeles that July for the filming of its first season;[21] he was paid $7,500 per episode including "a big signing bonus".[20] By this time Lange's addiction to cocaine worsened; doing it "like it was going out of style".[20] In November 1995, after nine episodes had been filmed,[22] Lange attempted suicide after he "ran out of cocaine ... So I took a bunch of pills" and wrote a suicide note to his mother and sister. He was found by his Mad TV colleagues and taken to intensive care.[23][24] Lange returned to New Jersey to complete a rehabilitation and counselling program.[25] At its conclusion, Lange developed a 45-minute stand up set that he felt "really proud of"; his success with Mad TV led to several headline spots across New York City[26] and voice over commercials.[27]

In January 1996, Lange returned to Los Angeles to film the second half of the first season of Mad TV; Quincy Jones, the show's producer, sent Lange over on his private jet.[28] Lange described his work on these episodes as "the best I've ever done in sketch comedy by far"; he created the popular recurring character White Mama.[29] In the summer of 1996, Lange secured his first major acting role for an independent film titled Puppet, starring Rebecca Gayheart and Fred Weller. He wrote, "To this day I have never seen it because I don't think it's possible to purchase a copy of it anywhere ... it was screened in a theater at least once, because my manager went to see it".[26]

In August 1996, Lange returned to Mad TV for its second season.[30] After staying two months sober during filming, he returned to doing cocaine.[27] His time with the show came to an end when his agent and the show's cast and crew attempted an intervention for him following a cocaine binge. The incident began when Lange lost a $15,000 bet on the first Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield boxing match and turned up to rehearsals "coked up".[31] Lange fled the filming set, running through streets with his co-workers chasing after him. It ended in a the parking lot of a supermarket where he was arrested and served a short time in jail.[32] Court records indicate the case was never tried in court.[31] While in jail Lange received a voice mail from Cameron Crowe, informing him that his scene with Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston for Jerry Maguire had been cut from the final version.[33]

After his jail term, Lange returned to New Jersey in January 1997 and spent a short time at a psychiatric ward. He described this as the "most depressing period" of his life.[34] He returned home afterwards, falling into a clinical depression. The producers of Mad TV convinced Lange to complete formal rehabilitation, and so he spent two months at Honesty House in Stirling, New Jersey.[35] His contract was not renewed for the third season,[36] but Lange made special appearances during the fifth and tenth seasons, including the show's final episode on May 16, 2009.[37]

Dirty Work and The Norm Show[edit]

Lange credits comedian and actor Norm Macdonald in helping continue his career.

In 1997, after completing rehabilitation, Lange resumed stand up gigs across New York City and received an invite to screen test two network television sitcoms which boosted his confidence "astronomically".[36] During negotiations, Lange was contacted by comedian and actor Norm Macdonald, who he had never met before. Macdonald wanted Lange to test a part as his second lead in his 1998 comedy film Dirty Work with director Bob Saget.[38] In order to shoot the film, Lange was required by MGM to obtain a bill of approval from Honesty House; Lange settled by giving the center $1,500 as a private donor.[39] Filming took place in Toronto across two months; to promote it, Lange appeared on The Howard Stern Show for the first time on January 8, 1998 alongside Macdonald. The pair returned as guests once more that year and two more times in 1999.[40]

Although Dirty Work was unsuccessful during its theatrical run, Lange credits Macdonald and Saget with rejuvenating his career following numerous offers for film and television work. In late 1997, he accepted a television development deal with the Fox network worth $750,000. He wrote, "Those were the good times: I was able, all at once, to bail my mother out of every single financial debt she had."[41] None of Lange's ideas were picked up, but worked comedy clubs in the Los Angeles area[42] and filmed a pilot for a series with Sam Cass in April 1998.[43] Soon after, Lange accepted a $350,000 holding deal with NBC to keep him "from being picked up by another network".[44] From 1999 to 2000, Lange landed roles in the feature films Mystery Men, The Bachelor, The 4th Floor, and Lost & Found.

In 1999, Lange joined the cast of Macdonald's sitcom The Norm Show during its second season as Macdonald's half brother. He stayed until the end of its third season before its cancellation in 2001. He enjoyed a period of wealth during this time; he recalled being paid $35,000 an episode for a show with its "ridiculously lame, easy jokes" and lived in a $4,000-a-month condo in Beverly Hills. He added, "Even with that life, creatively I was empty inside".[12]

The Howard Stern Show and other projects[edit]

Following the departure of comedian and writer Jackie Martling from The Howard Stern Show in March 2001, Stern announced a "Win Jackie's Money" contest where comedians auditioned for the vacant seat by sitting in during some shows. Those who participated included Lange, Craig Gass, Doug Stanhope, Richard Jeni, Jeff Ross, Jim Florentine, and Ron Zimmerman.[45] Lange was introduced to the show in 1982 by his father, who was a fan of Stern's.[10] Lange recalled the contest: "There were a lot of great funny guys — guys that were funnier than me ... I remember saying to my manager, 'I am not the most talented guy in this group, but I guarantee that I'm the biggest fan of the show'".[2] When The Norm Show ended in April 2001, Lange returned to New Jersey to sit in for a number of shows between May and October. His success on the show led to his full time addition in October 2001.[45]

On December 13, 2004, Lange released his first stand-up comedy DVD titled It's the Whiskey Talkin‍ '​,[46] formed of forty-five minutes of material he used when he "was playing more clubs".[47] Lange said of the DVD: "I worked really hard on that material, a major distributor put it out, people bought it and seemed to like it".[4] Following its general release in February 2005, Lange booked himself for stand-up gigs on weekends for the following six months while doing The Howard Stern Show during the week; he wrote it was "an insane schedule".[48]

In March 2005, Lange secured a deal with Ckrush Entertainment to star and executive produce his own comedy film, Artie Lange's Beer League.[49] Development began in 2001 when Lange proceeded to write a script with director and producer Frank Sebastiano based on a seventeen-minute film Lange wrote, funded and starred in 2000 titled Game Day. By 2002, Lange and Sebastiano had finished the script and Ckrush agreed to fund $2.5 million for the film.[48] The stress of putting the film together and travelling and working on weekends caused Lange to drink "heavily" and take "like twenty painkillers a day".[50] Lange's attempts to cope with painkiller withdrawals failed; during an attempt to obtain more at a comedy gig he bought heroin which began a dependency on the drug from March to June 2005, resulting in his absence from cast auditions and pre-production meetings. Lange wrote, "scoring heroin became my new hobby".[51]

Lange missed four days of filming duties and The Howard Stern Show in June 2005, prompting concerns from his family, Stern, and his show staff of a drug relapse.[52] Lange stayed at home to get through illness caused by withdrawals.[53] When Sebastiano and production staff threatened to cancel the film, Lange met a doctor who prescribed him Subutex, getting him well enough to return to work.[54] Lange explained to Stern on the air that his absence was down to excessive drinking and he needed time to recover. He completed filming in July 2005 on time and within budget.[55] Artie Lange's Beer League premiered on September 13, 2006 at the Ziegfeld Theatre,[56] followed by a limited release across North America. Lange would not reveal the true story until September 21, 2006.[57]

In June 2008, Lange headlined a comedy tour he named "Operation Mirth" with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops serving in Afghanistan. He was inspired to do so after watching Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie, a documentary about comedian Jeffrey Ross' own USO tour in Iraq. Lange picked comedians Jim Florentine, Nick DiPaolo, and Dave Attell to join him, with The Howard Stern Show's producer Gary Dell'Abate as the tour's master of ceremonies.[2] Later in the year, Lange and Attell recorded dialogue for the video game Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust, released in 2009.

On August 6, 2008, Lange claimed to have begun an intensive outpatient rehab program after missing the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget.[58] On the August 11 airing of the show, Lange admitted to having been back on heroin for the previous seven weeks. He stated that he had gotten drunk playing pool and was offered the heroin by someone at the pool hall.[59] Comedian Richard Lewis recommended a therapist to Lange.

In 2008, Lange secured a deal with Spiegel & Grau to write his first book, Too Fat to Fish.[10] The book is a collection of memoirs from Lange's life from his childhood to his recent USO trip, co-written with Anthony Bozza. Lange described them as "short stories that are real stories ... about different things that happened to me at different times in my life ... They range from funny to dark, to tragic, to sad."[10] Lange dedicated the book to Stern who wrote its foreword. Upon its release on November 11, 2008, Too Fat to Fish entered the The New York Times Best Seller list at number one[60] and held the position for one week.[61] The book remained on the list's top ten for a total of eleven weeks.[62] The book's title was notably referenced twice on the Top Ten List segment on Late Show with David Letterman.[63][64] In June 2009, a paperback edition was released with an alternate back cover and an additional chapter which peaked at number six on the Best Seller paperback list.[4]

On June 15, 2009, Lange made a controversial appearance on the first episode of Joe Buck Live where he exchanged insults with host Joe Buck that HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said "bordered on bad taste" with a "mean-spirited" tone.[65] The show was cancelled two episodes later. Buck defended Lange and subsequently wrote the foreword to his second book in 2013.[66][67]

In October 2009, Lange spent some time off from The Howard Stern Show due to depression.[47] On November 17, 2009, Lange released a live comedy album and DVD of his stand-up routine titled Jack and Coke.[68] The set was recorded across two shows at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City;[69] Lange developed most of the material used on the album across a period of "three and four years", some of it was fifteen years old but needed reworking before getting it right for recording.[4] Upon its release, Jack and Coke reached number one on the iTunes Comedy Albums chart and entered its Top 20 albums chart overall.[47] Comedy Central aired the DVD as a television special on January 23, 2010.[69]

In a November 2009 interview, Lange reasoned his decision to cancel a series of scheduled performances he booked in December 2009 and in 2010 after feeling "really beat" from performing and needing time to write new material, recover from his relapse into heroin abuse that April,[47] and to work on his second book which he had started writing under its early title, College is for Losers.[4][69] During the December 9, 2009 broadcast of The Howard Stern Show, Lange was told to take time off by Sirius management.

Suicide attempt and resuming career[edit]

On January 2, 2010, Lange attempted suicide at his home by drinking bleach and stabbing himself in the abdomen nine times with a 13-inch kitchen knife.[70][71] He was found on the floor by his mother and was taken to Jersey City Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. Lange was released from the hospital in the following week[72] and stayed in a psychiatric ward. Sirius management stated that Lange would be welcomed back onto The Howard Stern Show following his recovery,[73] but Stern has declined a plan for a potential return as he thought it would not be good for Lange.[74] On September 27, 2010, Lange performed his first stand-up routine as a surprise guest at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, eight months after his suicide attempt.[75] However, the news regarding the death of comedian Greg Giraldo from a drug overdose two days later sent Lange back into depression at a time when he considered a "return to society".[76] In April 2011, Lange was taken to a detox facility in New Jersey by Colin Quinn and "two huge Irish guys". He wrote, "This wasn't an intervention, it was an ultimatum. Actually it was an abduction, which was exactly what I needed ... they dragged me, literally kicking and screaming".[77] After three weeks, Lange transferred to Ambrosia Treatment Center, a rehabilitation facility in Florida, for two and a half months.[78]

Lange returned to radio for the first time since 2009 on July 6, 2011 with comedian Nick DiPaolo, standing in for Tony Bruno on Fox Sports Radio.[79] The show was a test run after DiPaolo was offered by DirecTV to host a late night sports and comedy radio program and chose Lange as his co-host. The Nick & Artie Show launched on approximately 30 stations nationwide and SiriusXM on October 3, 2011.[80] Following the departure of DiPaolo in January 2013, the show was renamed The Artie Lange Show where he continued to host with former American football player Jon Ritchie until its cancellation on April 28, 2014.

Lange released his second book co-written with Bozza, titled Crash and Burn, on October 29, 2013 for Touchstone Books. Similar to Too Fat to Fish the book is a collection of stories from his life, writing from his last few years on The Howard Stern Show to his second suicide attempt, the resulting depression, and his recovery. Lange accepted an advance of $800,000 for the book following the success of Too Fat to Fish.[70][81] Lange spoke about Crash and Burn: "The new book is the most honest thing I've ever done in my life. I just had to look at it again with my lawyer and I barely could get through it".[82] Following its release, the book entered the The New York Times Best Seller list under combined print and e-book sales at number 8[83] and number 12 under hardcover sales.[84]

Lange's one hour stand-up comedy special, The Stench of Failure, aired on Comedy Central on October 18, 2014.[85] On November 4, 2014, Lange sent out a series of tweets about a sexual fantasy between him and ESPN sportscaster Cari Champion set during slavery. He was Thomas Jefferson and Champion was a slave, and he attempts to whip her but fails. She beats him up and escapes.[86] As a result, Lange was banned from ESPN for life and he lost a scheduled appearance on Comedy Central.[87]

In January 2015, Lange launched an uncensored subscription-based podcast titled The Artie Quitter Podcast. He records four episodes a week mainly from his home in Hoboken, New Jersey.[88]

Personal life[edit]

In 2002, Lange met Dana Cironi, his girlfriend of four years before their split. He then met his future fiancée Adrienne in 2009; the two broke up in 2014.[89]

Lange has said he does not consider himself to be a "liberal," though he is pro-choice, a supporter of gay rights, and a supporter of unions owing to his former career as a longshoreman.[90] Crumbs Bakery offered an "Artie Lange" vanilla and chocolate cupcake, with partial proceeds going toward the Lifebeat HIV/AIDS charity until its closing.[91]

Although Lange has previously been critical of political correctness, he has since modified this position, saying on a 2015 episode of his podcast that political correctness benefits the world as a whole but is detrimental to comedians.[92] During a 2013 HuffPost Live interview, he stated that he is "ashamed and embarrassed" by his previous use of anti-gay slurs and, while maintaining that he was never motivated by hatred and that he "still makes jokes about every group of people that there is", he is now more responsible when joking about sensitive subjects and avoids slurs, saying "if someone came to me and told me that something I said caused some kid to commit suicide, I'd be in a nuthouse for the rest of my life, I really would."[93][94]


Stand up comedy[edit]

Year Title Distributor
2009 Artie Lange: Jack and Coke Image Entertainment
2004 It's the Whiskey Talkin'


Year Title Role Notes
2014 The Stench of Failure Himself Television stand-up special
2013 Californication Himself II
2013–2014 The Artie Lange Show Himself DirecTV
2012 Dave's Old Porn Himself
Louie Truck Driver
2011–2012 The Nick & Artie Show Himself DirecTV
2007 Entourage Scott Segil
2006 Rescue Me Mike – Lou's cousin
Fox Sports' 2006 World Series coverage Himself Series of promos alongside Jerry Stiller
2004 Game Over Turbo Voice
1999–2001 The Norm Show Artie Henderson
1995–1997 Mad TV Various characters including White Mama

Feature films[edit]

Year Title Role Other notes
2010 Adventures of Serial Buddies Golden Graham
2006 Artie Lange's Beer League Artie DeVanzo
Supertwink The Plumber A Howard Stern on Demand film
2005 Waltzing Anna Jacob Kline
2004 Perfect Opposites Lenny Steinberg Also known as A Piece of My Heart
2003 Elf Fake Santa
Mail Order Bride Tommy Jackie Martling also stars but they do not appear together
Old School Booker
2002 Boat Trip Brian Refused to kiss co-star Will Ferrell
2001 Gameday Artie Short, featured as extra on It's the Whiskey Talkin‍ '​
2000 Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth Swim Coach Hasselhoff
1999 The Bachelor Marco
Mystery Men Big Red
Lost & Found Wally
The 4th Floor Jerry
1998 Dirty Work Sam McKenna
1996 Jerry Maguire Sports radio host Deleted scene; Tom Cruise yelled at him[95]
Puppet Alexie This film was never released.[26]


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  • Lange, Artie; Bozza, Anthony (2008). Too Fat to Fish (1st ed.). Spiegel & Grau. ISBN 978-0-385-52656-2. 
  • Lange, Artie; Bozza, Anthony (2013). Crash and Burn (1st ed.). Touchstone. ISBN 978-1-4767-6511-2. 

External links[edit]