A week before the Ravens lost to the Patriots, Artie Lange, Howard Stern sidekick turned sports radio host, wasn’t convinced the Pats could even conquer the Denver Broncos.
“The line is 13 and a half, but I don’t know,” he said, considering the odds as the 49ers upset the Saints on the television between us. “Maybe it’s a sucker’s bet, but, I don’t know, that’s tempting. 13 and a half. I think they got a great chance of covering. And Tebow, possibly being Jesus, I think there's a real chance they can win.”
So it’s a good thing Artie Lange doesn’t gamble anymore. No easy task for the reformed gambler, boozer, junkie, and john as he spent the weekend performing in Atlantic City.
An hour before showtime, Lange had just woken up. He walked out the bedroom of his suite at the Borgata, as grey and unkempt as his worn Villanova tee shirt and cut-off sweatpants, looked over his jacket options, then lit a cigarette. He said he felt just like Rachel Zoe.
After his set, during a Q&A with his Anti Social Comedy Tour co-headliners Jim Norton, Dave Attell, and Doug Stanhope, and before a capacity crowd of 3000 die-hard fans who welcomed him with a standing ovation before he ever uttered a single obscenity, Lange told the audience he hadn't walked out onto such a large stage in two and a half years.
Now they wouldn't let him off it.
They wanted to know when he'd appear on Louie, whether they could have a hug, if he got that note slipped under his door in rehab, and one woman — petite, inked, and underdressed like arm candy for a UFC fighter — asked Lange if he'd sleep with her. As fast as he declined, Norton and Attell — quickly overcoming their fear of her hypothetical barbarian boyfriend, and touting their own sobriety — then tried, and tried, and failed to goad her into exposing her breasts to them as a consolation.
Norton and Attell did succeed, however, in getting Lange back on the road.
They made their pitch last September, two months after Lange completed a successful ten week stint in rehab. And his weekend run in Atlantic City presented us the perfect opportunity to sit down with him without worrying about having to lose our own shirt. That never would have happened with Rachel Zoe.
This is Jim Norton's third year hosting his Anti Social Comedy Tour, and your first year on the bill. What made you decide to join them on the road?
They [Norton and Attel] ]approached me and said they were sober as well, and we know that it's hard to do the road this way, but maybe you need a little extra money.
I said to [them], without the plugs on Howard I don’t know if the tickets are going to go, and that went in like two hours and they said do you want to add one Saturday, and we said okay, and that's 6000 tickets. That's a good amount of money which is flattering. I just got to keep everything in perspective.
I didn't want to put pressure on myself because that's what I did before — one of the mistakes I made — overextending myself schedule-wise.
Attell told me he started making money on the road and he told me be careful how you book because you can get addicted to the money like anything else. and you can’t live. You can’t get up at 4:30 in the morning every day like you have a paper route then turn nocturnal on the weekends without drugs, without setting yourself up to fall. The old me never took that advice. Hopefully I learned from my mistakes. We'll see.
Was it difficult to spend a weekend in a casino, to perform in Atlantic City, since it's home to all your previous vices?
Somewhat. It's the gambling even more than the booze and drugs. The gambling is the biggest trigger for me, because there are some guys who are such degenerate gamblers who can gamble but not do anything else, but I mixed them. If I put down a $5 bet on roulette it would escalate into every bad thing.
Walking by the tables is a little bit of a distraction, but I have so much to lose at this point. I've been so lucky in this business, its like my fifth second chance, and when I came out of rehab and wanted to do stand-up I didn't think I'd have any offers from anybody like this. It’s a good amount of money I'm making now to goof around with a good friend of mine.
Does this mean you'll be traveling to perform more often? On the Nick and Artie Show last week you mentioned you're traveling to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, is the radio show offering you more opportunities to go on the road?
We're going to the Super Bowl for a week. It's not going to be a regular thing traveling. They wanted to send us to the Final Four too but they were like it’s a little ambitious now.
What they're doing with this radio deal is they're going to put it on TV in April on DirecTV. They're renting a loft in Tribeca, in this hip part of town, this 5,000 square foot loft. They're going to build this man cave thing that's going to be me and Nick's version of a sports show, like Sportscenter on acid type of thing. They're going to put in a batting cage, a golf simulator, a place for a live band to play, and a pool table, air hockey, a Murphy bed with a full apartment.
And they asked us what we wanted on the wall.
Me and Nick both had a joke for stuff we wanted on the wall we thought they'd never do. We were walking around this loft we're going to get with these two girls who went to, like, Vassar — pissed off looks on their faces they have to write down everything me and Nick say. Dan Patrick's show is straight sports show, and he has posters of jerseys and straight up sports stuff, and Nick said I want someone to paint Michael Vick playing poker with dogs, and they said that's great and they wrote it down. I want to Photoshop OJ Simpson next to Tim Tebow, and it's OJ next to a white Bronco, and they said yeah, great. We thought they'd be offended by it but they said yeah, fine. I said we want a hot chick in a nurse's outfit to take my vitals signs once an hour and we'll have Artie's vital signs brought to you by Hellman's Mayonnaise. I have a bet going on that my cholesterol level will be higher than what Jose Reyes hits in Miami.
Doesn't it make you a bad sports radio host going on stage right when the Patriots game is about to start?
When I gambled there were literally times when I'd be in on stage and I'd ask for scores, in Vegas, because I had bets on stuff. It wasn't even games that everyone was into. Forty minutes into my set I'd be like, anybody got lacrosse high school scores? Baylor-Rice? I don't think it went over.
But it’s work, what am I going to do? When I stopped [gambling] I realized I'm not as big a sports fan — and then I do sports radio. I love the Giants, but I'd love them a lot more if I had a lot of money on them.
What was your process for developing new material since rehab?
When I got out of rehab in June, it was the first time I took rehab seriously and stayed longer than eight days — I was there for two and a half months — and the entire time, the last month I was there, when I really started to get better, I started writing some stand-up, new stuff.
It was just therapeutic at the time, and when I got back to New York I called up the Comedy Cellar. A lot of guys I'm tight with would go there, so I called up and said let's see if I could get back into this game. Estee, the owner, gave me a bunch of spots and I went and started doing stand up again, and the new stuff really worked. It was really kind of touching. I'd go on stage and it'd be a really warm reception and the material started out decent and got to where I wanted after like a month. Then this radio gig came up.
I did this test show with Nick DiPaolo for the [Nick & Artie] show I'm doing now, and I knew when that started I wouldn't get a chance to do a lot of stand up anymore.
Do you think sports humor is really hitting its stride right now, with shows like The League finding so much success?
I've always said reality TV is so huge now, but the greatest reality TV is sports.
I think gambling has a lot to do with it — and the NFL, they're hypocrites for not admitting they play into that completely with fantasy football. Why the fuck do you think they put on all these college football bowl games? Because of gambling, they have more games to bet on.
I did a pilot for a cartoon at Spike TV that might go to a series, where I'd be the lead voice for this cartoon. It's about gambling. I play a guy who lives with his father, a 45-year-old addict, who's obsessed with sports. And he kidnaps sports legends and duct tapes them to a chair and makes them tell sports stories and live vicariously through them. The pilot was with Pete Rose. I did three hours with Pete Rose, I had to pinch myself. I was nervous, then he got on the phone with me and he knew exactly who I was and he knew all my stand up bits that had to do with gambling and he was in Vegas for the taping and we taped the pilot. It was nothing but fun and if it goes to series it'll take me two hours one day a week, and it's good money and it'll be a lot of exposure.
You’re also working on your second book, Crash and Burn.
That will be out in November. It's going to cover a lot of shit.
The title is based on my buddy Danny McGrath's older cousin. When I was I was 22 years old I was trying to decide if I should stay at the port working as a longshoreman making 60 Gs a year, or should I try show business? And his older cousin Chuckie said to me at a bar one day, he goes, "fuck it man, if you think you can do it do it and if you crash and burn who gives a shit, you crash and burn, its fucking exciting, you got to live fuck this boring longshoreman shit you got to crash and burn." And every time I saw him after that, I'm doing stand up I say, not too good, he says "crash and burn, who gives a shit?" So that's what I did.
Adam Robb splits his time investigating illegal foreign arms sales in Bayonne and interviewing reality stars from Hoboken, and he doesn't have to tell you which pays better. He's also on Twitter.