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A Chat With Icon Artie Lange

The hilarious Howard Stern vet and talk show host has been to hell and back. Come along for the ride. 

Photo by Matthew Salacuse/ Corbis

You’re hosting The Nick & Artie Show, a live three-hour sports and entertainment radio/TV show with your buddy Nick DiPaolo. Sounds like a pretty good gig!
I’m actually doing research for the new job right now—watching Sports­Center. You can’t beat that. I equate watching sports to the guys’ version of women shopping. It’s astonishing how long they can do it. I love when a good-looking chick—and because I’m in show business I’ve been able to date girls way out of my league—asks me, “Do I look good in this?” and I’m like, “You’d look good shitting in a homeless guy’s mouth, I don’t have time for this!” But, yeah, sports are the greatest fucking reality show there is.

And people just love to listen to other people bullshit about sports.
I remember when they first pitched the idea of WFAN in New York City in, like, ’86, and everybody was like, “It’ll never work.” I think 75 percent of talk radio now is sports. People love it, even if it’s two stupid guys like me and Nick. Howard Stern once gave me advice about doing a radio show. He said, “Art, the way you get popular on the radio is to have a definite opinion about something, no matter what it is. Because people who agree with you like it, and people who don’t will call up and want to strangle you, which makes great radio.” We’re not experts at all, and that’s the whole billing of the show.

What do you like to talk about?
My favorite thing now in sports is all the scandalous rumors. Some of them are so absurd, and people get so aggravated that I act like they’re true. Like, there’s a ru­mor out there that Delonte West banged LeBron James’ mother while they were teammates on the Cavaliers. [Both parties deny the rumor.] Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen LeBron James’ mother, but she looks like a chubby Don Cheadle, first of all. And if that’s true, I don’t know how LeBron functioned. On the air I ask every NBA player, “So how many times do you think Delonte actually banged LeBron’s mom?” I tell them, “To me it’s simple to guard LeBron James. When he’s shooting just yell out, ‘Delonte West fucked your mom!’ and he’ll never hit another shot.”

This seems like a perfect job for you.
I could not write in a script a better post–Howard Stern life for me. It’s great to have a show with Nick, who is so fucking funny. Plus, my second book, Crash and Burn, is coming out, and my stand-up has come back in a big way. It’s the best I’ve ever done in my life, because it’s about the nuttiness I saw in rehab.

You were on MADtv when it started in 1995. How crazy was life then?
I was making 15 to 20 grand a year doing comedy and driving a cab. This was a regular network show, and my salary was eight grand a week. So it was my big break, but I was 27 years old and already had a huge cocaine problem. I just partook in everything, because I was in a living hell about a bunch of personal shit. My old man had fallen off a roof and was a quadriplegic and we went on welfare, and I was doing everything wrong. I was a degenerate gambler, booze had always been a problem, and then blow came into the situation. So I moved out to L.A., we worked 13-hour days, and I had such a bad coke problem, I had to get another connection. Every week I’d pick up my check for $8,000, write a check for $800 to my agent at William Morris, Western Union my mom four grand, then put the remaining $3,200 in my pocket and roll around L.A. like I had a billion dollars. I made every jerk-off mistake some guinea from Jersey can make. MADtv was a fun show and the people there were great, but it almost killed me.

Were you doing coke recreationally, or when you were performing too?
No, it wasn’t recreational. I was looking at some old MADtv sketches recently, and remembered I was on coke doing them. It’s a painful memory, but when I started heroin years later, it was even worse. Being addicted to heroin is a full-time job, because you need it every day—otherwise you’ll die from withdrawal. So you’re like, “OK, I got to get the money, I got to make sure I don’t get arrested, I got to make sure I don’t get killed by the people selling it, I got to make sure the stuff they sold me won’t kill me ’cause God knows what’s in it, and then I got to hide it from everyone.” It just becomes madness.

Would you do heroin and perform?
I’d go on the Stern show on heroin. I’d nod off and tell them I was tired. You talk about living life on the edge; I was nodding off daily with 20 million people listening. It was easier performing on coke, because coke gives you energy. With heroin you just want to be alone and listen to the Allman Brothers.

Were you surprised by the love you got after your attempted suicide?
One of the many brilliant things about Howard’s show is that people feel like you’re part of a family. So after what happened, that support is one of the things that dug me out of my hole. 

After all that, what’s the strangest place you’ve ever woken up?
In the back of a police car. That’s happened three times.

Have you ever made a sex tape?
I was getting a blow job once, ran a red light, and it took a picture of me. That’s as close as I’ve gotten.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about women?
If you give a stripper money for cocaine, she’ll never come back with cocaine. Believe me. I’m 38 for 38 on this one.

The Nick & Artie Show airs weeknights at 10 PM on SiriusXM and DirecTV.

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