Artie Lange Rolling Stone Interview

Are you going to go back on Howard to promote the book?

I don’t know. I haven’t set foot in there. Howard is afraid he’s gonna say the wrong thing and set me off. He’s like, “God forbid something happens.” What happened was real intense. The times I’ve talked to him, he’s been real supportive. He’s happy for me that I’m back on track and doing better, but actually being on the show . . . He’s afraid something might happen. I’m not saying it won’t happen. Gary [Dell’Abate] has the book. He’s reading the book . . . Look, if he does, he does. I’m not going to put any pressure on him because the guy has done everything for me, and he’s just been amazing. But if he feels it’s too intense and too risky to do it, that’s gonna be his decision. And that’s fine. I told the book company not to press him at all.

I think he got freaked out. Howard didn’t how bad you were and he believed all your lies, and then he saw the truth and it shattered him.

Right. He was like, “You need professional help.” And he was right, of course. And I was working there when it happened. He’s thinking, “What if he goes back and something triggers something?”

Howard said recently on the show that you saw him at the hospital when you both visited Robin at the same time.

artie lange rolling stoneYeah. I saw him there. We talked for an hour. And it was just me, him and Robin for a while. We laughed like old times, like we were on the air. It was the day after Robin’s big operation and she was in great spirits. She look great. I told her she was just so confident and she really is such a strong person. But we were goofing around with her like everything was fine. We laughed like crazy.

At the end, he gave me a big hug and he said, “Congrats on the show.” I said “Thanks” and “I’ll talk to you soon” or whatever. And then I gave him a big hug. That was it, and I talked to Robin for an hour after that. I sat with her, and if she was scared about what was going to happen, she didn’t let me see. It seems like she got through it, which is great.

It’s weird how time rolls on. Howard is gonna be 60. Bruce Springsteen is almost 65 and time is rolling, man. It’s daunting to think that one day that show might not be around. But I don’t think Howard wants to slow down. I know that money isn’t an issue for Howard. He likes to be relevant, hence the America’s Got Talent thing. And he’s good at it. I think he’s gearing up for another big situation because Howard TV is going away, whether it’s a web thing or another more traditional-type talk show. I don’t know. I would love to see what kind of web presence he would have.

You wrote in the book that after your suicide attempt, you held out some hope you’d return to the show at some point.

Sure. In my head I said, “Well, maybe I can still make this work again. Maybe I’m not so ready to move on.” But then I really thought about it. I thought about the position I put them in. I said to myself, “Well, oK, that’s probably not going to work.” But there was definitely a time where I said to myself, “I can do this again.” Then I said to myself, “OK, well, now what?” And my agents and managers didn’t abandon me. They were there and they said, “OK. We’ll just try to find a gig for you.” And then I got a call from Nick DiPaolo. He said that DirecTV was a fan of his and mine and wanted to maybe do this show. And I said, “Oh my God. All right. Let’s get right back on the horse.” And we did a test show and in a few months we had a deal.

Nick left the show earlier this year. Are things cool between the two of you?

We never stopped being friends. We were always friends. It was creative differences that he had with DirectTV. I think he thought it was going to be a show that was more politically minded and they wanted just pure sports and silliness. I am very silly and not politically minded at all, so they just went their separate ways. Nick was like, “Are we cool?” I said, “Yeah! I don’t know if I can host a show. I don’t know if I want to host a show.” When I started doing it I was a little apprehensive, but I have a blast doing it now. It’s a blast, and they treat me really well.

This might sound a little unfair, but some people are going to assume that you’re still taking drugs and you’re just lying to everyone about being clean.

I wouldn’t blame them for thinking that. Those people are going to think whatever they want. There are people who think Robin was under house arrest. [Laughs] All I have to do is keep living my life. I just gotta get up, live life and let the chips fall where they may. I have a job now, so that’s good. I’ll keep doing that until one day I get there and all the doors are locked and my shit is in front.

There’s nothing I can do about what people say. And one day they might be right! You could leave here and I might flip out. I don’t know. I don’t feel steady all the time, but I gotta get to the point where if you leave here and I feel bad I go to an AA meeting. For some reason, I don’t crave liquor, and thank God. I can just go to the corner and get that, but for drugs I don’t even have the contacts anymore. I would have to be like, “Does this number still work? Probably not.” I’d have to go, “Do I have to make phone calls to people who still might know how to get me something?”

Who knows? It would be very difficult, so hopefully by the time all that happens I don’t have that craving anymore, or I’d be smart enough to drag myself to a meeting or something.

Did you hesitate about writing this book since it was so personal and so intense?

Well, life is life. I had the book deal, and I was lucky to have had a career where I saved up enough money where I could take a year and eight months off so I could get better. I literally needed that much time. I said, “I need time here, man. I’m as big a mess as you can get.” And it was a public situation, so not only is it what’s happening to in your mind and body, but it’s all happening in a public situation. I didn’t know if I would ever recover from that alone.

And then the physical addiction of it and the depression . . . There’s so many layers to go through. I don’t know if dope causes depression or if depression causes dope . . . I don’t know what came first. It’s too long ago. But I got to a point where I said, “OK, I need to start making some money.” I had taken 200 grand from an $800,000 advance. Too Fat to Fish was so successful that they gave me the 800 G’s real quick, like a month after it came out. And I was like, “OK!”

So I took the 200 G’s, and of course that was spent. My agent said, “Listen, you’re going to have to write the book, and they really want you to write about this. If you don’t, you have to give the money back.” I was like, “Christ! Well, I guess that will be therapeutic, in a way.” They were willing to wait as long as it takes to get a book out.

I think a lot of people are going to read the book and be like, “I don’t understand why this guy is so miserable. He seems to have everything in the world going for him.”

Artie Lange Crash and BurnThe weirdest and most damning addiction for me, in some ways, was gambling. It’s not wanting to walk away from the table until you lose. I’ve always had that need for instant excitement. It’s like, “OK, well, stuff is going well and it’s boring the hell out of me. How do I make this fucking bad?” And when you’re not married and don’t have kids . . . I hope to God we get married and God blesses us with a child someday. It’ll then be over. I’ll be like, “OK, I’m not bored anymore.”

This is the fourth time that show business has given me another shot. And it’s not just another shot. Two days out of rehab I got this job with DirecTV. Then the deal was back with the book and I was booked to do stand-up in theaters immediately. I was selling out 3,000-seaters again. My first gig back was 3,000 seats, and it sold out. And that night I made 80 grand. So I was like, “OK, I guess I’m back.”

I had a whole new hour of material different from my special. It was about rehab, and it worked. People were interested. And the Stern show creates a family atmosphere. They see me and they want to hug me like I’m a cousin or something that just got better.

Was it hard to come back to this apartment because so much bad stuff happened here?

I’ve been here for 12 years, and I have more good memories than bad ones. God, and I love this view. For someone who has a depressive attitude, when I get up on a day like today and it’s clear and I look at it, it makes me want to just dive into life. When I stabbed myself, I was sitting right there on the corner of the couch. It was six a.m. and the sun was coming up and I looked out at this exact view, and it didn’t save me. I felt like I was looking at it for the last time. I was such a morbid, heroin-crazed fucking thing.

The part of the book where you describe the suicide attempt was hard to read.

And write! [Laughs] People say to me, “You think you hit rock bottom?” And I’m like, “I hope so.” I don’t know what’s worse . . . At the time I did that, there was a part of me that just wanted to get that heroin feeling or that opiate feeling or whatever. My logic was, “If I get bloody, I’ll get queasy, and I’ll go to sleep.” When you’re on the road a lot, you’re in perpetual search of a good night’s sleep. I thought it would help me get a solid eight hours. But I don’t know what I thought was gonna happen when I got up. Put on a red shirt and hope no one notices?

Somehow, hearing you drank bleach was harder to take than the stabbing.

I thought that would get me drunk. [Laughs] I threw that up two or three times. I had the knife and made it the bedroom with a trail of blood behind me. I had lost enough blood where I finally did pass out. My mom, my sister, Colin Quinn and a bunch of people were coming over for an intervention-type thing. Thank God I got found by them. They saved me life.

You didn’t slit your throat or stab yourself in the heart. Some part of you must have wanted to live.
I didn’t slit my throat. I did slit my wrists, though. It was weird. I thought about jumping off the terrace when it turned suicidal. I said, “What am I doing? I can’t live like this anymore. Even if I get that heroin feeling, what am I doing?” But I said, “I guarantee it’s not high enough. With my fat ass, I guarantee I’ll just fucking break both my legs and wake up the next day.” But, um . . . [laughs] . . . I didn’t know how to make it permanent. Hang myself? I don’t know how people figured out how to do that.

Still, it sounds to me like part of you didn’t want to die.

It was half-ass, yeah. If there was a gun here I probably wouldn’t have blown my head off, but I don’t know.

How long have you been clean?

Well, I’m hard on myself. There are some people in the program that say if you have an injury and you take a pain killer as prescribed, you’re OK. I don’t put myself in that category. So a month and a half ago, I took a prescribed Vicodin for back pain. I had an enormous pain that I gotta have surgery for. And I ended up going in and getting an epidural. I didn’t drink with it, but I cook a couple of the pills one night and they got me feeling nice. And the next night I took it again for the pain, but I was looking forward to the fucking buzz and that was scary.

Their was 10 pills. I finished the prescription, and now I have six weeks and two days. But there are people that go, “That’s fine. You didn’t get more. You didn’t go on a run. It was just prescribed.” But I like to think that I should have tried Advil. But with the epidural and everything . . .

Do you still crave it?

Every day. Every day. [Laughs] I know guys who have 20 years now. You’ll be in meetings and they say they still crave it.

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