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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Artie Lange

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Telling a story is not easy, especially when the stories are emotional, outrageous and true. Comedian, actor and member of the Howard Stern Show cast, Artie Lange, however, has made a living telling the stories of his life on the air and on stage. Finally, those stories that have made the Stern Nation laugh since joining the show in 2001, along with several other painfully true moments from Lange's life can be found in Too Fat to Fish.

Tonight (Book Soup, 10pm) and Saturday (Barnes & Noble, The Grove, 2pm), Artie will be in Los Angeles signing copies of the book which hit shelves this week. Prior to hitting the road for his promotional tour, LAist caught up with Artie to hear a few of his stories and to discuss his time in LA, the book and Howard.

Is there anything you miss about LA? Anything you're looking forward to doing while you are back out here?
I lived in LA from 1995 to 2001. I was out there for MADtv, then I had some network deals and did stand-up, then from 1999 to 2001 I was working on the show, Norm. I bought a place in New York in 2001, thinking it wouldn't be too long before I'd be moving back to LA to play the fat neighbor in a shitty sitcom. Fortunately, I joined the Stern Show instead. One thing I am definitely looking forward to while I am here in LA, not surprisingly is the food. For about a half of 1998 I lived in the Bel Age Hotel (Now known as The London West Hollywood) and just about every morning I'd go across the street and eat breakfast at Dukes. Those are the best fucking pancakes in the world. LA has great food. I never understood how people decide to become vegetarian when they move to LA. With all these amazing burger joints here, why would you do such a thing?

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What was the toughest part about writing the book?
I have told some of these stories on the air before, but I got way more emotional telling these stories for the book. It's pretty heart wrenching, having to relive these things. If you ever want to know what kind of life you've lived, write a book at 40. The things you'll find in this book are not the kinds of stories you'd find in a book written by one of our great Americans. I did not live a winner's life. This is clearly the life of a loser. If you took away the money I've made from show business, God I would be one pathetic person.

What has been the response so far from those who have read the book?
Fantastic. I've read some good reviews on a few Web sites. Granted those are Web sites run by cousins. I kid, my cousins don't anything about computers. Neither do I. No, but every review I have seen thus far has been great. Fred (Norris of the Howard Stern Show) was blown away by my honesty. I really don't know how you could hate this book. You can read it and think, thank God this guy isn't me. Thank God this isn't my life. But I don't know how you could hate the book. I know Random House is very happy with the book, we've already signed on for a second book deal. I'm looking forward to writing a second book, as long as my liver doesn't give out.

What are you hoping to achieve with the book? Is there one thing you'd like to see readers come away with?
I'd love to get another shore house. Obviously, you do stuff to make money. But I think there is more to it than that. You know a lot of people say, if just one person reads this books and decides not to do drugs, than I would have accomplished something. Shit, if only one person decides not to drugs after reading this book than I failed miserably. I would like at least 10 people to read this and say I never ever want to end up like this guy. I got lucky, I was dealt a good hand and I am very happy to be where I am right now. Barack Obama is pushing change on us, I don't want a thing to change. I get paid good money to sit in a room with strippers and porn stars and midgets, please don't change a thing.

I have heard the Howard Stern Show, often referred to as Reality Radio. Much of the show is about making a radio show. We are introduced to all the characters who make the show happen, and we find out every single thing about them and all the events that happen in the course of creating this radio show. When you first joined the show was difficult to open up right away and to be so honest?
You are forced to honest, but from the first time I did the show I was honest and open and that went over well with Howard and the rest of the crew on the show. I came on with my friend Norm McDonald who was promoting our movie Dirty Work. Norm wanted to deflect some of the attention he was getting at the time for allegedly dating Elle Macpherson so he says to Howard, "My friend Artie is here, you'll love him. He got kicked off of MADtv for doing cocaine." Then they brought me in to the show and I told that story and you know eventually I got asked to join the show and that was kind of the start of telling my stories, many of which have to do with my use of drugs. One talent I have is telling stories, fortunately, I live in a place where there is a market for that sort of thing.

You were a big fan of the show growing up, was this a dream job? If so, did you ever think your dream job would involve talking to people like Eric the Midget and Jeff the Drunk on a daily basis?
I knew I would be dealing with people like Jeff the Drunk, I just thought it would be exclusive to my social life. It is my dream job though. I would never dream I would have this job though. If I told my parents when I was a kid, that I was going to be sitting in Howard's studio as a co-host in 2001 because Jackie Martling resigned, they would have told me to quit dreaming. My parents were good at that. It feels like I hit the lottery. This job has opened up so many other avenues for me, I got to perform at Carnegie Hall, I got to write a book.

What's one thing that would surprise people about Howard, something that you get to see working alongside him everyday that other people may not be aware of?

Just how savvy he is about running a show. He is so organized and so detail oriented. He gets involved in some of the smallest details of the show. We had Eric the Midget on the show and all of these people in the studio who wanted to see him, and Eric has a wheelchair so the studio was really crowded and you know we do the Howard TV too so it's not only got to sound good for radio but it's got to look good for TV and you have all these people in there and you're wondering how we're going to pull this off and every one is giving their input regarding how they think we should be situated and Howard just says "let's put this here and you sit there and we'll have Eric here" and it was perfect. He really does amaze me like that. If you've never been around him, you'd be surprised at just how involved he is with every little detail of the show.

Prior to this job, have you ever been around a group of such sensitive guys?
No I haven't. But I honestly didn't realize how sensitive I was until I started working on this show. Howard and the whole crew have a knack for finding something and just harping on it until you can't take it anymore. It's non-stop abuse. And it's not just the guys on the show, it's the callers too. My bald spot is something that has been the subject of the show. I didn't think my bald spot was that bad, but you got Howard and the rest of the guys on the show and the army of shitheads waiting on the line to talk shit about my bald spot, it's made me pretty sensitive about it.

Who's your favorite guests?
Chris Rock always kills. I know he's my friend and all but Norm McDonald is another favorite of mine. Lately, I have loved Tracy Morgan. He's killed on the show his last few appearances. I love the music guests Howard gets though. My favorite guest of all time is Joe Walsh. And shit, I'll take a Beetlejuice too while we're at it.