Okay, I’m going to try something a little different here this week. Something that I’ve never done before in this space …
100 percent, complete sincerity.
I’m not saying that I lie to all of you every week, but sometimes I write stuff just because it makes me laugh, or I think it will make you laugh, or because I felt like stirring up some shit that day and I didn’t really have time to fuel up my chainsaw, apply my clown make-up, get over to the inpatient coulrophobia clinic, mix it up with the clients a little and still make it back home in time for The Voice.
I know, Earth-shattering revelation – someone on the Internet exaggerates, oooooh …
But I shared that nugget because I want you all to know that I am genuinely bummed out because one of my favorite comedians is trying to self destruct … AGAIN, and I want him to stop. Correction; I need him to stop.
But he is a VERY funny guy, and from all accounts, one of the sweetest, most sensitive human beings that you’ll ever meet … when he’s not emotional and abrasive thanks to a synergistic cocktail of Jack Daniels, cocaine and heroin coursing through his veins.
I first saw Artie in the film Dirty Work, a comedic revenge film written by and starring Norm MacDonald, and directed by Bob Sage, playing Norm’s best friend …
His real life friendship with MacDonald lead to a guest appearance with him on The Howard Stern Show. Lange’s personal tales of debauchery, along with his quick wit lead to a full-time job on the show as a sidekick. When he and Howard were completely in sync with their comedic riffing, the show has never been funnier and – as Jules from Pulp Fiction would say – that’s a bold statement about a show that has been broadcasting in one form or another since 1979.
His performances on the show lead me (and thousands of other fans) to check out his standup performances, and that is where he really shines. He’s a master storyteller, thanks in part to his impeccable (when he’s sober-ish) timing, mostly because most of his comedy is built around his own life and interests, with no subject off-limits, including his highly-publicized career implosions fueled by addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling and prostitutes.
My favorite Lange stand-up bit off all time is a perfect example (NSFW) …
Of course, as Lange himself predicted, his relationship with Stern and the show ended BADLY. On December 9th, 2009, Lange was forced by Sirius/XM management to take leave from the show to confront his alcoholism and heroin addiction, but instead of seeking help, he attempted suicide two weeks later by drinking bleach, slitting his wrists and stabbing himself in the abdomen nine times with a 13-inch kitchen knife.
The six and a half years that followed have been like Groundhog Day. Periods of sobriety highlighted by career comebacks in the form of his own sports radio show, TV show appearances, sold out stand-up shows and bestselling books, are inevitably followed by backslides into addiction and more burned bridges in the business.
Artie was riding the wave of another career resurgence with appearances in the critically lauded, Pete Holmes/Judd Apatow produced HBO comedy about comedians, Crashing, when he was arrested, AGAIN, last week for possession of cocaine, heroin and drug paraphernalia.
Apatow vowed to stand by Lange in a tweet, but once again, Artie seems determined to self destruct.
20 years ago, I was very unsympathetic to addicts and their plight. But I learned that addiction is a complicated thing; bad choices combined with brain chemistry that works against you no matter how disciplined you are in your fight.
Artie is the person that finally turned me around on addicts and addiction. If an entertainer charming and talented enough to keep working his way back into show business no matter how many times he flames out, with devoted fans always willing to support him and give him another chance, can’t seem to conquer this disease through sheer willpower, who can?
The standup comedy landscape is littered with the graves of geniuses, like Lenny Bruce, Mitch Hedberg and Greg Giraldo, taken from us too soon by self medication. I know that it’s selfish, but I need Artie to find his inner RDJ before he runs out of next chances and the world loses yet another brilliant comedic mind.
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.