Arthur Steven "Artie" Lange, Jr. (born October 11, 1967) is an American comedian, actor, author, and radio and podcast host, best known for his tenures on The Howard Stern Show and the sketch comedy series Mad TV. Born and raised in New Jersey, Lange first worked as a longshoreman and taxi driver to help support his family following the death of his quadriplegic father. In 1987, he made his debut as a stand up comic and took up the profession full-time in the early 1990s, performing in clubs and improv shows in around New York City.
In 1995, Lange moved to Los Angeles to star in the first season of Mad TV. His arrest for cocaine possession during the second season led to his departure and subsequent rehabilitation. In 1997, Norm Macdonald chose Lange to co-star in his comedy film Dirty Work (1998), which secured Lange several film and television roles including Macdonald's sitcom, The Norm Show. In 2001, Lange returned to New Jersey and became a member of The Howard Stern Show until December 2009. He pursued various projects during this time; he released two comedy albums, co-wrote, produced, and starred in his feature film, Artie Lange's Beer League (2006), and released his first book, Too Fat to Fish (2008), which entered The New York Times Best Seller list at number one. In 2010, Lange left the show after he attempted suicide during a heroin addiction.
In 2011, Lange completed rehabilitation and resumed his career. He returned to stand up and co-hosted The Nick & Artie Show with Nick DiPaolo until the latter's departure in 2013; the show was renamed The Artie Lange Show and lasted until 2014. During this time, Lange released his second book, Crash and Burn (2013). He launched The Artie Quitter Podcast in 2015 and continues to perform stand up and act. His third book is set for release in 2017.
Lange was born on October 11, 1967 in Livingston, New Jersey, and was raised in Union Township, Union County. His mother, Judy (née Caprio), of Italian descent, was a housewife, while his father, Arthur Lange, Sr., of German and Native American descent, was a general contractor who installed television antennas. His sister Stacey is a fashion designer. Two weeks after Lange's birth, his father went on trial for keeping $200,000 in counterfeit money for a loan shark, but was spared jail time out of the court's sympathy for his young son. In August 2003, Lange found out he is approximately twenty-five per cent American Indian after submitting a sample of his DNA for testing.
Lange attended Union High School, taking up baseball and became an all-county third baseman. His poor grades required him to attend summer school in order to graduate. In August 1985, Lange was arrested for attempted bank robbery. He claimed he was trying to flirt with the teller by passing her a note that said he was armed and demanded $50,000. The teller took it seriously, triggering a silent alarm. His charge was reduced to disorderly conduct which required Lange to pay $500 in court fees and complete 25 hours of community service in March 1986. As part of his probation, Lange attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting from March to June 1987.
In 1985, Lange gained admission to Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey using a connection his uncle had with an employee of the admissions department. In one early assignment, he received a A grade for a presentation he made, telling stories about his friends and family to the class. "It was the first time I got a bunch of laughs in front of a crowd of total strangers and it felt amazing to get that reaction from people." After four weeks, Lange became bored "to death" and began to think of ways to quit. On October 18, in a sudden turn of events, his father fell off a ladder while installing an antenna and broke his back, becoming quadriplegic. Money soon became an issue in the family; Lange's mother took up a secretarial job and Lange spent a short time installing antennas himself. Lange recalled the situation: "We took out a second mortgage. Medicaid paid for a nurse eight hours a day. When my mother got back from being a secretary all day, she had to take care of him. Every night, she set her alarm clock to turn him so he wouldn't get bedsores." In 1987, the family contacted celebrities asking them to donate items for auction. Howard Stern, the only one to respond, sent them an autographed jacket and said on the air, "Does this guy think that if he puts the jacket on he's going to walk again?", which Lange and his father found funny. Lange's father died from complications of an infection in 1990, though he believes one of his father's "crazy friends" may have helped him to commit suicide.
On July 12, 1987, at age nineteen, Lange performed his first stand-up comedy routine at The Improv in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. He recalled, "I bombed for five minutes. Everyone thinks that they can do better. I was unprepared, I mumbled, and I forgot stuff. But I'm proud that I did it." Lange would not attempt stand up again for another four years. In 1988, Lange took acting classes for three weeks from Sandy Dennis at HB Studio in New Jersey; he quit after he could no longer afford them. In February 1991, Lange took up work as a longshoreman at Port Newark, loading ships at its orange juice pier.
1992–1995: Early career
In September 1992, Lange quit his longshoreman job to focus on a comedy career. During his search for work, his regular form of employment was driving a taxi in New York City. Lange's first paid gig as a stand up followed at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York for a payment of $30. He then became a paid regular for the first time at Comic Strip Live in Manhattan; the flexibility of his taxi job allowed him to perform sets at the club and resume work afterwards. Within a year, Lange landed a role in a dinner theater play, touring restaurants and catering halls across New Jersey. He then co-formed an improv troupe called Live on Tape which became a hit, selling out Caroline's on Broadway numerous times. The success of these shows led to a contract with the William Morris Agency where Lange met Peter Principato, his manager for the next ten years. Lange took up extra work with roles in commercials which were a "big step up", including a voiceover for Foot Locker, which entitled him to become a member of AFTRA. During this time, Lange developed an addiction to cocaine and alcohol.
1995–1997: Mad TV
At twenty-seven, Lange was chosen as one of the eight cast members selected to star in the sketch comedy series Mad TV, from the eight thousand that were screened. He flew to Los Angeles in May 1995 to shoot the television pilot which was picked up by the Fox network. Lange moved to Los Angeles two months later to film the first season with a salary of $7,500 per episode plus "a big signing bonus". Lange's cocaine abuse worsened during this time, doing it "like it was going out of style". In November 1995, after nine episodes had been shot, he attempted suicide after he ran out of cocaine, drank whiskey and "a bunch of pills", and wrote a suicide note to his mother and sister. He claimed, "I was 100 percent serious about dying". He was found by his Mad TV co-stars and taken to intensive care. Lange returned to New Jersey to complete a rehabilitation and counselling program. At its conclusion, he wrote a new forty-five minute stand up set that he felt "really proud of", and used his Mad TV fame to headline spots in comedy clubs around New York City, supported by further voiceover work for commercials.
In January 1996, Lange returned to Los Angeles to film the remaining episodes of the first season. Quincy Jones, the show's producer, supported Lange during rehab and sent him over on his private jet. Lange returned to form in his work, ranking his performance in these episodes as "the best I've ever done in sketch comedy", including the creation of his hit character, White Mama. In the summer of 1996, Lange secured his first major acting role for an independent film titled Puppet, starring Rebecca Gayheart and Fred Weller. He wrote, "To this day I have never seen it because I don't think it's possible to purchase a copy of it anywhere ... it was screened in a theater at least once, because my manager went to see it".
Filming for the second season of Mad TV began in August 1996. Two months later, Lange ended his sobriety and returned to doing cocaine. His time on the show ended in November 1996 when his agent and the show's cast and crew attempted an intervention. The incident began when Lange lost a $15,000 bet on the Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield boxing match and turned up to rehearsals "coked up". Lange fled the set, running through streets with his co-workers chasing him. It ended in the parking lot of a supermarket where Lange was arrested and served a short time in Los Angeles County Jail. The case was never tried in court. While in jail, Lange received a voice mail from Cameron Crowe who informed him that his scene with Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston for Jerry Maguire had been cut.
After his jail term, Lange returned to New Jersey in January 1997 and spent a short time in a psychiatric hospital. He described this time as the "most depressing period" of his life. He returned home afterwards, and fell into a clinical depression. After the producers at Mad TV convinced Lange to complete formal rehabilitation, he spent two months at Honesty House in Stirling, New Jersey. Lange's contract was not renewed for the show's third season, though Lange made a special appearance on the fifth, tenth, and fourteenth seasons.
1997–2001: Dirty Work and The Norm Show
In 1997, Lange left rehab and resumed stand up gigs in New York City. His depression improved soon after when he was invited to audition for two network television sitcoms, which boosted his confidence "astronomically". During the negotiations phase, Lange was contacted by comedian and actor Norm Macdonald who asked him to audition for the second lead role in his comedy buddy film Dirty Work (1998), directed by Bob Saget. Macdonald had not found a suitable actor for the part until he happened to tune into an episode of Mad TV for the first time, and saw a sketch that involved Lange delivering an out of character monologue which he found funny, and noted Lange "had a melancholy about him" that reminded Macdonald of comedian John Belushi. Macdonand recalled Lange's first reading of the script was "perfect" and it landed him the role, but in order to shoot the film, MGM studios required Lange to obtain an approval report from his rehab facility in New Jersey. Lange settled the matter by paying the center $1,500 as a private donor. He ended his cocaine use on June 14, 1997, saying he "got tired of it. I got to a point where this is killing me". Filming took place across two months in Toronto; to promote the film, Lange made his debut guest appearance on The Howard Stern Show with Macdonald on January 8, 1998. The pair returned once more that year, and twice more in 1999.
Lange credits Macdonald and Saget with rejuvenating his career when his exposure from Dirty Work led to several offers for film and television work. In late 1997, he accepted a $750,000 development deal with the Fox network. He wrote, "Those were the good times: I was able, all at once, to bail my mother out of every single financial debt she had." None of Lange's ideas for a show were picked up, but he supported himself by working at comedy clubs around Los Angeles and landing a role for a pilot television series in April 1998. Lange then accepted his second development deal, this time for NBC worth $350,000 which prevented him from being picked up by a rival network. From 1999 to 2000, Lange secured roles in the feature films Mystery Men, The Bachelor, The 4th Floor, and Lost & Found.
In 1999, Lange joined the cast of Macdonald's sitcom The Norm Show during its second season as Macdonald's half brother, Artie. Lange stayed with the show until its cancellation in 2001 after three seasons. He enjoyed a period of wealth during this time, being paid $35,000 per episode for a show with "ridiculously lame, easy jokes" and lived in a $4,000-a-month condo in Beverly Hills. "Even with that life", Lange added, "creatively I was empty inside".
2001–2009: The Howard Stern Show and other projects
In March 2001, comedian and writer Jackie Martling left The Howard Stern Show. Stern announced a "Win Jackie's Money" contest and had several comedians audition for the vacant seat by sitting in on some shows. Participants included Lange, Craig Gass, Doug Stanhope, Richard Jeni, Jeff Ross, Jim Florentine, and Ron Zimmerman. Lange was introduced to the show in 1982 by his father, and since became a big fan. He spoke about his invitation to take part in the contest: "There were a lot of great funny guys — guys that were funnier than me ... I remember saying to my manager, 'I am not the most talented guy in this group, but I guarantee that I'm the biggest fan'". After The Norm Show ended in April 2001, Lange returned to New Jersey and sat in on several shows between May and October 2001. Lange thought he blew his chance early on after he learned the jokes he was writing for Stern were not working out. "Instead they said, 'We're just gonna keep your mic on all the time ... if you say something funny, just say it as you. It's funnier when you say cause you're good with your own voice. Lange built a rapport with Stern, the show's staff, and the audience, and joined the show full time in October 2001.
On December 13, 2004, Lange released his first stand-up comedy DVD titled It's the Whiskey Talkin', formed of forty-five minutes of material he used when he was "playing more clubs". Lange said, "I worked really hard on that material, a major distributor put it out, people bought it and seemed to like it". When the DVD had its general release in February 2005, Lange began "an insane schedule" for the next six months to promote it, doing the radio show each weekday morning and stand up gigs nationwide on weekends.
In March 2005, Lange secured a deal with Ckrush Entertainment to star and executive produce his own comedy film, Artie Lange's Beer League. Development began in 2001 when Lange began to write a script with director and producer Frank Sebastiano, based on a seventeen-minute film Lange wrote, funded and starred in 2000 titled Game Day. The script was complete by 2002, and Ckrush agreed to fund a $2.5 million budget. The stress of putting the film together and doing gigs on weekends caused Lange to drink heavily and take "twenty painkillers a day". His attempts to cope from withdrawals failed; during one attempt to obtain more at a comedy gig, he instead bought heroin which began an addiction that lasted from March to June 2005, resulting in his absence from cast auditions and pre-production meetings. Lange wrote, "scoring heroin became my new hobby". Lange missed four days of work in June 2005, prompting concerns from his family and radio colleagues of a drug relapse. He stayed at home to get through the illness caused by withdrawals. When Sebastiano and production staff threatened to cancel the film if he did not show up, Lange obtained Subutex from a doctor that got him well enough to return to work. On the air, Lange put his absence down to excessive drinking and he needed time to recover. Filming was complete in July 2005, on time and within budget. The film premiered on September 13, 2006 at the Ziegfeld Theatre, followed by a limited release across North America. Lange revealed the true reason of his absence to Stern on September 21, 2006.
In June 2008, Lange headlined a comedy tour he formed, named Operation Mirth, with the United Service Organizations to entertain American troops serving in Afghanistan. He was inspired to do so after watching Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie, a documentary about comedian Jeffrey Ross' own USO tour in Iraq. Lange picked comedians Jim Florentine, Nick DiPaolo, and Dave Attell to join him, with The Howard Stern Show's producer Gary Dell'Abate as the tour's master of ceremonies. Later in the year, Lange and Attell recorded dialogue for the video game Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust, released in 2009.
In August 2008, Lange entered rehab after he cancelled his appearance on the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget. He had relapsed in heroin use in the previous seven weeks after he was offered it while drunk at a pool hall. Comedy Central were willing to cover the $65,000 in costs to send an ambulance for him to the airport and fly him to Los Angeles on a private jet with a doctor, but Lange declined and began treatment with a therapist recommended by comedian Richard Lewis, who contacted Lange to help.
In 2008, Lange signed a deal with Spiegel & Grau to write his first book Too Fat to Fish, a collection of memoirs across his life co-written by Anthony Bozza that "range from funny to dark, to tragic, to sad." Lange dedicated the book to Stern who wrote its foreword. Upon its release on November 11, 2008, Too Fat to Fish entered The New York Times Best Seller list at number one and held the position for one week. The book remained on the list's top ten for eleven weeks. It was referenced twice on the Top Ten List segment on Late Show with David Letterman. A paperback edition released in 2009 with an additional chapter, peaked at number six on the Best Seller paperback list.
By 2009, Lange was earning $700,000 a year for working with Stern and roughly $3 million a year from stand up gigs. In April, Lange relapsed from heroin and spent time away from radio to complete a 21-day rehab program in Florida. After seven days, he quit treatment and spent almost $4,800 on a hotel room, women, a haircut and two pairs of sunglasses. He returned home and booked three nights at Caroline's comedy club in the same week to earn $35,000 back. Lange lost 50 pounds in the following six months, and revealed his $200,000 offer to appear on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which he declined. On June 15, 2009, Lange made a controversial appearance on the first episode of Joe Buck Live, exchanging insults with host Joe Buck that HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said "bordered on bad taste" with a "mean-spirited" tone. The show was cancelled two episodes later. Buck defended Lange's comments and wrote the foreword to his second book in 2013.
In October 2009, Lange took time off from radio citing depression. His second stand up DVD and CD, Jack and Coke, was released a month later. Lange recorded the set at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City earlier in the year, composed of material mostly written in the past four years. Some of it was fifteen years old that needed further development before Lange felt it was suitable for recording. Jack and Coke reached number one on the iTunes Comedy Albums chart and entered its Top 20 Albums chart. Comedy Central aired the DVD as a special in 2010.
In November 2009, Lange cancelled his standup gigs booked for rest of the year and throughout 2010. He felt "really beat" from work and needed time recover from a further heroin relapse in April, write new material, and work on a second book which he had started under its working title, College is for Losers. The situation culminated on December 9, 2009 when Lange showed up for work at Sirius having spent the previous seven hours drinking whiskey and taking painkillers. During a commercial break, management told Lange to go home and take time off.
2010–present: Suicide attempt and resuming career
On January 2, 2010, Lange attempted suicide at his home by drinking bleach, slitting his wrists, and stabbing himself in the abdomen nine times with a 13-inch kitchen knife. He was found on the floor by his mother who, unbeknownst to him, had planned an intervention for him with his sister and friend and comedian Colin Quinn on the same day. Lange was taken to hospital for surgery, and was transferred to a psychiatric ward a week later. Management stated that Lange would be welcomed back onto The Howard Stern Show following his recovery, but Stern decided against it, thinking it would not be good for him. On September 27, 2010, eight months after the incident, Lange performed his first stand up routine as a surprise guest at the Comedy Cellar to a positive reception. However, the death of comedian Greg Giraldo from a drug overdose two days later sent Lange back into a depression at a time when he considered a "return to society". In April 2011, after showing no signs of improvement, Lange was forced into a detox facility in New Jersey by Colin Quinn and "two huge Irish guys". Lange wrote, "This wasn't an intervention, it was an ultimatum. Actually it was an abduction, which was exactly what I needed ... they dragged me, literally kicking and screaming". After three weeks at the facility, Lange was transferred to Ambrosia Treatment Center in Florida for two-and-a-half months and made a full recovery. Bruce Springsteen, one of Lange's favourite artists, contacted him personally during the process. Lange has since had "four or five" relapses between painkillers following an injury, alcohol and gambling, and continues to smoke.
Lange returned to radio on July 6, 2011 with comedian Nick DiPaolo as a stand in for Tony Bruno on Fox Sports Radio. The show was a test run after DiPaolo accepted a deal to host a late night sports comedy program on DirecTV and chose Lange as his co-host. The Nick & Artie Show launched on approximately 30 stations nationwide and SiriusXM on October 3, 2011. Following DiPaolo's departure in January 2013, Lange took over and hosted The Artie Lange Show with retired American football player Jon Ritchie until its cancellation in April 2014.
In 2013, Lange accepted an $800,000 advance from Touchstone Books to write his second book with Bozza, Crash and Burn. It was released on October 29, 2013 as a second memoir, covering his last few years on the radio with Stern to his second suicide attempt, the resulting depression, and his recovery. Lange said the book "is the most honest thing I've ever done in my life. I ... had to look at it again with my lawyer and I barely could get through it". It entered The New York Times Best Seller list under combined print and e-book sales at number eight and number twelve under hardcover sales.
Lange's one-hour stand-up comedy special, The Stench of Failure, aired on Comedy Central on October 18, 2014. On November 4, 2014, Lange sent out a series of tweets about a sexual fantasy between him and ESPN sportscaster Cari Champion set during slavery. He was Thomas Jefferson and Champion was a slave, and he attempts to whip her but fails. She beats him up and escapes. As a result, Lange received a lifetime ban from ESPN and Comedy Central cancelled a scheduled appearance.
In January 2015, Lange launched an uncensored subscription-based podcast titled The Artie Quitter Podcast. He records four episodes a week mainly from his home in Hoboken, New Jersey. Lange estimated the podcast gained "about 9,000" subscribers in its first year.
In November 2015, Lange played himself in Crashing, a television comedy series starring Pete Holmes for HBO with producer Judd Apatow. He will shoot further episodes in 2016. During this time, Lange recorded some material for a Mad TV reunion episode featuring several former cast members.
Lange began work on his third book with Bozza in December 2015. A required 25-page proposal was submitted to their publisher that they titled The Gambler: A Degenerate's Guide to Living on the Edge. The piece was a hit, and a release is scheduled for 2017.
From 2002 to 2006, Lange was in a relationship with Dana Cironi. He first met his future fiancée Adrienne Ockrymiek in 2009 at a tanning salon; they broke up in 2014.
Since 2001, Lange has lived in a penthouse in Hoboken, New Jersey which he bought for $620,000. In 2008, he bought a 7,000 square-foot summer home in Toms River, New Jersey for $2.5 million with one of the rooms renovated by the Man Caves television crew. He put the home on the market in 2010; it was sold in 2016.
Lange does not consider himself a liberal, though he is pro-choice, a supporter of gay rights, and a supporter of unions owing to his former career as a longshoreman. Crumbs Bakery offered an "Artie Lange" vanilla and chocolate cupcake, with partial proceeds going toward the Lifebeat HIV/AIDS charity until its closing. Lange is a convicted felon and cannot vote.
Lange has been critical of political correctness, saying "Political correctness is the direct enemy of comedy. Humor is to feel loose and not take yourself too seriously," Lange told FOX411. "You should be able to joke about everything race, religion; sexuality. Everything should be okay to joke about." However, during a 2013 HuffPost Live interview, he stated that he is "ashamed and embarrassed" by his previous use of anti-gay slurs and, while maintaining that he was never motivated by hatred and that he "still makes jokes about every group of people that there is", he is now more responsible when joking about sensitive subjects and avoids slurs, saying "if someone came to me and told me that something I said caused some kid to commit suicide, I'd be in a nuthouse for the rest of my life, I really would."
Stand up comedy
|2004||It's the Whiskey Talkin'||Image Entertainment|
|2009||Artie Lange: Jack and Coke|
|2014||The Stench of Failure||Comedy Central|
|1995–1997||Mad TV||Various characters including White Mama|
|1999–2001||The Norm Show||Artie Henderson|
|2004||Game Over||Turbo||Various episodes|
|2006||Fox Sports' 2006 World Series coverage||Himself||Series of promos alongside Jerry Stiller|
|Rescue Me||Mike Shea, Lou's cousin||Various episodes|
|2007||Entourage||Scott Segil||Season 3, Episode 16|
|2012||Louie||Truck driver||Season 3, Episode 6|
|2014||Inside Amy Schumer||Client||Season 2, Episode 7|
|Californication||Himself||Season 6, Episode 3|
|2015||The Jim Gaffigan Show||Himself||Season 1, Episode 6|
|1996||Puppet||Alexie||This film was never released.|
|Jerry Maguire||Sports radio host||Deleted scene; Tom Cruise yelled at him|
|1998||Dirty Work||Sam McKenna|
|1999||The 4th Floor||Jerry|
|Lost & Found||Wally|
|Mystery Men||Big Red|
|2000||Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth||Swim Coach Hasselhoff|
|2001||Gameday||Artie||Short, featured as extra on It's the Whiskey Talkin'|
|2002||Boat Trip||Brian||Refused to kiss co-star Will Ferrell|
|Mail Order Bride||Tommy||Jackie Martling also stars but they do not appear together|
|2004||Perfect Opposites||Lenny Steinberg||Also known as A Piece of My Heart|
|2005||Waltzing Anna||Jacob Kline|
|2006||Supertwink||The Plumber||A Howard Stern on Demand film|
|Artie Lange's Beer League||Artie DeVanzo|
|2010||Adventures of Serial Buddies||Golden Graham|