Las Vegas Sun

March 29, 2017

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Q+A: Artie Lange:

Shticking with Howard Stern

Sidekick says whatever he wants, pulls in the bucks, and picks and chooses gigs on the side

If You Go

  • Who: Artie Lange
  • When: 8 and 11 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Mandalay Bay
  • Tickets: $45 to $67; 632-7580

His voice is gravelly after spending more than five hours on satellite radio chatting it up with Howard Stern and his cadre of characters.

Artie Lange has a Jersey accent and that street-smart way of saying things.

Since joining the Stern menagerie seven years ago he has gone from a nickel-and-dime world of small comedy clubs and failed movies and TV shows to being a highly paid stand-up comedian who can get deals done.

And he does it without worrying about tarnishing his image. The tarnished image probably accounts for much of his success.

Lange is a former cast member of Fox’s “MadTV.” He has appeared in such films as “The Bachelor,” “Old School,” “Elf” and “Beer League,” which he also co-wrote.

He has recurring roles in two hit TV series — “Entourage” on HBO and “Rescue Me” on FX.

And he will be at Mandalay Bay on Friday, making sure the Super Bowl weekend gets off on the right foot — namely drinking and gambling.

Lange spoke to the Sun by phone from New York. (Since this is a family newspaper and not satellite radio, our censors kept the bleeper close by.)

Q: Has performing in Las Vegas on Super Bowl weekend become a tradition with you?

I get a lot of money for the gigs. I tend to attract the same kind of crowd as what I am — alcoholic losing gamblers. They’re hoping I’ll lose whatever they pay me and get a free show, or maybe even make money on the show. I get quite a bit of money to perform on Super Bowl weekend in Vegas. I’ve been here the last six years in a row.

Do you actually bet on the games or is that just part of your shtick?

I like to bet on most of the games in the playoffs, and as many as I can in the regular season. I’ve bet on every Super Bowl since 1980. This year I like the Giants to cover; they’re getting 12 right now. I like the Giants maybe not to win outright but certainly to cover. I like it with the spread.

But New England seems to have destiny going for it this year.

As a Giants fan, I think it would be great to mess that (bleep) destiny up.

Tell us about the radio show. Are you happy with it?

Creatively, it’s the greatest (bleep) thing ever. There’s nothing we can’t say. It’s uncensored comedy on the radio. It’s unreal.

How is the Sirius listenership? Are the numbers up, down?

When we first signed on (January 2006) there were 700,000 people; now there’s 8 million — so slowly but surely we’re creeping up there. Hopefully we’ll merge with XM and get even bigger.

Does saying anything you want on the air pose a creative challenge?

That’s a challenge for people who might consider themselves talented artists, which I don’t. I welcome the lack of challenge. I like being able to say whatever I want. I think the sentence for an adult is funnier with an “f” word in it here and there — that’s the type of (bleep) I grew up on. I like it better. Is it more of a challenge to be clean and funny? Absolutely. But if adults are paying their money why would I challenge myself like that? I’m going to give them what I can.

How long are you on the air?

Usually five hours, 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The only thing I hate about it has nothing to do with satellite or regular radio. It’s the time. We do a 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. thing. I’m a comedian by heart. I’m nocturnal. I got the one (bleep) job in comedy that’s like having a paper route. Other than that, it’s great.

Five hours is a lot of airtime. How do you find enough to talk about for five hours?

We found out that all of us are such narcissist blowhards, we (bleep) love having opinions of our own. We love the sound of our own voices. We find it’s hard to keep it in the five hours. We just love to (bleep) and so we fill the time rather quickly. That and the phone calls and the guests. It goes very quickly.

Is being on the air for five hours draining? Do you leave all your emotions there in the studio?

It hurts personal relationships, I can tell you that. I do stand-up on weekends. I dated a girl for four years in the heart of the Stern show. I’ll never forget this. I was in Dallas — I did the Stern show, then I did two shows on a Friday night in Dallas. I flew out right after the show Friday morning. So I was on the air from 6 to 10 (a.m.) in New York City on Friday and onstage at 9 p.m. in Dallas — did two shows, got offstage at 2 a.m. It was like I was basically up for 24 hours. My girlfriend came with me and we went to go get a late-night bite to eat and she said, “When we’re together you never talk” and I go, “That’s because I’m talked out, Baby. I got nothing to say. I want to hear what you have to say.” She didn’t think I was enthusiastic enough about the relationship because I was all spent by the time I got to her. So, yeah. You do leave a portion of it in the studio.

Are the cast members friends, or just getting paid to do a job?

I’ve heard stories about people who have radio jobs together on the air and hating each other. When your purpose is comedy, personally I don’t know how they could do it. If I hated these people I couldn’t. The whole show is about having fun together. There are times where we get on each other’s nerves. (Bleep), you work together for years three feet from somebody five hours a day, any human being’s going to get on your nerves, but it’s never gotten to the point where I dislike anybody at all. I love them all as friends and that’s the only reason it works.

How has being on the Howard Stern show affected your career?

As a stand-up comedian people ask me that. I have a very obvious black and white answer. Before I was on the Howard Stern show I was playing clubs like the Funny Bone in Pittsburgh, 300-seaters. I was making 500 bucks a set. After five years on Stern I sold out Carnegie Hall in three hours and made 75 grand for the set. That’s it. I can’t put it better to you than that. The show is the reason. I wrote a movie with my buddy (“Beer League,” 2006). If I was on a sitcom still or on “MadTV” still, it would have sat on the shelf. Because I was on Stern for a few years the movie got made the way we wanted it to get made. It got a premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. There were distributor deals. Comedy Central. I put out a DVD (“It’s the Whiskey Talkin’,” 2004) of my own stand-up in concert — uncensored ’cause I was able to own it and make more money than I would have (bleep) doing it for Comedy Central or HBO, and I went from playing clubs to the Carnegie Halls of the world. That’s the Stern show. That’s what happened.

Are you working on any major projects?

Every year for the last few years I’ve had an outside project. One year it was my stand-up DVD, which I taped in Phoenix and toured to promote all year. Then I did the movie — finished writing it, shot it, promoted it. This year I got a book deal. Where’s a guy like me going to get a book deal? I got half a million dollars to write a book of my short stories that I’ve told on the air, and some that I haven’t. So that’s what I’m working on this year.

Is it an autobiography?

Nothing linear. None of the stories have to connect, except for the fact that they happened to me. All the stories are basically 99 percent true, with a little embellishment here and there for comedy. But they’re all stories that happened to me. In that sense it’s autobiographical, but not a full linear autobiography.

Have you thought about your future after Stern?

I’ll do stand-up my whole life. I started at 19 and I’ll continue to do that forever. I’m lucky enough to get recurring roles on “Rescue Me” and “Entourage” — two hit shows. I’m confident I can act in television for as long as I want. Possibly get a radio show after Howard. Maybe a film thing. You know, when you know how to do stand-up it’s fun ’cause you can always do that if you need to. I’ll play it by ear, but I’m confident I’ll be able to get some other work that’s high profile.

Is there a time limit for the Stern show or is it just going to go forever?

I’ve been there seven years. Howard’s been doing it for 25 now in New York. The same with Freddie (Norris) and Robin (Quivers) and Gary (Dell’Abate). Right now I play it by ear. My contract says I can leave tomorrow if I want. It’s been that way most of the past seven years and I’ve never left permanently. The stuff I’ve done a few days here and there when I took off, I always came back. So far nothing as exciting as this has come along. Right now I’ll stay put. Three weeks from now something could happen where I’ll leave, but I doubt it. Contractually, it’s possible though.

The most common question you get probably is what’s Howard Stern really like. So, what’s he really like?

I got to tell you. People say, “Yeah, he’s a nice guy off the air. He’s a pussy cat.” I’ll put it to you this way. I’m an Italian kid. I have a younger sister. I’m a typical Italian brother, very, very protective. I’ve been in show business for 12 years, OK, and the only celebrity I’ve ever met who I would be totally 100 percent comfortable with my sister dating where he would treat her good, and never hurt her and be monogamous, is Howard Stern. People don’t believe that but it’s the (bleep) God’s honest truth. He’s the only guy I’ve met with any form of celebrity status I’d let my little Italian sister date. He’s an honorable guy. He’s a good boss and a good friend.

Everyone speaks spontaneously on the show. Do you ever embarrass yourself by what you say?

In addition to my sister I also have an Italian mother. Believe me I get way embarrassed, but you’ve got to shake it off and look at the checks and hope my kids are more sophisticated and go to law school or medical school. I’ll be the unsophisticated slob to make the money and hopefully they’ll do something important with it.

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