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Artie Lange on His Suicide Attempt and Life After Howard Stern

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Your life has to be so much easier now that you don't have to constantly worry about scoring drugs and maintaining this whole secret life.
It's a part-time job. In my case, a full-time job. It involves getting money from someone where you're not really alerting your accountants, the bank, talent promoters at gigs . . . Back at the Stern show, I was making an average of $80,000 a weekend, and some weekend I'd make $100,000. I'd tell my road manager, "Listen, I need $20,000 of that in cash."  

The promoters, especially in Las Vegas, just want to please you. They gave me cash. And my accountant says, "Oh, the gig was for this much." And I say, "Oh, well, I took some in cash." So I'd have to pay taxes on it. I always pay taxes. I made sure of that. I mean, that's what got Al Capone. [Laughs] But I would spend just pure cash on whatever I needed. There was gambling, too, but mostly it was to pay for dope. 

Then it's like, "OK, I'm going to get it. Now, do I get it delivered because I don't want to be seen? Am I going through withdrawals so I can't get it because I'm sick? Am I going through withdrawals on the Stern show?" There were times I'd call in sick because I was going through a full-blown withdrawal. I can't go sit there. I was on camera the entire time!

I had to manage all that. Also, I didn't know when I was going to get arrested. Am I gonna get killed? It's still a drug deal. These guys know I have quite a bit of cash on me all the time. And so there's all that stress and whatever. That's why that shit is so insidious! It's all worth it to get fucking high!

It's almost like you're two different people. I remember you let that intern on the Stern show sleep on your couch when he had nowhere else to go, but then you get stoned and punch out cops.
I know. Drugs will change your personality. I'd like to think I'm a good person deep down, but I'm definitely a drug addict.

You even loaned Jeff the Drunk money. Not a lot of people would do that.
I relate to him deep down. I always feel like I'm two shitty jokes away from being Jeff the Drunk. [Laughs] But I can be a mark. I can be a sucker. I've always been that way.

The nicer way of looking at that is to say you're a sweet guy that cares about people.
I think that deep down I am. When I grew up kids were saying, "Listen, I'm not saying you have to do this, but if you don't give me five grand tomorrow I'll be in jail. Or I'm gonna get shaken down." And I'm like, "Fuck. I have it. I have the five grand." I usually wind up doing it. And now, fuck, when I'm cash-poor I think about those kids and I want to strangle them, because I need that money back. 

Are your bookings down now that you're no longer on the Stern show?
I make less money, but I still make great money. I still play theaters. I make an average of $50,000 a weekend. It used to be 80.

That's still pretty great.
Yeah. I mean, I'm not going to bitch about it. I'm gonna walk around in today's economy bitching about that? I'll get hit with a bat. And I make really great money at DirecTV, especially if you talk about today's economy. There's also the book deal. It's gonna be a good year, and it was a good year last year, and I'm getting quite a bit of money for my special. They're paying stand-up really well these days. Well, certain stand-ups, if you have a following. Again, it's all the power of the Stern show. I was on that show every morning for eight and a half years, so you make a name for yourself.

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. He 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?" 

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

The Howard fans are so conspiracy-minded. I looked on the message board before I came here and everyone seemed insane. Some people thought Robin was never sick and she was under house arrest the whole time. Others are really fixated on you. They think there's some broader conspiracy to explain why you haven't been on the show.
I'm sure. I mean, it's simple enough. He just doesn't need anything nutty to happen . . . But some of that stuff on the Internet is scary. Robin under house arrest! What do they think she did?

I have no idea. It's bat-shit crazy. Some people just see conspiracy everywhere.
That's the epitome of a Stern fan. 

But they seem to hate the show, yet they spend all day listening and writing about it online.
It's true. Then they see you somewhere and they just kiss your ass . . . Again, a radio fan is a certain kind of thing, and then a Howard Stern fan is another type of thing that is much more intense. It's because he's so big. I remember how much fun those first four years were. Man, we were on a roll. We'd do a show in the morning and it was really funny. People were calling in going, "God, that was amazing. Everybody is talking about it at work." 

Then you walk down the street and construction workers are having lunch and yelling lines back to you. You felt alive. It was the greatest thing. It wasn't just New York. It was St. Louis. It was San Francisco. It was Seattle. It was everywhere. I think at one point when we were on regular radio they said that nine million people were listening. It was also a way for people in my life to keep track of what was going on in my life. My cousins, who I wouldn't see for months, would know what was going on. [Laughs]

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, okay, 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 DirecTV. 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. 

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