If you've seen Artie Lange on stage doing stand up or listened to him daily on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio then you know that his act is full of very P.C. stories and jokes. Of course the P.C. stands for pizza and coke because there's nothing politically correct about the act or the life of this very funny, wildly popular actor, comedian and radio co-host. He's unrepentantly a self-proclaimed New Jersey scumbag who loves hearty Italian meals, a class of whiskey, vending machine snacks, gambling, the occasional visit to a prostitute and, until recently, an on again off again heroin habit. But now he's clean and sober, well sober anyway, and the comedy is just as edgy. He returns to Pittsburgh Oct. 18 at Heinz Hall.
So, you've been off alcohol, heroin and gambling for the past month or two, and at least I assume you view these as positive things. Listening to the show and your act sometimes it's hard to tell?
I envy people who can do those things without creating chaos in their life. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people. I don't know when to stop anything. I guess that means I'm an addict, but to me I'm just normal, I don't know. If someone is able to do heroin everyday and then not want to do it, I think they're abnormal. I guess I miss being high, but I don't miss the chaos that goes along with it, what are you going to do.
Have you picked up any new vices to fill in the gaps, or just hitting the remaining ones harder?
I love these people that say 'you know what, Art, do you know what I replaced drugs with, running, hiking, I'm addicted to fitness.' I just want to punch them in the face. I don't understand that. It's like I was in a rehab once with these crackheads and they'd say to the guy, 'look, we want some crack, we're crackheads.' And the guy would say to them, 'well, at two o'clock we're playing scrabble;' and the crackheads would say, no you don't understand, we're not scrabble heads, we're crackheads.' The guy tells you scrabble is fun and you can't make the guy understand that getting a triple word score on the word zipper, while an amazing experience for a guy into scrabble, doesn't compare to crack.”
Was one of those things easier to give up then another? You've been gambling a long time?
I guess If I'm going to go back to one it would be gambling, but they say that's how it starts. But, at least with gambling there aren't any withdrawals.
Now that you're getting your life straightened out, are you talking about new topics on stage or do you still talk about the good old days of shitting your pants on heroin?
I talk about coke, I talk about all of it. Those things create chaos, but there's a lot of comedy in chaos once you look back at it. The fact that I'm on the wagon doesn't mean I'll start talking about gardens and flowers and cooking. In fact I'll probably talk more about it because it's clearer to me now what I went through.
You've been coming to Pittsburgh for years, are there any favorite places, restaurants or bars you like to visit or a particular meal you like to have while you're here?
When I first went there, there was that sandwich place everyone said you have to go to...
Yeah, that thing. And as a New Yorker, look I've had every type of sandwich you can imagine. When I go to another city they always say, 'You're from New York, huh? You got to go to this one place.' And I always say, yeah, we got one of those in New York, there's everything in New York. But let me let me tell you something, those sandwiches are extraordinary. That's another level.
I've heard you mention Pittsburgh a few times on the Stern, what's your best Pittsburgh story?
There are things that happened in Pittsburgh that didn't have anything to do with the city, it was just some drunken shit that would happen on the road. There was a really hot chick once when I was on stage at the Funny Bone, she asked me to come back to her place because she wanted to party and she had some coke. Coke is one thing I haven't done in a very long time. But she was really hot. They used to put us up at the Hawthorne Suites outside of town. She told me her room number and I told this other comic that I was with, I always thought he was a gay guy and I said you should go and hang with her because you're a gay guy and she won't feel threatened. But I knew that I couldn't go because look, I've always said if the devil ever showed up to see me, it would be a hot chick with coke. So he went there and the next day he told me he fucked her. He said 'she was really fucked up and we did coke.' So I asked, because I've done this with other people gotten sex because a chick thinks I'm another celebrity, do you think she knew you weren't me; and he said he didn't know. I think the chick still thinks I fucked her and did coke all night. I hope she doesn't tell people that. Plus I asked him, aren't you gay and he said he was bisexual. TO me that's gay and I was hoping that didn't come out because she would be thinking that was me and I was gay.
What celebrities have you been mistaken for that got you laid?
It didn't get me laid, but I was at a Cubs game in Chicago and then at a bar and I had just been on Conan O'Brien and these drunk chicks looked at me and ...said 'you're Andy Richter from Conan O'Brien' and I said yeah. I took pictures witht hem and everything and made out with the one girl and never told her I wasn't Andy Richter. SO the next time I did Conan's show I said toAndy Richter's wife if someone ever calls you, it wasn't him, it was me. The funniest part is once they sobered up they probably developed those pictures and said that's not Andy Richter, that's just some fat guy.
When you joined the Howard Stern show did you make the conscious decision to be completely open about your life or were you surprised that you've opened up as much as you have?
I'm surprised of exactly how much I've let fly. When I got the show, I said, fuck it, I'm going to be as honest as I can even about the negative shit in my life because that's when comedy is at its best. Listening to Richard Pryor talking about fucking up is like listening to a symphony. And I wanted to try and be that kind of comedian without queston. The first time I ever met Howard I told him about how I got arrested doing Mad TV and that helped me get on the show.
What's the best perk that you've gotten from being on the show?
There are only two perks any real man is interested in from any job in show business -- that's money and pussy and I think the show has helped me get more of both.
Artie Lange, Oct. 18, Heinz Hall; $42.50-77.50.