“Lamentations Of A Jersey Prince” by AUGIE PAGAN
BY JONATHAN VALANIA In advance of his show at the Keswick tomorrow night and in the wake of the The Great ESPN-Twitter Reverse Mandingo Masturbation Fantasy Fiasco, we got badboy fatass funnyman Artie Lange on the horn. DISCUSSED: The Eagles, The Fightins, Riley Cooper, Woody Allen, robbing banks, opiate addiction, the ESPN-TWITTER fiasco, why he’s not backing down, why he shouldn’t, the struggle to stay sober in a business full of “hot babes with blow,” falling off the wagon, John Candy, Chris Farley, his work with Wounded Warriors, the double standard of getting banned for life from ESPN for making a bad joke on Twitter while Stephen A. Smith tells women not to provoke the Ray Rice-style beatdowns they get from their professional athlete boyfriends and he’s still on the air, and ESPN’s Skip Bayless saying the Kobe Bryant rape allegations gave him “sizzle” and “edge” and helped him sell more sneakers and he’s still on the air, but when a comedian tweets (an admittedly tasteless, ill-advised, and not very funny) joke about a fat-fuck, needle-dick antebellum plantation owner getting his fat ass kicked by Cari Champion it triggers an absurdly over the top and jaw-droppingly hypocritical overreaction of apocalyptic proportions.
PHAWKER: Before we get into any of the more controversial stuff, let’s talk about Philly sports for a sec. What’s your take on the Eagles this year?
ARTIE LANGE: They look as exciting and they look as good as they looked in recent years, Mark Sanchez if he’s put in the right system he can be the get that gets them to the final four at least, would like to see what he does in the Superbowl. I think there’s a real reason to be excited there for Eagle the fans.
PHAWKER: How about the Phillies?
ARTIE LANGE: I think the Phillies should have snatched that last series from the Yanks in ’09 to solidify a little bit of a really significant era. In the last three or four years I think they’ve been more middle of the pack coming up but you know they got a ring in the last decade, not a lot of teams can say that. Look at the Cubs.
ARTIE LANGE: You better not fuck up in front of them, they do make you play and perform at a higher standard, I’ll tell you that. They pay a lot of money to see these games, so they hold you to it. They’re forgiving if you’re good. Look at what’s his face, Riley Cooper. Sometimes the upper deck of an Eagles game is as close as I’ve ever been to a Klan meeting. But they don’t seem to care what color you are if you’re good.
PHAWKER: Going back to ancient history for a second, in August of 1985 you were arrested for attempted bank robbery when you passed a note to a teller demanding $50,000. You said that you were just flirting with her. I guess my question is who taught you how to flirt with women?
ARTIE LANGE: Woody Allen. I was trying to do a bit from Take the Money And Run, I thought she’d laugh but I was wrong. I signed my name at the end of it. I put ‘act natural’ in the note, that’s exactly what he says in the movie. I was in the bank with my girlfriend at the time she had an account, she was 18, I was 17 and when I saw the teller wasn’t taking it as a joke I was scared to death I grabbed the note and said ‘I’m so sorry,’ threw it in the garbage can and casually left. We just missed the SWAT team that pulled up, apparently the teller stepped on the silent alarm, and when we turned ourselves in we were handcuffed. My girlfriend, an Italian girl, I think her father was connected, he was a scary guy he sat me down and in broken English he said “When you-a rob a bank-a, you no take-a my daughter.” He didn’t have a problem with the bank robbery, he just said don’t take my daughter with you. I begged the cop “Whatever you do to me I don’t care, just don’t do anything to her” and they let her off with nothing. I got time served after spending a couple nights in the joint, I did 25 hours community service and it got busted down to disorderly conduct, but the original charge was attempted bank robbery.
PHAWKER: Wow that’s impressive at 17, man, that’s street cred.
ARTIE LANGE: I don’t fuck up halfway man, I do it all the way, that’s me.
PHAWKER: Speaking of which let’s talk about the ESPN thing, can you just tell me what were the circumstances under which this happened, were you drinking or high or…
ARTIE LANGE: No, no no no no. People don’t realize is I was trying to be funny. In my opinion I was being funny. Joe Rogan read the tweets out loud on his podcast, he had the decency to read the tweets in a room full of guys and they all laughed every time, and you know what? It was funny and if this is all it is we don’t know what the controversy is. No, I just refuse to even remotely feel sorry for it. It’s retarded, it’s a waste of time, and even if you don’t think they’re funny I disagree with you. I would do it again. And I was perfectly sober. I would joke about the same thing again. On stage that night I did joke about it again. It was a hip smart crowd, smart comedians, some black, some white, some women and they all laughed. Do you know why? Because they are not stupid.
PHAWKER: People don’t seem to be able to see past the slave-slave owner premise, but the fact is you’re making fun of yourself, she was the one who beat the shit out of you, laughs at your paltry penis and then runs free.
ARTIE LANGE: Listen I only came after she was freed. I point that out, I only ejaculated after she was freed from slavery. At no point do I come while she’s still a slave. See this conversation — I’m joking again, it’s so ridiculous what we’re talking about.
PHAWKER: I completely agree with you. You’re a comedian who told a joke. Maybe people don’t think it’s funny, maybe they think it’s gross and tasteless. But it was just a joke.
ARTIE LANGE: I’m not blaming you, I’m just saying I get mad at these people when I start talking about it. They are such morons on Twitter. I do stuff on Twitter just to get a reaction from idiots more than anything. I have almost 300,000 followers and with that many people you’re gonna get some morons. Some guy actually thought I was an ESPN correspondent, he said “ESPN has to fire their correspondent Artie Lange, that was out of line!” You know what, if I was a correspondent for ESPN, I totally agree, that was bad, I should have been fired but I’m not — I’m a comic.
PHAWKER: You’ve been banned for life from ESPN, correct?
PHAWKER: I find it curious though that ESPN banned you for life, meanwhile Stephen A. Smith was talking about Ray Rice cold-cocking his wife in an elevator and he said that women need to be more careful not to provoke domestic violence. And he’s still on the air at ESPN. Skip Bayless said that the Kobe Bryant rape allegations actually helped him sell sneakers, that they gave him “sizzle” and “edge” and he’s still on the air at ESPN.
ARTIE LANGE: How about Ray Lewis? He didn’t murder somebody but he was standing two feet from a friend who did. He refused to cooperate with the police in the murder investigation and ESPN made him a sports analyst. I mean, come on! Ray Rice hit a woman so hard that she got knocked out, had to be dragged out of an elevator, then they covered it up, lied about it, there was a six month discussion about whether or not to punish him. I made a couple of tweets where I’m Thomas Jefferson and a black chick is whipping me in a sexual fantasy, and I’m gone, it’s not even a discussion. It’s so infuriating how dumb people are, and how scared they are. Comedy Central buckled right away. I couldn’t believe what my agent was telling me. Two hours before the car was coming to to take me to tape @Midnight, they call and say I can’t go on the show because they were getting pressure. I said, “Pressure from who? What the fuck do they think is gonna happen if I show up? Who do they think I am Muhammad Ali? They’re giving me credit for being a little more important than I am. There’s gonna be nobody there, nobodies gonna give a shit. They’re fucking afraid of the pressure! I get so fucking mad!
PHAWKER: Was there any other professional fall out from all of this, as far as engagements or sponsorship deals, anything like that?
ARTIE LANGE: Yeah I was booked to do — I do a lot of charity work for veterans, Wounded Warriors and stuff like that, me and Dave Atell do quite a bit of charity work for that. I was booked to do a fundraising show and the charity wouldn’t let me go on — after people bought tickets thinking I was going to perform. People tweeted at me they were driving in from Buffalo, it was a gift to someone who is a fan of mine who was a Wounded Warrior blah blah blah. And I said “You’re gonna make me disappoint these people?” These older women who ran the charity were afraid of something happening. You know what happened? Only 30 people showed up to the 300 seat venue — 30 people showed up, it was a bust. So these people in all their wisdom, cost money to that charity. Meanwhile, I GAINED 12,000 new Twitter followers and four gigs I have coming up sold out in minutes — these are 2000 seat theaters — sold out in minutes after all this happened. So thank you to them, but fuck you to them.
ARTIE LANGE: Sure.
PHAWKER: Where are you at in that right now, are you like totally clean and sober right now or…
ARTIE LANGE: I fell off the wagon eight months ago, it spiked my blood sugar and I’ve got diabetes so I had to go to the hospital. What happened was I drank all the booze in a mini bar in a hotel in Detroit because I had to fly to LA and I had anxiety and I didn’t want to fall off the wagon with dope because heroin was my main thing so I drank. That was eight months ago, since then, not a pill or an aspirin, I’m 8 months clean and working the program. Before that I had 2 ½ years clean and sober. So, you know, I’m working hard at it. I’m 47, I’m closer to the end of my life then I am to the beginning, especially given the life I live, it could be any day, who the fuck knows. The boredom is hard, being on the road is hard, running all over the place, hot chicks with blow, and pills and whatever the fuck, coming up to me all the time — I’m trying, brother, but it ain’t easy.
PHAWKER: Well we’re worried about you, man. I’d much rather live in a world with Artie Lange than without. But I look at you and I’m worried that you’re gonna do a John Candy or a Chris Farley one of these days. I miss those guys. I’m sure you hear this all the time, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know and I don’t mean to scold you. But I worry about you, man.
ARTIE LANGE: Listen, Farley was 33, I made it past that point. I was in Dirty Work, which was Chris’s last movie, I hung out with him for a month up in Toronto while we were shooting the film and he died two months later. Chris was only 33, I was 29 at the tim. I’m 47 now, I got 14 years on him already and I think Candy was 43 [when he died]. It worries me, too, man and I really appreciate the sentiment. I’d like to live in a world with Artie Lange too, I don’t know, I just, I have not lead a healthy life. I’ve had an interesting life, though. Some philosopher I like to quote said the worst sin you can commit is a boring life and that’s the one sin I have not committed, thank God! It hasn’t all been happy, hasn’t all been good, but it hasn’t been boring. I would try to live the same way with the same fervor again if I had to do over — but a lot of it was booze, dope, crazy women, gambling, a lot of gambling, stress and anxiety from a career that’s lots of traveling. I’ve spent time in jail, I’ve been in mental homes, and rehab. And I’ve also partied on yachts outside of San Tropez. But I don’t know, man, I wanna stick around, but if not my will is all settled and the people I care about are taken care of, and there’s some videotape left behind that I’m proud of, a lot that I’m not, and in 100 years no one will give a shit anyway, time just keeps moving on. But I appreciate the kind words. Listen, man, a lot of people have tried…doctors…I’m nuts, I think it comes with the territory. We’re all a little off but at least we try to be different. If the world wants the banter they get on The Today Show and that’s all they want, then god bless. I think we can do better, or at least more. You know it’s sad when people can’t say what they want to say.
ARTIE LANGE: I think a little bit of both if that makes any sense, that answer probably makes you think I’m nuts. I think being nuts helps me be funnier. I’m definitely a comedian that, I’m not a comedian like Ray Romano or Jon Stewart where I go over with every crowd, I’m not that kind of comic. I’m polarizing, there’s a lot of people who don’t think I’m funny, but it is what it is. People who don’t think I’m funny say “Well why do you keep being a comedian? You suck at it.” I’m like, “Guys I have evidence that enough people think I’m funny that I can make a very good living at it. And that’s what I’m doing. Why wouldn’t I? You know, why wouldn’t I?
PHAWKER: Well, I think that’s a good place to stop. Listen man thank you very much for taking the time to do this, and good luck going forward with all of this. Don’t let the bastards get you down. This too shall pass.
ARTIE LANGE: Alright John, I appreciate the kind words, man. Good luck with everything.