Comedian Artie Lange is back and happy to laugh at himself

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Raspy, real, unfiltered, funny and troubled; these are all words that come to mind when you think of Artie Lange. You may know Lange from his many years on “The Howard Stern show” or his movie “Beer League.”

It's said that comedy is pain plus time; Artie Lange is pain without the benefit of time. He brings his brutally honest comedy show to the Byham Theater on April 13.

Patient, calm and reflective, Artie's comedy is an overdose of reality that makes the audience thankful for their lives by laughing at the challenges that Lange faces on a daily basis.

On Jan. 2, 2010, Lange was found on the floor of his New Jersey home after he repeatedly stabbed himself with a kitchen knife. Miraculously, he survived the incident through surgery, hospitalization and rehabilitation.

Today, the comedian is making a comeback with his own sports/comedy satellite-radio/DirecTV program, “The Artie Lange Show,” an upcoming book, “Crash and Burn” and a stand-up comedy tour.

Unafraid to offend, Lange, 45, talks about topics that would get other comedians booed off the stage, but his likability allows him to pull it off with hilarious results. Lange's show is a lot like taking a New York taxi ride; you often don't know where you're going and you're not sure the driver does either, you're scared and exhilarated at the same time — but you don't care because you know it's something you will be able to talk about the rest of your life.

Question: What makes Artie Lange laugh?

Answer: Dave Attell, Dave Chapelle, I loved “Jackass” and Howard Stern, of course; he's just so real and funny. I also like the Coen Brothers movies.

Q: What can we expect from the Artie Lange show?

A: A one-hour comedy set — 95 percent of my life and observations I've made over the last few years with two or three of my favorite bits from the past. It's my life-tragic; it's kind of like my therapy.

Q: You had to grow up fast with your father passing at an early age. What effect did that have on you?

A: It was very hard; I got depressed. I didn't handle it very well. It took me awhile to grow up. I turned to drugs, gambling and alcohol. I tried to let my mom have her space. When he died, all I wanted to do was buy my mom a house, and I was able to do that. It took time; now, I'm older, more wise.

Q: The world loves Artie Lange; you are the only comedian to get a standing ovation at the beginning of your show. Does Artie love himself?

A: Yes, I now like me. I like what I've become. The smoke has cleared. I'm still standing and doing my best work ever.

Q: I really like the brutal honesty of your comedy. Tell me about your creative process.

A: I don't always write stuff word for word. Sometimes, something just hits me and I try to record it on my phone or write it down. I like to get on as many stages as I can. … I will work on it six nights a week and try to hit as many as 10 open stages a night. It helps me find the pacing of the joke, the laugh lines, and the pauses. When it's polished, I like Caroline's. I love that club.

Q: That's one of the things I loved about your show, how unhurried it is. Silence is one of the hardest things for comedians, yet, you use it for great effect.

A: I'm glad you brought that up. Young comedians have a tendency to rush. Some clubs you need to rush, but I think, the better the comedian, the more laughs from pauses they get. Let the people enjoy the joke you just told them.

Q: Can you talk about the suicide attempt and how are you today?

A: It was depression and the drugs (heroin). It was my darkest. I talk about it on stage … suicide. Why I tried it and didn't do it. I used to want to jump off a building but I had a deathly fear that I would land on someone. Can you imagine walking to work and Artie Lange lands on you? I couldn't live with that.

Q: What would you say to someone who feels his or her life is hopeless?

A: To me, today, it's not a day-to-day struggle. I was coming off a lot of drugs then. I would tell them to try to fight through the depression. Look around: 95 percent of people are OK. You can't get caught up with this problem, that problem. Life is better than this. Sit down and look around. I'm enjoying my life more now.

Q: Any special memories of Pittsburgh?

A: I remember going to the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh and then doing my show at the Funny Bone. I love walking around the city; the bridges and, especially, I love the people.

Comedian Matt Wohlfarth is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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