It's been a long road for Artie Lange, the self-deprecating comic and master storyteller who spent nine years as a co-host on Howard Stern's morning radio show.
In the four years since his much-publicized suicide attempt and departure from the Stern show, Lange, who has never shied away from discussing his struggles, has been through mental hospitals and drug rehab facilities.
These days Lange, 45, says he's sober, newly engaged and happy to be working in comedy again.
He currently hosts the syndicated “The Artie Lange Show,” broadcast locally on WHPT-FM (102.5 The Bone) and plans to release “Crash and Burn,” a follow-up to his New York Times bestselling memoir “Too Fat To Fish,” on Oct. 29.
On Saturday, he visits St. Petersburg to perform stand-up at the Mahaffey Theater.
TBO: You've always come off as a very blue collar guy, you even worked as a longshoreman before you started in comedy. What was your “I've made it moment”?
ARTIE LANGE: I think it was when “Mad TV” got picked up for a second season. Up to then, it wasn't real. My manager at the time actually said, “Congratulations, you're in show business.” Suddenly I had all this stand-up booked because I was on the show. I was getting offers, making more money than I ever had. But, as great as that is, it's pretty dangerous for someone who's self destructive.
TBO: You're a great storyteller. Do you have any stories about coming to Tampa in the past?
AL: The last time I was in Tampa was for Bubba the Love Sponge's wedding. Howard (Stern) got a private jet, and 18 of us flew down there for the weekend and we had a blast. Other than that, I haven't been there much, but I love it there.
TBO: “Too Fat to Fish” was a great book with a lot of random stories from your life. Is “Crash and Burn” similar to that?
AL: The new book is the most honest thing I've ever done in my life. I just had to look at it again with my lawyer and I barely could get through it. It's about the last four years, when I was in mental institutions, rehabs, hurting myself, being in the hospital. It just starts to show how a successful guy and self-made man has everything go down the toilet because of a drug habit. It's the only thing standing between him being multi-multimillionaire. But I'm off the drugs now. Now it's just eating.
TBO: I know you're a big Yankees fan. Is it tough to watch this season?
AL: Here's how much of a jaded Yankees fan I am: I just consider this a season off. I'm actually fine with it. I'm like “we've got enough rings,” this is a nice year off from all the traffic (around the stadium). There's no sadness.
TBO: Do you still like to bet on sports?
AL: I find that once I stop gambling I'm not as big a sports fan as I was, because I got no money on it. There's nothing more fun than being at the sports book at the Mirage, and you have a bet on a lacrosse game, and you know absolutely nothing about lacrosse. You know you're a degenerate gambler when you're walking around the Mirage at 4 a.m. with an eight ball in your pocket going “anybody know the lacrosse score?”
TBO: I know you were on Stern show for a decade, but how did you know you'd be good as the main host of your own show?
AL: I didn't. I still don't know if I am. I'm just winging it every day. I don't have any formal training or anything. I don't like to prepare because I'm too lazy. That's why I could never date, like, a dominatrix. I could never put on a rubber suit and go, uh, build a deck or something, before sex. I like it immediate. I go on instinct. I get on the radio and I talk like me and it's not refined.
TBO: Will you ever go on Howard's show as a guest, and has the opportunity come up?
AL: I have a new book coming out October 29, so it seems like a good time to do it. It's up to him though. He's always been great. You know I put him in an awkward situation with my stuff. There's no hard feelings. I sent (Stern show producer) Gary (Dell'Abate) some books, so we'll see.
TBO: You've had a crazy life. Is it the things that happen to people in their lives that make a comedian, or are people born with it?
AL: A lot of funny people try to become comics, and they can't do it. They're funny, and technically they're good comics, but on stage they're boring because they have a boring life. So you're looking for the combo. If you're funny and a lot of crazy (expletive) happened to you, that's the perfect situation.
TBO: What can we expect at your stand-up show in St. Petersburg?
AL: The hour I'm touring with, it's got a lot to do with my stint at rehab and the mental institution, plus my stupid opinions on stuff like modern technology, social media and some local celebs. Honestly, it's a lot of hate-fueled ranting. It's therapeutic as hell. I use the audience as a shrink, a shrink that doesn't talk back and they pay you instead of charging you. If they're laughing, that means they're connecting, and if they're connecting, then I feel like I'm not a lunatic.