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Lange feels ‘absolutely fine,’ and that’s no joke

“I’ve got to just talk how I talk and tell the truth, and if people don’t believe me, that’s my fault for the past that I’ve led. Hopefully people will see in time that I’m doing better than I was,” said Artie Lange.Adrenne Ockrymiek

Artie Lange sounds like he's gargling his last words, speaking with the Globe by phone in advance of his appearance at the Wilbur Theatre on Saturday. "I've never felt better," he says. Anyone who has read "Crash and Burn," his latest memoir — his first was 2008's "Too Fat to Fish" — knows Lange has lived through much worse than the cold he says he is trying to fight off. In 2010, he tried to kill himself in his New Jersey apartment, slitting his wrists, drinking bleach, and stabbing himself in the stomach nine times. This was after years of addiction to heroin and other drugs and, he writes, becoming obsessed with the money he was earning from his increasingly high-profile stand-up gigs. He lost the job of a lifetime with "The Howard Stern Show" and burned an impressive number of bridges.

It's not the first time he has claimed he has cleaned up, but he's had a lot of help, from friends and family to Robert Downey Jr.'s assistant to fellow comic Colin Quinn. After his suicide attempt, he received a supportive call from one of his idols, Bruce Springsteen. But now Lange has his own show on DirecTV, and he's engaged to his longtime girlfriend. Cold or not, Lange is feeling much better.


Q. How much different is it to host your own show now after years of being in a supporting role on Stern?

A. It's way different. Howard is such a big figure, the best who's ever done it. It really is a shadow you're in. But it's also a bunch of fun. No matter what happens [with Stern], he's got your back and nothing could really go wrong 'cause it's him. So you have that safety net. With my own show, it's a feeling of it still could get crazy at any moment.


Q. I was wondering how much of writing these books is just correcting what you see as the conventional wisdom about you and your past?

A. Some of it's correcting it, some of it's confirming it. Some of it is just new information where you go, well, if you thought that was nuts, what do you think of this? I try to get it out there, when it's in book form, as honest as possible. You're not a slave to the punch line the way you are in stand-up. So I try to make these books very truthful. And just let the chips fall where they may.

Q. Is it hurting you to talk right now? You sound very gravelly.

A. I'm getting over a sore throat. It sounds way worse than it is. After we're done here I'm going to rest up.

Q. You talked so much in the book about how "resting" is a euphemism for sleeping off a high. Does it ever make you nervous now that if you are actually resting, you can't ever tell anybody?

A. Yeah, this time it's actual resting. I think about that all the time — OK, what are people going to think, blah blah blah. If I think that way, I'll go nuts. Literally. So I've got to just talk how I talk and tell the truth, and if people don't believe me, that's my fault for the past that I've led. Hopefully people will see in time that I'm doing better than I was. But I can't blame somebody for being suspicious, that's for sure.


Q. Are you doing well now? In an interview a couple of weeks ago, you said you'd had a couple of relapses but you'd been clean for three weeks.

A. I'm absolutely fine now. In, say, the last 20 months I've had two relapses. Neither one of them lasted for more than a day. The worst thing to happen would be something leads to going on a run where you go nuts. That's when it gets bad. That's when, for me, it could end up with me in jail or being dead.

Q. Did you ever think: If bleach drinking and knife wounds couldn't kill me, what could?

A. I don't know to this day how I did that. I don't know what was going through my mind. It was disgusting. But, you know, I have to say, I've never felt better. Well, it's all relative, of course. I might have felt better when I was in 11th grade.

Q. You mention frequently that a certain portion of your fan base considers you a hero for the drinking and drugs. Does that make it harder for you to interact with them?

A. It can at times. I'll tell you, most of my fans, thank God, are smart people and good people. They care for me. That's the beauty of the relationship you build with radio fans. They feel they know you. They feel like your family. And ultimately they just want you to be OK.


Q. You also say frequently during the book that you were always or almost always funny. Is that something you think is just hard-wired, it's on a different circuit in your brain from whatever else is going on?

A. Yes. Absolutely. You've got to keep it separate because it's how you make a living. You have to consider every single moment's going to be on a talk show, and then make it seem spontaneous at the same time. I really think out these appearances to the point where, recently I was on "Conan O'Brien" with two of the Red Sox [Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes]. I really tried to find out everything I could about each one of those guys and went out there with guns a-blazing, trying to create something that could be kind of a magical thing. It came out really well. I was proud of it.

Interview was edited and condensed.
Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at