In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Artie Lange has done stand-up comedy, sketch comedy (Mad TV), starred in films (Dirty Work) and sitcoms (The Norm Show), and even written a few books (Too Fat To Fish and Crash And Burn), but he’s probably best known for the years he spent as part of The Howard Stern Show, a stint which lasted from 2001 to 2009. Since then, Lange has continued to work in radio and stand-up—his most recent album and special, The Stench Of Failure, was released in 2014—and he can currently be seen playing himself in the film Laugh Killer Laugh, now available on VOD.
Artie Lange: Probably doing stand-up at a bachelor party. The best man told me to make fun of his friend, who looked like an Italian bouncer at a strip club. Apparently, the guy accidentally made out with a chick at Mardi Gras, or someone that he thought was a chick but who turned out to be a guy, and his friend wanted me to make fun of him for it. And I said, “I don’t think I should do that.” But I was bombed, and I did it, and the guy threw a beer at me. So, yeah, that was pretty bad. That’s the worst ever. And it was for only 50 bucks, too. Making fun of a big Italian guy for a homosexual moment in his life was a bad idea at his bachelor party.
The A.V. Club: Beyond having a beer thrown at you, were there any further repercussions?
AL: No, I ran out the kitchen. I was younger back then—I could run—so I ran out the kitchen and got away. I ran around the block, and I called my agent who at the time was booking me at those things, and he wanted me to go back and get the 50 dollars. I said, “No.” So I parted ways with the agent. I came back the next day and got my car. I took a bus home that night. I was scared to death. But the guy hit, like, the side of my ankle with the beer, so it could’ve been a lot worse, let’s just say that.
AL: When I got booked to do this 11 Questions thing, I think.
AVC: You’d be surprised how often we hear that.
AL: Well, you know, what’s funny is that I can give you another one that’s related, but it’s not a joke: One time there were some writers for The Onion who saw me do stand-up at the Aspen Comedy Festival years ago, and after that they put my picture on the front page of The Onion, and it just said “FCC Sentences Artie Lange To Death.” [Laughs.] That’s probably my favorite moment ever. I still have it. So, yeah, you can put that down. That’s when I first felt successful: when The Onion put me on the front page, saying, “FCC Sentences Artie Lange To Death.”
AL: Oh, God. Probably just to make sure Bruce Jenner’s operation goes fine. [Laughs.] I just don’t want any complications, so I would use all of my power to make sure that happens.
AVC: How would that be villainous?
AL: Well, I’ll leave that for the readers to figure out.
AL: I was a bad student. Very, very obnoxious. In high school, I was called the class clown, but that wasn’t because I was funny. It was because I had a red nose from cocaine abuse. It did not look good for me. It kind of looked like I wasn’t going to have much of a future. [Laughs.] I was kind of a nutty person. I got suspended a lot. I didn’t graduate from high school. I had to go to summer school and then go to college. Yeah, I was just an asshole, really. Sort of a smaller version of me now.
AVC: Was there ever any point when you turned it around, or did the world just have to learn to live with you?
AL: Well, when I figured out I could be a comedian, I was, like, “Wow, I can actually make a living doing the same shit I got in trouble for!” That’s what every comic figures out at some point. So, yeah, that happened when I was about 25. That’s when I turned it around.
AL: Bruce Jenner! [Laughs.] I always knew there was a hot chick in there. No, you know what? In all honesty: Valerie Bertinelli. I loved her. I really did. There was something about her. When Eddie Van Halen bagged her, I was really disappointed.
AVC: So that was during the One Day At A Time era?
AL: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I would jerk off to that show, and every once in awhile I’d come to the janitor guy, Schneider.
AVC: That’s got to scar a kid for life.
AL: Well, that and coming to Bonnie Franklin. That’s worse. Nah, but I like Valerie Bertinelli. She’s a good one.
AVC: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet her?
AVC: Do you still hope that it might yet happen at some point?
AL: Well, I was actually booked to do an episode of Hot In Cleveland, but I had to fly there from a gig I had in Detroit, and I passed out onstage in Detroit from diabetic shock, because of my blood sugar, and I was hospitalized for nine days. So I had to miss the Hot In Cleveland thing, but I would’ve met her. Of course, now, I’m sure she hates me.
AVC: You’d like to hope not.
AL: Yeah, well, I have a history of disappointing people.
AL: Entrance music? Oh, there’s only one song to come on to stage with, and that’s “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC.
AVC: So that’s what you’ve always used, then?
AL: Oh, yeah. I mean, “Baba O’Riley” by The Who is good, too, but number one has got to be “Highway To Hell.”
AL: I taped an interview on VH1’s Morning Buzz show with Nick Lachey. And, of course, I taught my spin class at the Crunch on Lafayette Street.
AVC: I tend to think you’re joking about at least one of those.
AL: I wish I was joking about the first half. [Laughs.] But, no, it’s the second half.
AL: Yes. Khloé Kardashian.
AL: Yeah. I’ve gotten laid a lot from that, actually.
AVC: So, have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
AL: Actually, no!
AVC: Do you think that’s because you’re absolutely unique?
AL: I think I have a rare bone structure. [Laughs.] Yeah, well, you know, listen, I’m not proud of it, but I’ve let chicks think I’m other celebrities when they’re drunk [in order] to fuck them. I wish I had a dime for every time a chick left New York City thinking she blew Newman from Seinfeld. So there’s one you can put down!
AL: Nothing. Really, I don’t know how to do much of anything else except what we’re doing right now, which is talking in a stupid way. All my family are construction workers, carpenters. But I have no skills like that. I have no schooling. I don’t think I could do sales, because I couldn’t close the deal. I mean, nothing, really. Maybe… loading a truck? I think I’m affable. I think I can get people to like me if we talk a little bit. I don’t know how that makes money, but… shit, that’s a scary proposition!
AVC: I’m sorry if I’ve disconcerted you with the question.
AL: Nah. I’m over it.
AL: I used to collect baseball cards, but I stopped when I was 46. I don’t like a lot of shit being around. There’s been some roasted peppers that my mother gave me in my refrigerator for about two weeks. That’s about it. I don’t have any interests, really.
AVC: Forty-six is a very precise age. Was there a particular reason why you stopped collecting baseball cards then?
AL: Yeah. Because it’s just not something that chicks like.
AVC: Have you ever actually lost a chick because you were a baseball card collector?
AL: Usually I lose them well before we get to that. [Laughs.]
AVC: So in other words, you’d probably be safe if you started collecting them again.
AL: Yeah, I might be. Because they might become my only friends after awhile.
AL: Oh, my God. Uh… Bar Refaeli’s pussy. [Laughs.] Nah, it’d probably be a perfectly made BLT, with just the right balance of B, L, and T.
AVC: Would this be something that you’d need to make yourself, or is there a particular place that makes it just right?
AL: Well, there’s an illegal Mexican who makes them great at a diner by me. I guess I could get his number.
AVC: What’s the name of the diner? You probably don’t want to give the name of the illegal Mexican until you get his number.
AL: [Laughs.] It’s the Malibu Diner, in Hoboken.
Bonus 12th question from Colin Mochrie of Whose Line Is It Anyway?: “If you could go back and redo a project that you’ve worked on, because either you sucked in it or the surrounding environment was not productive to making a good project, which project would that be, and why?”
AL: I built a deck for my cousin in Linden, New Jersey in 1988, and it collapsed. So I’d probably do that project better.
AVC: Anything entertainment-related you’d like to cite as well?
AL: Oh, God, there’s so many that’ve gone wrong that I don’t even know which one to pick. Jesus. [Long pause.] No, it’s too many to name. Well, actually, I don’t know, I’d probably—I did stand-up once for Kodak at a corporate gig, and I probably wouldn’t have taken 11 Percocet before doing that.
AVC: Again, that’s a pretty specific number. Was that just what was left in the bottle?
AL: That’s what I was able to buy.
AVC: And now you get the opportunity to come up with a 12th question for the next person.
AL: Oh, okay. Just a random question?
AVC: Yep. Whatever you want to ask them.
AL: “Have you ever said anything racist during sex”?
AVC: And have you?
AL: Of course.