Artie Lange Is Not Ready to Die: ‘F*ck ’Em All’
The celebrated comic opens up to pal Mandy Stadtmiller about drug addiction, his split from Howard Stern, comedy creeps Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari, and much more.
It’s hard being friends with the notoriously demon-plagued comedian Artie Lange—which, full disclosure, I am. This is in no way objective. I truly want the guy to live.
I first interviewed Lange in 2006 as part of the New York Post’s coverage of the annual New York Comedy Festival. He had just sold out Carnegie Hall in a few hours and was on top of the world. Over the next few years, we met at comedy clubs from time to time. I mentioned how healthy he looked in a May 2009 Page Six item about his visiting Colin Quinn’s one-man show (which he mentioned in his book Crash and Burn). When I interviewed him again on Oct. 30, 2009, it was a longer talk this time, with a few insights that surprised me. He talked about the “game” comics play of initially sabotaging a set with the audience, then seeing if you can dig yourself out of that hole. I asked if he had ever thought that he might be playing the same game with his own life. “You should be a shrink,” he said.
Sixty-nine days later, I heard the news, like anyone else who follows Lange: that he was near death after stabbing himself in the stomach nine times with a 13-inch kitchen knife.
Then on Sept. 27, 2010, I got a call from comedian Dan Naturman, who told me all about Artie’s triumphant return at the Comedy Cellar, which led to an incredibly feel-good lead item in Page Six called: “Artie Lange Thrills Audiences Again.”
I interviewed him several more times over the years, and when my husband Pat Dixon, who is also a comedian, started his own show in 2015 at Compound Media, run by controversial radio legend Anthony Cumia, I told Artie that he ought to consider joining the network. To my surprise—and unrelated to me telling him that, as the pairing of two Sirius refugees is a no-brainer for anyone who follows shock-jock radio—in August 2017, he started a new show with Cumia called The AA Show. Now, not only did Lange have a regular broadcasting outlet, but the HBO series Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes enlisted him in called Crashing, where he played himself, was a bona fide hit. His third book, Wanna Bet?, was inked, his standup was doing well, and so if you were doing any kind of predictive sequence, what happened next was no surprise.
Oct. 16, 2017: “Artie Lange rushed to hospital, cancels weekend show.” Dec. 13, 2017: “Artie Lange Arrested After Missing Court Date for Drug Charges.” Dec. 15, 2017: “Artie Lange Headed to Rehab on Private Jet After Drug Charge.”
Less than a month later, on Jan. 12, Lange returned home to New York and tweeted out to his 364,000 followers: “I’m back guys. Clean & Sober 32 days.”
On Jan. 18, after celebrating Dave Attell’s birthday (Artie just turned 50 himself), Lange met me in between sets at New York City’s Olive Tree Cafe. To avoid the requests for photos from fans and occasional paparazzi, we sat in his SUV and drove around the city for an hour and a half before returning to the comedy club. With one hand on the steering wheel and one on an unlit Marlboro Red, Lange talked about everything from Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump to Louis C.K. to Aziz Ansari to the fundamental question at hand:
Artie Lange doesn’t want to die... right?
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Mandy: So I guess I’m wondering at what point all of this is enough to get you to stop. Like, for instance, I have a friend who if he did cocaine one more time, the doctors told him his nose would collapse—
Artie: Well half of my nose is gone. My nose has no septum. I mean I’ve been snorting coke and heroin…
Mandy: When was the last time you did coke or heroin?
Artie: Well I just pissed clean at Hazelden so that’s 38 days. But here’s the thing: 31 of them were in lockdown. So now’s the real work. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a struggle lying there every night.
Mandy: What’s the longest you’ve ever been clean?
Artie: Since I was 15, 11 months. And two weeks in my twenties.
Mandy: Do you take, what is it, methadone?
Artie: No, no. I was on methadone years ago. There was a methadone clinic on Eighth and 35th, and I would go there before Howard. They would give it out to me, like special, at 5:30 a.m. I had to stop doing heroin because I was losing my job. They gave me the methadone. It’s fucking heroin, basically. I left during interviews to throw up. And I said, “Well this is worse than fucking heroin, so why don’t I stay on that.” I take Suboxone now. Suboxone works well for me, and it’s accepted by society. It looks like a pill you take for blood pressure every morning, so that’s how I’ve got to look at it. It lets you not go cold turkey.
Mandy: You detoxed cold turkey in jail this last time?
Artie: I’ve been in jail like eight times, and this past time, I detoxed. I kicked heroin, like lying on the floor. When I got arraigned, you always want to be very respectful in front of the judge. She was like, “What are you doing?” And I’m thinking to myself, “Well, your honor, I’m dead.” And you know, I’m trying to stand up. Withdrawal, the physical stuff, people would see the first or the second day of withdrawals, girlfriends would say, “Well, that was really bad.” And I’m like, “You saw the opening act. That was The Clash. That was David Johansen. The Who is about to take the stage.” The third or fourth day of heroin withdrawal, if you’re a big user like I became, if you’re not physically stopped from getting dope, you’ll get it. With heroin, I became an addict on the road. I always had money. I’ve never had to steal. I don’t judge those people. Like people say to me, “Have you ever blown a guy for heroin?” I say, “No.” But then again, no one’s ever asked.
Mandy: If you do fall off the wagon again, are you scared of fentanyl at all?
Artie: No. A real heroin addict is not scared of fentanyl. I’d do it in a heartbeat. I want strong shit.
Mandy: Have you seen the tiny amount it takes to kill you?
Artie: I don’t know what it is, but draw it back one inch. I would accept fentanyl in a heartbeat. I had a fentanyl patch on in a mental home. It was unbelievable. I’ve never ODed. I’ve had dealers say, “Jesus Christ. What the fuck.” But the nose is bad now. I could get a brain infection. If I did it, anything would go right to the brain. But again, I heard that six months ago, and I went and used an hour after.
Mandy: So I mean... you must want to die.
Artie: No, I don’t want to die. I want to be high.
Mandy: But that will eventually kill you.
Artie: I’m 50. If you would have told me in 1995, if you tried to bring up “2018,” it would be like The Jetsons. I’d be like, “What are you talking about?”
Mandy: So you’re having fun on borrowed time.
Artie: I’m playing with the house’s money. As far as I’m concerned, I’m an overachiever. A lot of money changed hands on the internet when I turned 50. I was so happy. Fuck ’em all.
Mandy: But I mean... your mom and your sister. They’re the main people who keep you from wanting to to be reckless with the house’s money, right?
Artie: Yes that’s the... that’s the worst.
Mandy: I called your mom when you were practically in a coma these last few weeks, and her voice was just so heartbroken. I don’t think she thought you were going to make it.
Artie: Yeah, you know, my father left us with nothing. I love my dad. He was my best friend. But my father was a criminal. My dad was an impulsive guy, and that’s what killed him. Just like my father, with me, there are real high highs and real low lows. Like my mother saw me at Carnegie Hall, when my book went to No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and I think [Barack] Obama’s was like No. 7. She has that framed. But then she’s also seen me withdrawing in jail.
Mandy: Your mom discovered you when you tried to kill yourself in 2010, right?
Artie: That was not a suicide attempt. I was in such bad withdrawals. Believe me, I leave a note. The one other time, I left a note. But shrinks go, “You’ve never tried to kill yourself. Because there was always a mountain of drugs involved.” I was in such bad withdrawals, I wanted to feel something different. I was by myself. I wanted to lose enough blood to pass out. When I woke up, I don’t know, I figured I’d put on a red shirt and go out. I didn’t know my mother was coming over. They had an intervention planned that I didn’t even know about. I go, “Ma, you never planned a surprise party.”
Mandy: Does your mom talk to you every day?
Artie: Yeah, my mother knows me better than anybody, but I don’t tell her when I slip. You know, when Dr. Drew offered me 250 grand to do Celebrity Rehab, I thought to myself, “Do I just want to kill my mother now?” Like it’s going to be me and Dennis Rodman throwing up in the same bucket. I love Dr. Drew, but I knew that show was going to go off the air because the recovery rate is like zero. If Pablo Escobar were alive today, he’d be running a rehab. It’s such a corrupt industry.
Mandy: You seem to still get offered drugs a lot. I think about that scene in Crashing where it’s the super hot woman from Showgirls who has coke and wants to do it with you.
Artie: Gina Gershon? Yeah, you know, that episode is based on one of my stories. And if the woman who inspired the episode figures it out, she’d be very happy with the casting.
Mandy: Do you think it was a good idea to leave rehab early?
Artie: I have to do this intense outpatient thing which is five days a week. I go in there in the morning, and I get piss tests there. Screen Actors Guild doesn’t let you do that to people. Like it’s almost an NFL union. You can’t pee-test people. Not that I’m complaining about it, but I don’t get fired from shows because ultimately it’s a forgiving business for stuff like that. People always say it’s a forgiving business. And, it’s true. Robert Downey Jr. came back, and he’s like the best actor ever. But for every one of him, there’s like two thousand Jeff Conaways from Taxi living at a right angle and nobody cares and they die alone.
Mandy: You’re just working so much right now.
Artie: The one genre where I have some juice is the radio business, and you know Anthony Cumia, I love Anthony so much now. I never really met him before. We’re both sort of outlaws. Without this podcasting technology you know we both would be out of a job now, probably. It’s such a weird existence I have right now. Over on one side, I’m doing this crazy podcast with Anthony on Compound Media that I love, and then I’m on Crashing which is an HBO-produced show I love, but which could not be more the other way. Judd Apatow is another famous guy who saved my life. Like, what a great person. I’ve got books and stand-up, and I’m still making a lot of money doing it. If that’s not going to go away, there’s not much of an incentive to stay in rehab.
Mandy: And I’m guessing, from what you said, you don’t want to leave your mom with nothing. So what about a gig like the one with Anthony Cumia. Is that enabling or is that helping you stay clean?
Artie: Let me tell you something: I love doing it. It’s almost like therapy. A lot of people don’t understand a comic’s mind. People are like, “You’re going to jump right into stand-up?” Yeah, that’s what I have to do. I can’t stop doing it. And Anthony’s show is like from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Even more fun than Howard. Because I was never uncensored on Howard. It’s his show. It’s Howard. So what was happening near the end when his life changed, he would meet somebody in the Hamptons, and we wouldn’t know about it. Like me and Fred [Norris, the longest tenured Howard Stern staff member] wouldn’t know about it. And then he’d be friends with them, like somebody we bashed for 10 years. So I’d say something about Richard Gere, and he’d go, “You got a problem with him?” I’d go, “Haven’t we always had a problem with him?” “No, I had dinner with him.” “Well, can I get the memo? I don’t give a shit. I’ll put him on the fucking list.” But I wouldn’t not be able to make fun of Orlando Bloom. The show, I couldn’t be on now. And he knew that.
Mandy: Anthony probably does a better Howard impression than Howard at this point.
Artie: Well the thing about Anthony is that he’s the same guy off-air. But it’s not true for Howard. Howard’s a very fascinating guy. He must have an IQ north of 180. But the example I always use is that Hunter S. Thompson was a guy who destroyed like the wealthy and corporate America, and he walked the walk until the end of his life. He was a crazy maniac in Colorado and shot himself in the head. And Howard was like that for a while. He was making fun of all these people, and when he got a chance—like no one else has become an A-list person through the radio—but when he got a chance to be with those people, fans thought he’s going to be like Hunter S. Thompson. Like you see them through the window eating, and he’s going to bust through the window or moon them or something. And when he got the chance, like Jennifer Aniston’s wedding, he starts making out with Orlando Bloom.
Artie: Right. And to me as a fan, it’s like, what the fuck have we been laughing at all this time? Me and my first girlfriend at the time Dana [Sironi], she was close with Beth [Ostrosky Stern]. And Beth is a sweetheart. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bitter. I still love Howard.
Mandy: Who are the people from the Stern show you keep in touch with?
Artie: Well, they’re not allowed to call me. I swear to God, I’ve had people tell me from the show they were worried they were talking to me. Look, I’m a person who’s impulsive, and I get very angry and I say things I shouldn’t say. It’s hurt me my whole life, and I’m a junkie.
Mandy: You tweeted a few days ago, “Look out Marci. I’m talking to Howard without your permission,” referring to his high-profile handler Marci Turk. Did you actually talk to Howard Stern?
Artie: No, I don’t talk to Howard. We hate each other’s guts. He can’t stand me for some reason, and I’ve learned to hate him.
Mandy: What’s your reaction to Louis C.K.? And now everyone’s talking about the story that was written about Aziz Ansari.
Artie: Aziz “I’m sorry” is a better name. I don’t have any respect for Aziz Ansari. I’m glad nobody got raped. But you know, I agree with Samantha Bee when she says it doesn’t have to be rape to ruin somebody’s life. That’s true. And what Louis did is despicable. That was a rumor for a long time. But if you’re a couple of women at the Aspen Comedy Festival, you’ve got a lot going on, probably. And there’s this comedian, who back then he wasn’t famous, but he’s always been respected, and they certainly knew him. And he’s promising them shit supposedly, and it’s just because he wants to jerk off in front of them. It’s just the creepiest thing ever. Louis was always overrated to me. He has like five jokes he’s written that I like. But you know I’ll go along with it, if it gets me spots. I just think he’s overrated. To me, it was like the emperor’s new clothes came off. In the hotel room.
Mandy: Have you had any women approach you with any kind of “Me Too” moment, something they wanted to confront you about?
Artie: A girl? No. I mean, some people think I’m a misogynist because of stuff on the Stern show. You know I’ve never told anybody this, but this is how my family feels about sex predators: After I told my father about a high-school teacher hurting a girl I knew, the way my dad dealt with it was by waiting outside the teacher’s house, putting a bag over the guy’s head, and leaving him in a car for two days. My dad came back, disguised his voice, and he said, “Stop fucking touching little girls.” I’m not condoning how he handled it, but that’s just the truth. My father thought that was justified. You know, there are people who think Goodfellas is horrible. We think it’s a comedy. My mom—she is the strongest woman in my life—and she and my sister are my heroes. Any woman who’s ever dated me will tell you, I’m like, “Are you sure? Can we get this in writing and an email from you?” I think in Hollywood, it’s a case of these nerdy guys who don’t know what to do with a woman, and they get a chance to do it, and they do something inappropriate. Like I’ve never been a Casanova but I’ve always been able to get a date. I think the more time you stay asexual in your adult life, you get creepier.
Mandy: I’ve had several comics over the years tell me about their personal dislike for Aziz based on his standoffish behavior. Do you think there’s any schadenfreude right now as he is coming under fire?
Artie: I’m probably one of those guys. I thought he could follow me on Bitter. I don’t like bashing of comedians in general. I hated the Dane Cook-bashing thing. And Dane goes on to make all that money, and that bitterness comes out. Then his brother steals millions of dollars from him. I wish Dane well. And you know, I think Aziz gets a lot of that bitterness, too. You know, his timing is perfect for comedy. But what he does at the Comedy Cellar is not going to endear him to anybody. What he does there, he sits in the corner like a young Dylan writing jokes, and he can do that at home. We get it. You’re a hard worker. But I guess we’re going to have to get over that, because a new generation of people is coming.
Mandy: Do you think that Crashing captures the changing culture in comedy at all?
Artie: Judd is so great at what he does, and so is Pete [Holmes]. The way Judd lets you improvise, and the money... see I’ve never been involved in something that you might call “a hit.” Except the Stern show, but that was very different. Judd is so successful. The money HBO is spending. They shot it like a play—you don’t have to do over-the-shoulder stuff. And the way that I talk and work, it was way better for me. Judd knew that. Like the scene in the pizzeria, Judd read my book, which was flattering, and he said, “Just tell me stories about your life, about what can happen off-stage,” so like the ghost of Christmas future. Comedy future. I think it’s great, because Judd lets us talk.
Mandy: I was relistening today to your very first Howard Stern appearance. And Stern is joking, saying, “You need coke. You’re a lot better on it.” He also says, “Go out and get into more trouble, and we’ll have you back on.”
Artie: I know. But you can’t blame anyone else for any of this. Howard’s genius is seeing which way the wind is blowing in society and acting accordingly. I think he noticed after the Janet Jackson thing, we started getting fined for stupid shit. We’re getting $500,000 fines for jokes I’m making about farting. The guy is a genius at marketing and comedy—more so in marketing. I think he saw over time the way the show was going, and that it would not be conducive to have me on it. But he also knew that I was popular. I think he was trying to figure out a way to get rid of me. I did the job for him, but I don’t think he was rooting for it. I think he conquered that era of radio with me. I wouldn’t fit in now at all. I can’t stand Gwyneth Paltrow. The contrast between the old shows is crazy. Like if you listen to shows we did of us talking about Jennifer Aniston or Ellen DeGeneres dancing in the 2000s. He said Aniston was a cunt. Even I was like, “Jesus, it must be personal.” Now he goes to her wedding.
Mandy: So what’s going on with your health? The diabetes has gotten really bad? Have you had to amputate anything?
Artie: God no. The rumors have gotten really bad, haven’t they? No, the diabetes is under control every time I go to the hospital. But the thing is, it’s a confusing disease. One day a Twinkie could save your life, and another day it could kill you. I’m not a good preparer so that’s why I was bad in school. I was like, “Let’s get the fuck out of here and get to life.” Which comedy lets you do. But yeah, with diabetes, you’re supposed to measure your blood sugar every time before you eat. I’m like, “What the fuck, are you kidding me? I’m going to take my blood sugar in the parking lot of McDonald’s?” It’s bad, but when I go to the hospital they get me under control. So now it’s under control. It’s fine, actually. But you know, give me two months out of the hospital and my blood sugar is higher than my credit score. That’s the signifier of a loser. They also put me on the liver list. I needed a new liver. But I went to a medical clinic someone recommended, and they gave me this special shit they put in the saline, it cost like $80,000, and my liver enzymes were like 900, which is like Mickey Mantle at the end of his life. And it went to normal, completely normal. My kidneys, my liver are all fine. The doctor said, “You’ve got the bloodwork, despite the diabetes, of an Olympic athlete.”
Mandy: Have you thought about going down to Hippocrates Health Institute, where a lot of entertainment industry people have gone?
Artie: I did that once. Yeah, my sister found out about it. You need a prescription for an apple. I ran away from that in 2008. Howard said, go away for as long as you need to. Eight days in with these two other guys who were Stern fans who would have done anything for me, we just escaped in the one guy’s car. I got a $3,500 room at the Setai in South Beach, and I got a hooker and a bunch of pancakes. And I called into the show and said I have whiskey and pancakes with this Ecuadorian hooker, and he put me on the air. So I left early from that, and I was out of control. And Howard didn’t think I was going to die or anything. You know, Chris Rock came in once and said, “Howard, I think you’ve got to fire Artie. I love him. But he needs consequences.”
Mandy: I guess my take is, from observing you from afar, you’ve said, “I’m clean” so many times, and that you’re always somebody who is going to use.
Artie: People think that I want to be someone who uses. I don’t. I mean, I remember in Little League when I didn’t use anything, I was very happy. When I am emphatic about it, in my personal life, I don’t lie to friends of mine. But I can think of a lot of reasons why you don’t tell your boss you’re doing heroin, and why I lied to Howard Stern. There’s also a misconception I hate that Howard didn’t care about me. He tried to get me help. Several times he said to me, “Take as long as you want, and when you come back you have a job.”
Mandy: So do you think some of the drug abuse comes from massive, massive self-hatred? That was the case for me, I know, and many addicts.
Artie: That’s interesting. Listen, Bernie Brillstein was talking to Norm Macdonald and me once. He’s the legendary manager who managed [John] Belushi, and he managed Chris Farley. And he supposedly said to Belushi and Farley—it’s funny he had guilt that he said this to Belushi, and 20 years later he said it again to me—he said, “Well, what’d you get into show business for? Not to fuck hookers and do drugs?” I was brought up on Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor. With Richard Pryor, I wanted to do almost everything he did, short of burning himself. And that’s a terrible thing to think, but I got the opportunity, and I made every mistake you could make. I was like, “Why not?” The first time we went to Las Vegas with Howard, I fucked 11 strippers in four days. We were like the Rolling Stones going in there. Two years on MadTV ain’t exactly the Rolling Stones. The stuff I’ve done with Norm I’m so proud of because it was Norm, but it was never like a big hit. Like Dirty Work has become a little bit of a cult thing, which I’m proud of. But with the Stern show, this was like rock-star shit. We flew into Vegas on a private jet, and there’s a line around the block, and it’s all for us. Howard is married. Fred is married. Everyone’s married, and then there’s me. The stripper’s going down her list, and she says, “I guess I’ll fuck him.”
Mandy: Do you still talk to Norm Macdonald?
Artie: We communicate with text, like everybody else. He put a very nice thing in his book about me. He called me the last time, and he said, you gotta stop doing this. He was worried about me. I love Norm. Norm saved my whole career. Out of nowhere. I was about to start driving a cab again. I got the call for Dirty Work, and that led to everything else. Norm. Howard. Quincy Jones, who gave me MadTV. And Judd now. These are famous guys. [Bruce] Springsteen called me. And Apatow said to me, he said, “You must be a really bad addict going back to this shit after all these people, your heroes, saved you.” He’s right. I mean, Quincy Jones saved my fucking life. He also got me these insane privileges in L.A. County. Like my own shower. And I asked Quincy, “How do you have so much sway in prison?” He said, “I made Thriller.”
Mandy: So why do you go back to the drugs after you get clean each time? Is it the boredom?
Artie: It’s the anger. I’ll give you an example. It’s a story I kind of keep on the down-low, but there was this girl that I dated in San Diego. She worked at an agency as an assistant. She was 23. I was 28, and I was on MadTV. And she was pregnant—she got pregnant, found out it was a boy. I was all excited, and she was scared to death because of how I had been living. Me at that age makes this look like Mr. Rogers. So the first place we made out was Zuma Beach, and she said, “Let’s go to that place. I want to tell you something.” She’s crying, and she says, “I had an abortion.” I was mad, and I said, “Why?” And she said, “You know, Artie, you’re going to make your mark in this business, but I hope you do it before you die. And I can’t deal with that.”
Mandy: So anger is often the cause of relapses for you? Anger at the world?
Artie: It is a strange world. It’s like rereading the Unabomber Manifesto it’s kind of like, I get it now. I don’t agree with how he went about it, but he was clearly on the money about technology. Or look at the movie Network. That one scene, he lays everything out about what is to come.
Mandy: When do you find out if you’re going to jail?
Artie: Feb. 23. You know, if they want to send me away for being a junkie, that’s fine. The judge was very fair. Very smart. I don’t know if she was a big fan of mine, but that’s all right.
Mandy: When do you think you were happiest in your life?
Artie: You know, it’s funny. When I was broke, when I left the port as a longshoreman, and I decided to drive into New York City one night, I was 19 years old. When I started doing well, I was driving a cab, I was broke, trying to help my mother out. We were about to lose the house. And I told her I could go back to the port. She said I could keep doing it. But you know, I was happier during the struggle because of hope. I was 23, broke, driving a cab, parking a cab in front of The Comic Strip, which was the first place I passed. I would have [Joe] Matarese or [Dave] Attell watch the car. I was happier then, I swear to God.
Mandy: Hollywood can be fairly crushing. So many transactional relationships and people who don’t care if you live or die and want to use you.
Artie: At the Stern show, I saw how toxic that entire environment was. You have some people who are without talent who just leached onto Howard. Talentless guys whose entire life is based on pleasing that one person. I saw people who weren’t comedians who thought they could sit in that chair and do what I did. When I went down with the heroin thing, they were clearly making statements about it. Like if I died, they would have been almost happy about it, I guarantee it. I saw the sharks swimming like I’ve never seen before. I thought I knew a lot about people in a non-naive way coming into that job, but man, the way people wanted what I did for a living. What pissed me off is that they thought they could do it. And you know, there’s a reason that chair stayed empty. I’m done being humble with some things. That chair isn’t empty completely because Howard felt like it; that chair is empty because he knows no one can do what I did. There are people who are funnier than me, but there’s no one who would have been as honest, and no one who knows that show better. I left a lot of blood on that fucking floor, man. I told stories that cost me relationships with some people, and I didn’t realize it. I almost got arrested. The DEA came to the fucking show because of something I said on the air, in their fucking windbreakers, to grill me about Heath Ledger because they thought we had the same heroin dealer. I’m like, “Why the fuck do you think that?” I guess there’s reasons they could. There was a security guy who worked the door, and he saw the whole thing, and he said, “Artie, you are one entertaining fuckup.”
Mandy: What do you think of Donald Trump, who used to do the Howard Stern Show quite a bit?
Artie: I love Trump. I’ve had like four times when I interacted with him. I roasted him. Trump said I was the best of the night, but then Howard is so smart, he told me to tell the joke that was making fun of him in business. I do, and then Trump goes, “Artie was the worst of the roast. He bombed.” I had a CNN guy call me about it, and I said, “I’m not doing it. Because I’m fucking rooting for him.” And I golfed with him and Eli Manning once at his club. I did nothing but laugh along with him. Then I saw him at Howard’s wedding. Howard had bought out Le Cirque. But it was still small. I had played Carnegie Hall at this point, but it was so nerve-wracking. Billy Joel and his wife were there, two feet from me. Howard. Trump and Melania. Barbara Walters, Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase. It was a tough room, you know. And I killed. The first joke was how much Beth looks like Christie Brinkley, so I made a Billy Joel joke. And thank God he laughed at it. But Howard was drunk, and doing that great Howard laugh. I loved making Howard laugh. But Trump came up to me afterward, because other people spoke and kind of bombed, and he shook my hand, and he said, “That was a very hard thing to do, and you were amazing.” He respected that even though I look like a slob he could tell I worked hard. Because, yeah, you think I walked into Stern because I won a lottery? So I always respected the guy.
Whether you’re for him or not, what he represents is that this country can vote out politicians and elect a game show host because they’re pissed off about stuff. You know, there are two guys on that Billy Bush tape. One guy apologized. The other guy didn’t. One guy’s working at a gift shop in Kennebunkport. The other guy’s president. The fucking country likes alpha males. The Midwest does, I know that. And the stuff with the Mexicans. He didn’t say he hates all Mexicans. He told the truth about the drug problem. How do you think I get dope? Trump just doesn’t give a shit. You know, Louis C.K. wrote an op-ed piece, while he was, jerking off next to women, calling Trump Hitler? And it’s like, “Calm the fuck down.” It washes down what Hitler did. A guy who let the Mob take away garbage because you have to? The naivete of these people. If you build a building in New York, you have to deal with the Mob. Trump knows that. Ted Cruz lost so many votes during the primaries when he attacked him on that.
Mandy: What do you think of the porn star Stormy Daniels and Trump? I guess he asked her to spank him with a copy of Forbes.
Artie: Well, I think I’ve done worse. Comparing him to Harvey Weinstein? That’s a fetish. Listen, if Trump has raped someone, of course I hate his guts.
Mandy: So for you, what has the reaction been to your latest near-death experience? From everything that I’ve read on Twitter and Reddit and YouTube, I feel like half the fans are saying, “I don’t want to watch him kill himself anymore,” and like, “I’ve stopped believing him.”
Artie: The fact that I haven’t got it yet is hard to understand. I think they’re disappointed in me. It was an easier sell at 30 than it was at 50.
Mandy: What’s the best sobriety advice you’ve received, do you think?
Artie: To not make my Higher Power “my career” or another human being because it can disappoint you.
Mandy: Do you believe in God? Do you pray?
Artie: You know, I’ll give you something I’ve never told anybody. So my father was obsessed with Houdini the magician, and Houdini was obsessed with the occult. Houdini always tried to contact the other side, like dead relatives. So Houdini said, “If I die, let’s have a word. If the psychic tells you the word, you know, we talk.” So my father said, when he was lying in bed, he had the plan to kill himself, but I didn’t know that. He said, “Let’s do that.” I go, “OK.” His father, who I never knew, died when he was 11. He got shot in front of him. His father worked at a factory. The Otis Elevator Company in Newark. It was a bookie, I guess. But he said, “Let’s make it ‘Otis.’”
So I’m in rehab this latest time, several weeks ago. And I’m in the van, which the hilarious security guards call “The Druggie Buggie.” Or “The Loser Cruiser,” that’s what they call it in jail. So I’ve just come out of the shit, with the withdrawal part, and I looked better, I guess. It was a beautiful day. Where I went in Connecticut, it was like a Christmas card, it was unbelievably beautiful. And I said, “I feel better this time.” I felt really good. The sky was clear. I was with people I like, and they both said out of nowhere, “I think you’re going to make it this time.” And I said, “I guess I gotta think like that.” And I stretched over, and there was a car that said “Otis” on it. The elevator at the rehab that never broke, they said, when I told them the story, the Otis Elevator Company was repairing the elevator. Listen, I don’t believe in any of that shit, but that is the most spiritual thing that’s ever happened to me. I tell my mother that, and clearly she’s religious, and she goes, “Dad’s talking to you.” I’m telling you, that was fucking freaky. So you know, just at that moment, when I had hope and I looked up and it was a clear sky and it says “Otis,” I was just like, “Jesus Christ.”