“I’m being covered like the Kardashians — I’m like a D-list celebrity and I’m this much of a f—kup on heroin and drugs. I can’t seem to knock it.”
Just before Artie Lange can continue his train of thought, a faint beep cuts into the call.
“That was a dealer that just texted me,” Lange recently told Page Six via phone.
It’s not unusual. Lange’s drug habits landed him four years of probation for possession after he was arrested outside his Hoboken home in March 2017. Later that month, he was arrested for missing a court date. He was twice hospitalized the same year.
“I have to change my number all the time because I’m trying to stay away from [drugs],” he explained. “That affects my career right there — [‘Crashing’ executive producer] Judd Apatow didn’t have my number for two weeks. I have to find a way to balance my life in a way I never have before. I am a rare junkie in that I can afford my lifestyle. If it weren’t for show business, I’d be no different from a guy on the street. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually had to act like an adult,” he told us.
In his new book, “Wanna Bet,” the former Howard Stern sidekick details his experiences with compulsive gambling and how the habit led to several others, including his attempts to get audiences to leave during his stand-up shows (often by using homophobic and racial slurs), but none more than his cocaine and heroin addictions.
While listeners grew accustomed to often hearing Lange, 50, slur, the long-troubled comedian spoke with enthusiasm and clarity, which could be because he’s currently on a court-ordered healthier path, which includes treatment in the form of a rehab stint, a Suboxone prescription to ease withdrawal symptoms, and weekly drug tests.
His current vitality comes after years of drug abuse, multiple trips to rehab, a slew of relapses, several other arrests and a failed suicide attempt.
“[The judge] was very fair,” Lange told us. “I’ll be 54 when I’m off probation! Four years. I could go to college. I could get a marketing degree in the time I’ll be on probation. There was a little screw in the back with 50 hours of community service,” he added, noting that he’s performing his hours at a Hoboken senior citizen center.
“My job is to feed them food and try to amuse them,” he said. “I had one guy keep asking me if I was a congressman. I’d go, ‘No, comedian.’ It took half an hour to tell him I’m a comedian.”
The March 2017 arrest almost compromised Lange’s role on HBO’s “Crashing.”
At the time, Lange claimed to have been fired from the show, though Apatow vehemently denied it. Lange himself later tweeted that he was still employed on the show and had gotten a $2,500 raise to $17,500 per episode. That payday still stands.
But as Lange explains in “Wanna Bet,” a few weeks before he began filming the series, he and a blonde from Boston he calls “Sexy Southie” went on a two-week bender.
Exactly one week before shooting began on “Crashing,” Southie used a glass salt shaker in a hotel room to crush OxyContin for Lange to snort, inadvertently shattering the glass shaker. Pieces of glass mixed in with the OxyContin, which Lange didn’t notice until after he’d snorted the blend. Lange’s nose bled profusely that night and for weeks afterward, including when he was onstage performing and while filming “Crashing.” He and Apatow worked around it, and the chronic bleeding became, as Lange writes, a “running gag” on the show.
When filming on “Crashing” wrapped, Lange says, he attempted to wean himself off opiates, to no avail.
During the promotional tour for the series, Lange bought cocaine and heroin in Los Angeles and accidentally dropped some of his stash in front of two police officers. One of the officers happened to be a longtime fan of the comedian and was familiar with his history of addiction. The officer, whom Lange described as being in his 40s or 50s, sent his partner away with an order to dispose of the drugs.
He took Lange away in a squad car without actually arresting him and asked Lange, who had a standup performance the next night, if he’d suffer from withdrawal without a fix. Lange said yes.
The officer took Lange to a seedy neighborhood and scored Lange enough heroin to tide him over through the weekend, but only after Lange promised to get help. Lange is still in touch with the officer.
“He came to a show,” Lange said. “[We talk] on and off, though not as much as I’d like to, mostly because we’re older, you know? If we were both 25 when it happened, we’d be best friends.”
Despite risking what may be his greatest work ever, Lange is grateful to be able to continue on “Crashing.”
“The show gets great reviews and HBO loves working with Judd. It’s definitely a success,” he said. “I’m definitely in the first two episodes of the third season, and I think I’ll be in the last one for sure. Judd has been great. That was a blessing. Stuff falls out of the sky sometimes. I’m glad to get the opportunity.”
One opportunity Lange isn’t sure he’ll get again is working with Anthony Cumia, his co-host for the brief “Artie and Anthony Show” on Cumia’s Compound Media. Lange was dismissed from the network after his arrest and hospitalizations, but he has no ill will toward his colleague.
“I was doing a podcast in my kitchen and I was late to my own kitchen. That’s all heroin.”
“I would love to [go back],” he said. “Those guys were very patient, but I was not showing up to work. I had a show two hours a day at 4 p.m. and I could not make it. I love Anthony to pieces, I love [Cumia’s co-host Dave] Landau. I like to think that if nothing else happens that’s more important, I could go back. I’d like to think if that door’s open, I might just stop in a couple days. Wouldn’t it be funny if I’m not getting paid and I’m there?”
Lange emphasized that his lack of professionalism stemmed not from his drug use, but from his withdrawals, which have left him, at times, incapacitated and incontinent.
“I was doing a podcast in my kitchen and I was late to my own kitchen. That’s all heroin. Heroin f–ks up scheduling. When you do heroin, everything’s fine because you’re not in withdrawal, so you make plans for four days later. But four days later, you’re going through withdrawal and you’re literally green and you can’t get up.”
Lange speaks about his demons with a candor that would take many by surprise, yet honesty remains his trademark.
“I didn’t plan on being here at 50,” he admitted. “I’m more relevant than I thought I’d be at 50 years old. I’m just genuinely surprised to be alive at 50.”
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