Artie Lange Interview
Artie Lange was introduced to The Howard Stern Show in 1998 when he accompanied his friend, Norm MacDonald, into the studio. Artie made such an impression during his first appearance on the program that he was asked in 2001 to become a full-time member of the cast after Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling left the show.
Artie’s vices – including overeating, gambling and drug and alcohol abuse – are often topics of discussion on the air. Artie also openly talks about the relationships he has with his mother and now ex-girlfriend, Dana, as well as how the death of his father affected him. Artie was born in New Jersey, where he currently resides and still hangs out with his childhood friends.
Artie was one of the original cast members of Fox's "Mad TV," and also had a role on Norm MacDonald’s sitcom, “Norm.” In addition to television, Artie’s filmography includes “Dirty Work,” “Lost and Found,” “The Bachelor,” “Old School,” “Elf,” and “Beer League.” Artie has also had a long career as a stand-up comedian performing in clubs around the country and released a DVD of one of his routines called, “It's The Whiskey Talkin’” Prior to getting into show biz, Artie worked the New Jersey docks as a longshoreman.
HT: I know that you were a longshoreman before you decided to get into show business, but how did you get into stand up comedy?
AL: The guys I used to work with always said that I was funny and I had nothing else to really do, so I started going to open mics in New York City, and kept getting on stage. I kind of sucked in the beginning but I had nothing else to do, so I kept doing it, and eventually I got better. So, it was living next to New York that I started going to clubs.
HT: Was it because you didn’t have good material that you sucked in the beginning?
AL: Yeah, I wasn’t really prepared, you know. You don’t realize how prepared you have to be to get on stage. You really do have to get stuff together, it doesn’t just flow out of you. So, it was hard in the beginning. The first place I did was in Hell’s Kitchen at the old Improv on 9th Ave and 44th.
HT: Was your big break when you got into Mad TV?
AL: Yes, that was my first break. That show got me into network television, or into show business, basically.
HT: Your career took off relatively fast didn’t it?
AL: I left being a longshoreman in September, 1991, and I got into Mad TV in April, 1995. So, it was really like 3 ½ years.
HT: That’s a pretty successful career.
AL: It happened pretty quick, yeah! I left being a longshoreman at 23 and I was on Mad TV at 27. 3 ½ years it took me. I was on the show for the first two years until 1997.
HT: Were you actually kicked off the show?
AL: Well, not really kicked off because I had a bad drug problem at the time. I got arrested for possession of coke, and I went to jail for a week. I think they would’ve taken me back but it was a good decision that I made. Because Doctors at rehab were telling me that I really shouldn’t go back to LA because I came back to New York to rehab. So I just stayed on and let my contract expire. I think if I really busted their chops they would have taken me back for year 3.
HT: But did you have other options at that time?
AL: Not at that point! That’s why I was rolling the dice. The Doctors were telling me that I needed more rehabilitation before going back to work, so I agreed with them, and I let the contract run out. And a about a month after rehab, I got back into stand up, and Norm McDonald’s agent called saying that Norm was making a movie called “Dirty Work” that I might be right for since Norm and the casting director had seen me on Mad TV. That got me a second chance so I got it together and went to LA to audition for the movie. And I got the part and that got me back into show business.
HT: But you were well received on Mad TV.
AL: I did well on the show. I had a recurring character that people seemed to like, and I did well on a lot of the sketches. I was in a lot of stuff when I was feeling good. But I took a risk that I’d get something else, and “Dirty Work” got me back into big time showbiz. And I’ve worked ever since. See, “Dirty Work” wasn’t only a studio movie but I was the second lead in a buddy comedy, and Norm was hot on Saturday Night Live at the time.
HT: Was it ever a dream of yours to be on SNL?
AL: Anybody from my generation would say that they wanted to be on SNL! But I wanted to do sketch comedy at some level, and Mad TV started and they offered me an audition. And I wasn’t getting asked to audition anywhere else, so I went, and I ended up booking the show! It was like $10,000 a week contract, so I was like ‘fuck it! I’ll do this.’ I ended up doing Mad TV before SNL could even see me, really.
HT: Mad TV was a brand new show back then but it’s amazing how it’s become like SCTV of this generation.
AL: It’s easily the second most successful sketch comedy show of all time. I recently flew to LA to tape some sketches for the 10th Anniversary. I must say that I’m proud to be in the original cast of Mad TV because it’s lasted so long.
HT: Would you have gone to SNL if they asked you?
AL: If I had a chance to get on SNL, then of course I would have. But after Mad TV, I had started a bit of movie career: I had some development deals with Networks that were pretty lucrative so going back to late night sketch comedy would’ve been a paycut. But SNL is legendary so I certainly would’ve considered it, but I always heard that Lorne Michaels didn’t like using Mad TV people.
HT: Jay Mohr told me last year how crazy the hours were at SNL everyday, but did Mad TV have strange working conditions too?
AL: Oh, it was nuts. Mad TV was probably more work than SNL, because they had a couple of weeks off once in a while but we had to do 3 weeks in a row of live sketches in front of an audience. Then we’d have a couple of weeks off but we’d be shooting commercial and song parodies. So while SNL had their time off, we worked those two weeks basically like shooting a film. There was never a week off! It was a work schedule that got you ready for any other thing in show business. I mean, a sitcom’s a piece of cake compared to that, and so is a movie. The producers were good, hard working guys but a lot is expected of you on a sketch comedy show. You have to have your characters, or impressions prepared, and you have to learn a lot of lines really quick, and you have to have it ready for Friday night when you shoot it. But the first 8 or 9 weeks of Mad TV were crazy!
HT: Did you get “The Norm Show” while you were doing your movies?
AL: Yeah, I left Mad TV, and I did 4 movies right in a row, and after that I did “The Norm Show” on ABC for 2 years.
HT: You know what’s impressive is that you have been constantly employed.
AL: Pretty much since I booked Mad TV in the spring of ’95, I have never really been out of a major job for more than a month. I’m proud of that.
HT: Like many comedians, you’ve always kept the stand up on going on weekends. Does it just feel better to be constantly employed? Do you believe in the philosophy of work begets work?
AL: When I was younger I was working with a sketch comedy group that also did improv, and that’s when I started doing more stand up because I had buddies that were just doing sketch acting and weren’t doing stand up because they were intimidated by it. I always used to tell them, ‘Guys, learn how to do stand up because if you know how to do stand up, you could keep working in show business, and you’ll never have to take a bartending job. I believe that doing stand up constantly has helped me get job after job.
HT: I can’t believe someone like Jay Leno still works every weekend.
AL: That’s crazy. I do the road now because my being on The Howard Stern Show represents more than half of my income for the year. But the road is hard to do, and I can’t believe Leno is still doing it in his position.
HT: But apparently Leno hasn’t even touched his Tonight Show money!
AL: I think that says to me that he’s someone that should go see a shrink. Enjoy the fucking money!
HT: But a lot of you guys like Jay Mohr, Joe Rogan, hardly ever have a weekend without gigs. Is that because you guys all have a certain work ethic or do you guys just love the mic so much?
AL: I’m no workaholic, and I don’t have a strong work ethic. When I was on the sitcom, I was really well paid, it was a cushy job in LA; in those 2 years, I did stand up maybe10 times. I opened for Norm a couple of times, and I played a couple of colleges to make some money. But I really got lazy with it because the job I had was easy and I was making good money. When I got on Stern, my agent was like, ‘your salary will be half of what you made on the sitcom, but you’re going to have to pick up the mic again, and do the road, because that’s how you’re going to get your income back up to what it was.’ And he was right! I started going on the road hardcore, strictly because I needed money. And now I have this DVD, “It’s The Whiskey Talkin’”, which represents a lot of my hard work in the last 2 years. I’m hoping the DVD will sell well so that I could get off the road because doing The Stern Show and doing the road is hard work. Listen, I do the road because I could make money because in the last 2 years I made more money than I ever did in my life, including when I was on the sitcom, and that’s because I keep such a busy road schedule.
HT: Do you feel sharper as a performer when you are keeping up with the stand up on the weekends?
AL: Now, my mind is the sharpest it’s ever been, comedically, because I’m on Stern 4 ½ hours every morning, and you’ve got to be quick on that show, and I do all my shows in the weekend.
HT: But aside from the early mornings, wouldn’t you say that the Stern Show is a relatively job for you? Because in your case, there’s not much preparation involved, and you basically just have to be present, and try to have a good time.
AL: You know what? You hit it right on the head, man! The only part of the job that remotely feels like work is getting up early. For me, it’s like going to a deli and hanging out with your buddies for 4 1/2 hours and just bullshitting. That’s it. I just read the papers for a couple of minutes in the morning, and Howard starts the show, and it’s just like having a conversation.
HT: But you don’t even have to go to the regular staff meetings, do you?
AL: No, just every Thursday, I have to go to a meeting where we have pitch ideas to Howard. I go to that meeting to give my opinions and pitch guests and stuff. Other than that, it’s just showing up five mornings a week, talking for about 4 ½ hours, and then I get to leave. I mean, as long as I’m able to getting laughs from Howard, and the audience; it’s an easy job!
HT: Have you worked in a limo pick up in your deal yet?
AL: I have a car service that picks me up, but I pay for that myself.
HT: You used to take the ferry from New Jersey didn’t you?
AL: Well, I take the ferry home. The ferry drops me off by my apartment which is on the Hudson River. In the morning it’s too early for that so I take a town car in.
HT: Haven’t you been tempted to move to the city yet?
AL: I love where I live. I live right on the Hudson River in New Jersey, and I see the whole city! Without traffic at 5.30 in the morning, it takes exactly 12 minutes to work. I live in a nice place, and I can see Manhattan. It’s like a stone throw away, but I’m not in it so I get to leave the craziness at night.
HT: It used to take me more than twice as long to get to Midtown Manhattan from 71st and Columbus.
AL: The car picks me up at 5.30 every morning, and with stopping for a bagel and coffee it takes me about 14 ½ minutes. I live right by the Lincoln Tunnel so I shoot right threw without traffic!
HT: How long has it been for you on the Stern Show now?
AL: I’ve been on for 3 ½ years fulltime and almost 4 years part time. I started fulltime in October, 2001.
HT: It’s amazing how popular you are on the show now. You’re like a cult figure.
AL: (Laughs) Well, the audience is tough, man. They either like you or they hate you, but so far they’ve been nice to me, for the most part.
HT: Do you still have any development deals with the networks?
AL: No, I had one with ABC that ran out a few months ago, but since then I haven’t had any.
HT: Do you think that’s because the networks are beginning to get the idea that you’d never really commit to one unless the situations are absolutely right?
AL: To tell you the truth, no. Because my agents are CAA, and they think I could get another deal soon because they think I could be like in another “King of Queens” or something. But I got kind of tired of that TV thing too, you know. Making this DVD was refreshing because it wasn’t edited or censored by any network executives; it was just me at a club one night saying whatever the hell I wanted to say. Once I get done selling this DVD, I want to try to get a situation at Comedy Central maybe, or Showtime, where I could go a little nuts, and stay away from the network thing for a while.
HT: Well, there’s no doubt that you could be successful in your own sitcom eventually, but I don’t think anybody believes that you would actually leave the Stern Show for another regular gig.
AL: Well, I’m always honest with the networks before I go into a deal with them. I tell them, ‘look, I love my job, and it’s the greatest job in the world.’ But at the same time, I’d love to have sitcom money in my bank. So unless it’s a great situation, I won’t leave. Because it’s not like I’m doing nothing waiting for a sitcom to come along; I get to be on my favorite show of all time and have a blast every morning.
HT: But even if you got to do both shows in New York like Kelly Ripa, wouldn’t it be extremely tough, realistically?
AL: I don’t have the kind of juice that Kelly Ripa has. I sign these sitcom deals fully realizing that if it had to be in LA, I’d have to leave the Stern Show and do one thing. But if a situation where the show could be shot in New York then I think I could probably handle both things. I would never be on the road doing stand up. I’d definitely have to cut that out of my life. But, again, I don’t have that kind of juice so if I were to do a sitcom, the chances are I’d have to leave the Stern Show and go to LA.
HT: Would the show let you leave for say, 2 months if you were offered a co-starring role in a Farrelly brothers movie or something?
AL: Well, contractually, I have a deal if something comes up in my career, movie or TV-wise, I could always leave the show. But if I leave the show for a month to do a movie, it doesn’t mean that they can’t find a replacement for me. If they let somebody sit in on the show in that period of time, and they love him, then I could lose my job. That’s the risk you take, but I’m certainly allowed to go do whatever I want at this point. I’ve taken a week here and a week there in the last 3 ½ years to shoot a couple of minor movie roles, or go take some meetings for a deal. And Howard has always been ok with it because I’m allowed to do that in my contract, but if I was taking a movie that took a month or more to do, I’d have to make a serious decision. ‘Is it worth taking this job, and risk losing the Stern Show?’ I mean, look what happened to Jackie; he left for a couple of months, and Howard had a bunch of guys sit in that chair, and he eventually picked one to replace Jackie. And the same thing would happen to me. Howard’s the most powerful force in radio, and as long as he’s there the show will go on. So if I had to leave for a month, or a month and a half, he might be forced to try out other people and I could lose the job. But I certainly could leave if I wanted to.
HT: Yeah, I mean what are you going to do if the Coen brothers suddenly asked you to be in their next movie or something, you know?
AL: Hey look, there are a lot of dream movie roles out there that I would really consider leaving for, but again, it’s like with the sitcom situation, it would have to a great thing.
HT: Howard often encourages you to go for a lot of the job prospects that you bring up on the air because he likes you so much. But you seem to be very careful about what you do outside of the show too because you don’t want to burn that trust you seem to have?
AL: Oh, I am! Absolutely! And over the last few years, I’ve become friends with Howard. That’s been a real cool thing because he’s always supportive. He’s never been like ‘look, you have stay here!’ He’s always said that if something comes up that’s great, go do it and make the money, and he’s never stood in the way. To me, nothing has come up that was worth leaving for more than four or five days. I realize how important this job is in my career, you know?
HT: For you, this was like Jeter saying, ‘I want you to play on my team!’
AL: (Laughs) It was! Absolutely! I come from a working class town, in Jersey; I’m 37 years old, and I’ve been listening to Howard for twenty years! The job I have now, according to the guys I grew up with, I may as well be a U.S. Senator. I was huge fan! When I was on “The Norm Show”, I begged Norm to let me come in with him to promote “Dirty Work”, and that’s how I got to meet Howard! That’s how I initially got Howard to like me because I told some funny stories on the air.
HT: Did you get nervous when you made your first couple of appearances on The Stern Show? I mean, I’m sure you wanted to be impressive in front of your hero?
AL: Look, there have been a few things in my life that I got very nervous about. The first couple of tapings of Mad TV, I was nervous as hell. A few movie scenes with big stars, those were nerve wrecking. My appearances on Conan O’Brien were nerve wrecking. And for The Friars Club, I’ve roasted Hugh Hefner and Donald Trump in a room full of celebrities, and that was nerve wrecking. But nothing even compares to the first few times I went on The Stern Show! I was nervous as hell, but I just tried to be honest. That’s the rule people got to remember. He’s not looking for schtick or jokes, he just wants you to be honest and tell a story. So being a fan of the show helped me, and I was able to get over it eventually. Now, I feel like I’m working with friends.
HT: Joe Rogan told me that a good appearance on The Stern Show is the equivalent of being on Carson back in the days?
AL: Yeah, I’ve heard Joe say that, and he’s completely right about it. Ask any comedian who’s ever had a gig plugged on The Stern Show. Before, I did Howard, I did Conan about ten times, and I plugged my stand up there but not a lot of people would buy tickets. If you plug a show in Pittsburgh on The Stern Show, you’re going to sell out! And that’s the effect Carson used to have. That’s what Joe’s talking about.
HT: What’s the most important thing that you have learned from Howard?
AL: The biggest thing that I learned from Howard is story telling. I always considered myself to be a good story teller but I learned to tell a story better, which is very important for a comedian. I learned not to be as verbose, and to try to get to the point. And to be dead honest! It’s important not to bore people that are sitting in their car and listening to the show. Howard likes things to move. He likes you to get to the point quickly, and I feel that I’ve learned how to do that better by sitting next to him. And that’s helped me in every aspect of my career.
HT: Yeah, because Howard is not a traditional comedian but what he does in his media classifies him as a comedian too in a way. He puts his own funny spin on everything.
AL: He’s very witty. Hearing him rant about things is fucking funny, you know? He’s humorous. But he likes you to get to the point, and make it entertaining. So that’s something that I’ve definitely learned to do from him.
HT: And you probably learned to hold back sometimes too, and not try to force a laugh out of a situation?
AL: Yeah, he doesn’t like you to try to hard, and make it seem like a schtick. He likes everything to be real and honest.
HT: What great perk comes to mind from being on the show?
AL: (Laughs) Your treatment in strip clubs goes up to like royalty status! Howard Stern Show is like the mecca for strippers, you know?
HT: That even goes for guys like The King of All Blacks too, right?
AL: Yeah, exactly! If you’re associated with the show in any way, no matter what city you’re in, you get treated like a King! Which is nice, because it’s hard to get any respect when you go to these clubs. But the show gives you instant respect. And I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve enjoyed that status.
HT: Do you sometimes think about how different your life would’ve been if you weren’t on the show? I’m sure you would’ve been successful one way or another, but you have something to look forward to everyday on The Stern Show, and that’s a real high.
AL: Well, if The Stern Show never happened for me, the most likely scenario is that I would be on some lame sitcom as a supporting character, as the chubby neighbor, and making a living hopefully, and doing stand up on the side. I’m confident in my ability that I would be making decent money in show business, but I wouldn’t be doing anything nearly as fun as The Stern Show.
HT: It’s fun and edgy, which is a great challenge for you each morning.
AL: It’s the best! For a comedian who tries to be edgy, it’s really the best show ever. You can really push the envelope, and then I do my stand up at the clubs where I can do whatever I want, so, creatively, coming from network TV, it’s very freeing.
HT: The strength of Howard’s show, to me, is his uncompromising honesty and fearlessness. But how long do you think it would take Howard to establish a new niche on satellite radio, which is really in a very infant stage?
AL: The content of the show is something that a lot of people are speculating about, but I think it’s going to be the most entertaining show that you could possibly imagine. Because it’s going to be Howard doing the show he wants to do, and it’s not going to be crazy cursing or insanely dirty, it’s just going to be a show that we find entertaining. And without the bleeps, it’s going to something real cool to listen to. SIRIUS satellite is such an amazing service, and if people get it because of Howard, they’re going to fall in love with the rest of it. It’s going to be huge. Within five years; once it gets to be an option in cars on a regular basis, it’s going to be as big as HBO. And I think SIRIUS is going to be the company to do it, so we’re excited about it.
HT: And there’s absolutely no limits with the language on the air?
AL: No! It’s talking however you want to talk! I mean, we’re not going to go over the top with it, but if we feel like saying the F-word then we’ll just let it loose and talk like adults talk.
HT: You’re obviously hilarious on the show, but I don’t think a lot of people realize how restricted you are compared to being on stage, because guys like you and Rogan work really dirty?
AL: Right. Sometimes, it’s weird going from the radio to stand up at night because the language changes so drastically. You really have to think about it o the air sometimes. So once those restrictions are gone at SIRIUS, it’s going to be fun, man.
HT: Are you all signed up with SIRIUS yet?
AL: Not yet. They’ve called me and we have started some initial conversations, but I have not signed yet.
HT: Would you be willing to sign a long term deal like Howard?
AL: We’ll see, because I hate long term commitments, and there are other things that I could possibly pursue. But I would certainly be there for the solid year, without question, and an option to go on longer.
HT: It’s like an athlete negotiating as a free agent, isn’t it?
AL: SIRIUS were initially cool to me in our talks, so I’m sure we’ll figure something out that’ll make everyone happy.
HT: Why do you think Howard is still the most relevant and hippest after twenty some years? It’s quite amazing because we all get older, but Howard is still on the edge of whatever’s going on.
AL: Well, he’s more committed to his work than anybody I’ve ever seen. He stays healthy, he stays abreast of everything, he loves pop culture, and he has a gift to talking about it. He just keeps it honest, man! If he hates something, he says it, and he knows how to make his opinion entertaining. He just has that gift that people are drawn to, and I think if he stayed around till he’s 80, people will continue to hear him. But it is amazing that he’s still relevant with kids! The FCC sometimes feeds into that, and make him into a political figure. He’s a champion for free speech and he knows exactly how to roll with those punches. And I think he will continue to do so for as long as he stays on radio.
HT: He’s always been young at heart, and even at 80, he’s not going to be no Larry King.
AL: Howard’s a rock n’ roll type guy with a great work ethic, and he stays sharp.
HT: Your joining the show certainly brought a boost to the show, but I really think his divorce and becoming single brought a whole new dimension and made the show younger.
AL: Well, again, it’s about being honest. He was always honest about what it was like to be a married famous guy, and that was fascinating but that part of his life changed. And now he’s honest about what it’s like to be a divorced guy in a relationship with a beautiful and successful model, and that’s fascinating to people. So, it’s just about being honest about whatever point your life is at. Howard didn’t shy away from talking about his divorce and his life after, and that’s why people still love him.
HT: I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Howard is one of the very best interviewers of celebrities today. I’m talking about he’s in the level with a Charlie Rose or a Bob Costas.
AL: Personally, I think he’s better than those guys. I mean, forget interviewing some stripper from Montana; I’ve sat in the studio when he interviewed Paul McCartney, Rudy Giuliani, and he gets stuff out of them that nobody else does.
HT: And Howard accomplishes it in 5 minutes when all the other guys have an hour with them.
AL: It’s amazing! He got McCartney to talk about Yoko Ono, publishing rights, being on the road, and women. I just sat there and I must have said two words in the whole time. It was so great to have a front row seat to see that because it was right after 9-11 when McCartney was putting together the concert for New York. But that’s an example; that’s the kind of moment I put in a time capsule of how great Howard is at times.
HT: Still, the real proof of the edginess of the show is how honestly you guys deal with each others privacy on the show.
AL: Absolutely. We are all brutally honest with each other.
HT: You’ve been an easy target at times but you’ve handled it well. But has some of that stuff gotten a little too intrusive, or embarrassing to air?
AL: Well………hey look, no one likes to see footage of them drunk out of their ass in a blackout, and that’s what happened in Las Vegas. That part was a little intrusive, because my mom doesn’t like seeing that shit. But again, the rule of the show is, you got to have thick skin.
HT: You could have told E! not air it too, couldn’t you?
AL: I suppose I could’ve, but again, the show’s about honesty, and I made a decision to just say ‘fuck it!’ I put myself in that position on camera, and I went a little nuts. You know, that sort of gives you carte blanche to bust someone else’s balls. But you have to be able to take it. If you can’t, you should leave the show.
HT: But I think we’ve learned from the last couple of years that you are quite sensitive too?
AL: Oh, sure! Any comedian that tells you that they’re not sensitive or insecure, they’re bullshitting you! It’s indegenous to someone who performs. You’ve got to have that sensitivity about you, no matter how gruff you come off. I definitely have it.
HT: I know that Howard is particularly sensitive about when things are beginning to bum you out, but he still has to follow up and bust your balls if the listeners are calling in all morning about you.
AL: Yeah, he knows how to push buttons.
HT: Has the heightened interest of everybody worrying about your drinking and eating scare you?
AL: Yes, absolutely. It spurs discussions with my girlfriend, my mother, and my sister, and it’s stuff I really don’t need in my life.
HT: A lot of people are over reacting too, aren’t they?
AL: Some people are. I used to go nuts in Vegas before I was on Stern, but now it’s amplified in the spotlight. But that’s just what it is and I can’t change it.
HT: Apparently, you’re a very quiet and just in the background in Howard or Robin’s private parties. But do you feel like you have to be the life of the party when the camera’s on because that’s sort of what is expected of you?
AL: I don’t feel like I have to be that crazy all the time anymore, which makes me feel comfortable. It also makes it a little more original when I do go a little crazy, because then I’m not really pushing it.
HT: Have you experienced a so called moment of clarity yet?
AL: I definitely have in the past, but after that crazy week in Vegas I had a moment of clarity. The ironic thing is that at this point in my life, I drink less than I ever have because I don’t drink anymore during the week. Before, I used to drink everyday! With this job I can’t do that anymore.
HT: I actually think you look a lot healthier now than when you were on Mad TV.
AL: Well, my weight was up and down on Mad TV because of depression and doing a lot of coke. When I went to rehab, I literally put on 50 lbs., but then I finally got it together on “The Norm Show”, and I got on Stern Show at that weight. So, obviously, I had a bit of an epiphany that I was getting older. It’s just better to be lighter, it healthier.
HT: You’ve been off the drugs for a while now, so it’s just the drinking and eating, isn’t it?
AL: It’s drinking in gigs on weekends. That’s my biggest demon, and I tend to overdo it. I’ve had days where I went in hungover, but that is not the norm. There’s been times I greed to do some sort of stand up event on a weeknight.
HT: Or you went to great Yankee game and had a few drinks.
AL: Exactly. But coming in hungover sucks. It doesn’t work, man. I learned my lesson there. But 99% of the time, I’m in bed and sober on a weeknight.
HT: How much would you like to change your current condition?
AL: I’d like to cut it out of my life completely. Without question! I’d love to get to a point in my head where I’m on the road in a club in Milwaukee, and not have to drink! At this point, I do need to drink to calm myself down and to relax, and deal with being in Milwaukee and doing stand up.
HT: I remember Jay Mohr told me how all comedians are addictive personalities, and that comics are often self-destructive. Was ‘The World’s meanest Listener’ Contest some of the toughest stuff to handle?
AL: That was fucking brutal! That one kid called up pretending to be my dead father! It was crazy.
HT: I know that you’re very close to your mother but how was your relationship with your dad before he passed away?
AL: Great! I know that it sounds like a cliché, but he really was my best friend. We used to go to Yankee games together, played ball together, and he was the one that turned me on to The Stern Show.
HT: Were you a longshoreman when he died?
AL: No, I was longshoreman a year after he died. When he got into his accident, I was pretty much an unemployed, drunken, gambling loser, going from shit job to shit job.
HT: Do you sometimes think about how proud he would have been of you?
AL: Absolutely, all the time! There are a lot of reasons why I wish he was still alive, but one of the biggest reason is because he would have loved hearing me on The Stern Show. He would’ve absolutely loved it.
HT: Jokes about your dad’s passing must have felt out of line even for you?
AL: Again, it’s about having a thick skin. Nothing has really gotten me mad. But then again, that’s after being in therapy for many years to get over it, you know.
HT: Was there something that you shouldn’t have said to someone in the show?
AL: It has happened over the years. But let me think; sometimes I feel guilty after I make fun of Gary the Retard in that Jersey voice, you know. Sometimes I get a little down after that, but then I look at Gary and he seems happy to be on the show, so I just say ‘fuck it.’ Because you’ve got to entertain the people, you know.
HT: Do you really look at your life now as it’s pretty much as good as it could get?
AL: Well, you tend to exaggerate things on the air, but if things stayed at this level for the next 10 years, that would be fine. But I’ve always been a dreamer so maybe there’s another way up to go.
HT: How about marriage and settling down with kids?
AL: That’s definitely something that’s been on my head. I’ve dated a very nice girl for a few years, so I think about that all the time.
HT: Was meeting Dana one of the highlights in the last few years?
AL: Yes! Absolutely! In my personal life.
HT: What’s your ambition in your career?
AL: As you get older, a lot that it geared towards making money. I mean, if I could create a sitcom that I could star in and get that backend Seinfeld or Ray Romano money, I’d love to be able to do that. That would be a goal. There’s a difference between a guy that makes good money, and a guy who makes $500 million. I’d rather be the $500 million guy.
HT: Don’t you still have movie success ambitions?
AL: Not really. I’ve kind of been there and done that with movies. I don’t get a thrill out of it. A more realistic place for me to be is on television or radio.
HT: Do you have any regrets in life?
AL: Probably that I didn’t go to college. I think I could have and I probably would, if I had it to do over again. It’s an experience in life that you can’t beat.