Five things we learned at…Artie Lange's New York Comedy Festival show

After much rehab and time in mental institutions, the comic and Howard Stern sidekick comes clean in front of his biggest fans.

Artie Lange

Artie Lange Photograph: courtesy New York Comedy Festival

Artie fans love Artie. Self-evident, maybe, but it shows. The crowd hoots at the plot points in this folk hero’s life as much as they do his jokes, regularly bellow his name, shout random references to his life and generally egg him on. At one point, a man in the balcony yelled out “A-Rod,” and Lange said, “Don’t get me started.” Of course, he launched into a furious, pornographic tirade about the ballplayer—just as the fans hoped he would.

In some games of Scrabble, “GMR” is a word. In one of his visits to a mental hospital, Lange defended the illegal moves of a big, scary resident against an angry former meth addict because Lange didn’t want to be molested by the former. For the meth addict, Lange offered this thought: “The time for you to make a stand is not when playing Scrabble in a psych ward, the time for you to make a stand was when someone offered you crystal meth!”

MMA may be more complicated than you imagine. Lange prefers boxing to MMA fights because much of MMA seems to him like guys locked in coital embrace before sudden flurries of punches. “It looks like two men having sex,” he said, “and then suddenly one of them realizes he’s not gay.”

Happiness is the words Sunoco station. Lange told the crowd he’d use his car’s GPS all the time if it had Mike Tyson's voice. He then ran through some funny scenarios through which the Tyson GPS system might take its owners, ending at the aforementioned refueling spot. “You can’t be depressed,” said Lange, “if you, as Mike Tyson, say the words Thunoco thtation.”

Artie isn’t Artie, he’s Artaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. It’s even more evident in person that Lange is a totem, one that publicly grapples with vice and excess, but always finds a way to come back swinging. He never dismissed his past, nor did he let himself off the hook for bad behavior—he allowed the audience to see his struggle as their struggle. This makes him a kind of grizzled, chunky Casey Jones who blows his whistle to save the rest of us from a collision with that train full of blow, prostitues and OTB slips.