"I'm glad Heath Ledger died, and I'll tell you why." Artie Lange, who came way too close to dying himself earlier this year, opens his Jack and Coke stand-up comedy special that way.
Programming Note: You'll see half of his hour-and-half DVD recording tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern on Comedy Central — followed by most of it later in the night (1 a.m. Eastern) uncensored as part of its "Secret Stash." It's said that most of Lange's material had not been recorded on CD or DVD before now. So for that, I'll excuse his reliance on jokes about Brokeback Mountain in 2010.
Lange's performance, recorded last year at Gotham Comedy Club, is decidedly no-frills. But when the frills of an Artie Lange live show typically include the crude and immature antics of his "Howard Stern" fans who have tended to ruin most of the live shows I've seen of Lange — and by ruin, I mean constantly yelling out catchphrases and lines from the Stern show to rile up Lange and make it less a stand-up performance than a monkey show (do the tricks, monkey!) — this stands out as a delight. It's a very measured, calm, confident Lange here. I hope Lange watches it on TV or DVD himself to remind himself that he is a talented stand-up.
Here's a clip. Roll it!
He makes repeated funny asides about how he doesn't want to be sued for some of his comments, and also gives a shout-out to Norm MacDonald after doing crowd work with an audience member.
There are funny lines, too, about getting nostalgic when he goes to Las Vegas ("Last time I went to Vegas, I went to my coke dealer's son's bar mitzvah."), being sober, talking about how much fatter he used to be, even while doing drugs, visiting Afghanistan to entertain the troops, and acknowledging how YouTube has captured every moment he has messed up in his life. An hour in, you'll also hear Artie Lange acknowledge his depression and how he looks at most things in life darkly — as a segue into a bit about the Special Olympics. The joke about A-Rod is dated now that A-Rod actually did something clutch for the Yankees last October, but I suppose Lange is cool with that. Here is a clip of Lange talking about his trip to Afghanistan. Roll it!
He dedicates the DVD to his mother and Stace, and during the show, says: "I love my Mom. I love my sister Stacey. They saved my life, two good people. Actually, I should say they saved my life…again." They've had to do it at least one more time since he recorded the special. Let us all hope this time did the trick. He even closed out his special by asking Stacey to join him onstage, followed by the two cops who Lange said got him to stop using heroin.
The DVD extras include looks at his fans, extra material, and nice touch by featuring sets from his opening acts, Pete Dominick and Joe Matarese. Here are links to buy Artie Lange's Jack and Coke, on iTunes or the DVD via Amazon: