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:
Just as I finished typing that last update, Pete Dominick switches gears completely and decides to talk about how some people watch comedy shows and think maybe they should do it. So Dominick offers tips and guidance. First, he says that most comedians wish ill on each other's careers, and when they ask how another comic is doing, they really want to know what's going on with your career (not how you're doing personally) so they can hope it fails or try to audition for the gig you're working toward. Dominick talks about how age and looks play differently in the industry (he claims 27 is seen as too old to start comedy and if you're bald, like him, good luck with that, too, getting industry folk to look you in the eyes). And yet, when he got his gig hosting a show on Sirius Satellite Radio, he said he got tons of dates performing stand-up -- despite being no better or worse as a performer than before he got the radio gig. "But that's how this business works," Dominick tells the audience. "It's f#%&ing insanity."
Dominick also decides to heap praise on fellow stand-up comedian Ted Alexandro, whom many in the audience had just seen earlier this morning. "He is an aberration," Dominick said of Alexandro. "He is such a nice and humble and honest person."
Where is all of this coming from?
"I could be up here crushing with my act, but I do that so often," he quips. "So I thought, why don't I give you some behind the scenes." So there you go.
As hour 14 heads into hour 15, and I think my eyelids cannot stay open, Pete Dominick arrives and says he's going to do a "social experiment" and work through today's New York Post and see what jokes he can write from it. Obama's on the cover. But turn the page, and just as important, Charlie Sheen's new wedding. "I almost don't want to do my act, because this is such a weird thing," Dominick says. He continues flipping newspaper pages, and I cannot help but think of Fred Armisen's send-up of "topical" comedians by doing this very thing on Saturday Night Live.
Update: Dominick does make an astute observation about how the crowd doesn't change seats throughout this lengthy night, even though stand-up works better often when the audience is seated closely together and near the stage. "You guys are an outfield," he says. He also notices that there's a Reuters reporter judging him from the back of the room.
If you happen to visit New York City anytime soon, let me put in a word for a stop at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Or is it the Meatpacking District? The site says it's in Chelsea, two blocks north of the Meatpacking District. Anyhow. I've already gotten away from the point. Point is, if you have several hundred dollars per day to blow on lodging here, you're likely to have casual encounters with celebrities. And not just all of the stand-up comedians who stayed at the Maritime last week. In a period of less than 24 hours, I exchanged words with Michael Stipe (whom I now realize was hanging around for Monday's induction of R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) and saw Tate Donovan hanging around in the lobby. I believe my exchange with Stipe went something like this:
5:50 p.m. Saturday, comedian Dan Boulger and I head down the steps and out of the Maritime. Just then, Stipe is heading inside. We almost collide. "Oh...hi!" I say. "Hello," he replies. Boulger stares oddly. And that was that. Stipe wore some sort of beret and was sporting a grayish brown beard.
And now for the rest of the weekend story.
Boulger invited me to hang out for Saturday night's tapings of Live at Gotham. During the day, all of the stand-up comics get to run-through rehearsal. They'll put anything on the teleprompter, even a word-for-word transcript of a comedian's routine. Odd to think you could get on TV and simply read your stand-up routine. Who does that? It's odd just to see a comic read off their notes during a major set. But I suppose Comedy Central might also offer this service just in case a comic gets a case of the TVs and freezes up. Plus, it turns out the teleprompter also can be used as an alternative to the light, sending messages such as "one minute left!" As for audience members, they're told no food, no bathroom breaks, the better to keep disruptions to a minimum. And the production hired a special audience coordinator to hand out specific seat assignments. Apparently, seating a comedy show can be looked at as a science. Put the best-looking best laughers front and center. Put industry people in the back corner. Audience members also got instructions on what not to wear (no logos, no whites). And then, as talent manager Max Burgos pointed out before the first taping began: "The smoke machine really does it, man." Suppose it adds an old-school comedy club feel, although it'd really be old-school if they let you smoke. The tapings also have an official warm-up comedian. Dan Ahdoot more than honorably worked this non-televised job, working the crowd (and adding another several minutes of material when the second show incurred technical difficulties) and helping establish pre-show shots of crowd applause and laughter.
Each comic got to work out about 10 minutes of material, knowing that Comedy Central might edit out a couple of minutes for the Web and other material for ad time. I'd think they might cut Callen's bit about wanting to change his own name to something along the lines of Meeeeowww Cah! (Um, didn't he see the whole online debate about Louis CK and Dane Cook?) Guess not. Also, Breuer had to come back onstage at the end of the first show for several attempts at pronounciating the Colbert Report. The second show had much more energy. Perhaps that had to do with the lineup. Goldman had so much more going on than when I'd seen her last year at a Laughing Liberally show at Jimmy Tingle's. Boulger, going up after her, looked nervous for the first time that I'd ever seen. Then came Andre, who blew the roof off the joint, took extra time out of his act to encourage the audience to make fart noises, just to see if Comedy Central would use it! Hoogasian, up next, tried to sound like Emo Philips but mostly sounded weird. And it seemed odd at the end when Scolaro went with a bit about cavemen having to determine what was edible (since in the previous show, Ramsey had a similar bit about the first guy to bite into a pineapple!). No matter. At least not for me to worry about. That's why they're on separate shows, right? Right. Anyhow, onto the after parties, first downstairs, and then out onto nearby streets and a place called Dusk which was small but had a good vibe, especially when a bunch of comedians and like-minded people took over the bar. Good times.