INT: Artie Lange
Interviewing Artie Lange was probably the most fun I've had in a long time doing an interview. There was no publicist rushing us along, reminding us to keep on-topic, no bullshit, just two guys chatting. Artie called me from his apartment in Jersey earlier this summer (hence some of the dated references below) when on break from "The Howard Stern Show" and we spent about a half-hour talking about a variety of things from growing up in Jersey, sports, Stern, Springsteen and lots more. To try not to bore the crap out of everyone, I condensed our chat to some of the BEER LEAGUE focused talk. He's a really relaxed guy (as I note immediately, which you'll see below) and a blast to talk to. Here's hoping BEER LEAGUE is just as much fun. Here's Artie:
Hey Mike, it's Artie Lange. Hey Artie. What's goin on? Not much. You sound pretty relaxed. (Laughs) Yeah I'm at the end of a two-week vacation. I was just on the road doing stand-up in Atlantic City and Pittsburgh. So I'm really mellowed out right now (laughs). There are worse places to be doing stand-up than AC and Pittsburgh. No, no, it's not the places. It's the drive, the travelling, the airports. Airports are the worst. I want to strangle people sometimes. That's the only part I don't like. I actually considered driving back from Pittsburgh, which I've done before, but my flight was on-time. Being from "The Howard Stern Show," I'd imagine you get a lot of people coming up to you at airports feeling like they're your best friend. In certain cities, yeah. Like Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a huge Stern city so yeah. In some towns, you'd think I'm like, fucking, Tom Cruise or something. It's actually worse cause they wouldn't bother Tom Cruise. With me they feel like they can just get me in a headlock and I'm just a jerkoff (laughs). For me I'm just one of their buddies who owes them money. They don't care. They'll slap me around, "Let's do a shot!" What's the ratio for people coming up and saying how much they love you to people coming up and just giving you a hard time about your weight, drinking, the Yankees or something else? Well it's never negative and they're always very nice. It's always done in a loving way but sometimes you feel like they just invade your space. Like, "C'mere buddy, how ya doin'!" And they grab you and hug you... The worst thing that happened to me was one time I was going into the "Stern Show" and there are revolving doors downstairs and it was a real hot, humid morning. It was one of those things where even at quarter-to-five in the morning it was already 85-degrees. And this big, fat kid got in the revolving doors with me. And we got stuck and I felt his stomach hit my back and it was all sweaty and I had just showered. He went, "Oh, sorry. I always do this, I'm sorry." (Laughs) It took the security guard a few minutes to get us out of there and then I signed an autograph for the kid and I go, "What do you mean you always do that?" He goes, "I just wanted to meet you and usually with strangers I get stuck in the revolving doors" (laughs). I'm like, "You gotta work on that brother..." I'm no Jack LaLanne but how 'bout a few sit-ups? It's gotta be tough to be off from the show but still be working pretty hard promoting the movie? Doing stand-up now, I literally do more than double my salary. So it's hard to give up the money, cause stand-up is so up-and-down, two years from now I could be out of work. So if I'm getting offered $50,000 a weekend, I can't say no. So I go and I do it but, yeah, it's not just about money this time, it's promoting the movie. So I'm out on the road doing stand-up in the cities the movie's opening in.
When you decided to do the movie, were you looking to do it to make some money or to get some more exposure outside of the "Stern Show?" It's funny... I've been in a lot of studio movies and DIRTY WORK is a good example and probably the favorite example of a movie I've done for the studio. It started out as rated-R and I loved it and then they made it PG-13. The studio got involved and I was like, "Fuck!" Me and the kid who wrote BEER LEAGUE, we were like, this is gonna be our SLAPSHOT. A rated-R softball comedy and we're not changing it for anybody. We both make a living doing other stuff so we're gonna wait until someone makes it the way we want to make it and that's why we did it. We just wanted to make a funny movie that we were proud of. Like a time capsule kinda thing. I did a similar thing with my stand-up a few years ago. I just put out a DVD of unedited club stand-up that nobody could fuck with and sold it that way. It's the same thing with the movie. We wanted to do it that way. And it came out good and it looks like it might make money so that would just be a bonus. Did you have any input on the decision to change the title to ARTIE LANGE'S BEER LEAGUE? Well what happened was... First, believe me, that was not my idea. As a matter of fact I'm a little embarassed by that. We always loved the title BEER LEAGUE and now there's a comedy coming out, the SUPERTROOPERS guys have a comedy coming out called BEERFEST. So the distributor got scared of that and I said, I don't want to lose BEER LEAGUE altogether cause I love that, so they came up with calling it ARTIE LANGE'S BEER LEAGUE. It's a specific crowd so it's like Howard Stern's PRIVATE PARTS or LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR. Just make sure the fans know it's me in the movie. So that's what they changed it to and I was like, Oh well, I guess it works. So it'll be in the newspapers and all over the marquees as ARTIE LANGE'S BEER LEAGUE. If you see the movie, the title that's burned on to it is just BEER LEAGUE but for marketing purposes they put my name in there. How much of the Artie character is you and how much is fictionalized? This character, and this is depressing, would be me if I wasn't a comedian. Basically I'd be a drunk playing in a softball league I took way too seriously and working at a dead-end job and living with my mother. Without question.
And how much of your on-air personality is actually Artie and how much of it is schtick? Everything on the show is real but it's funny, the show has actually tamed me a little bit because of the schedule. I couldn't be living the way I used to live and have this schedule. It'd be literally impossible. On the weekend I do still blow it out a little bit. The character in the movie does blow every once in a while. I haven't done coke in ten years cause that was killing me. Everything is based in truth and the differences are the guy in the movie is broke and I have a good amount of money, I guess. I live a more comfortable life but that's really the only major difference. Have you started screening for any critics yet and what kind of response have you gotten? We did Cinevegas, the Vegas film festival, and there were three critics there. And this was an added bonus cause we thought critics would kill it but one gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, compared it to SLAPSHOT and THE BAD NEWS BEARS, which we were over the moon about and called it a "softball classic." That's FilmThreat.com. Then there was CountingDown.com and it was a woman who admitted she didn't listen to the "Stern Show" said "you'll hurt your sides laughing," and then Variety gave it a pretty good review. You can tell if you read the review, he says a ton of nice things about it but you can tell he's a snobby guy who's dying to bash the movie. It's funny, the compliments are as condescending as you can imagine like he goes, For Artie types, he's gotta be their biggest hero (laughs). He admits that Seymour cassel is hilarious but says he's "profanely" hilarious. He was at a screening where it destroyed - we got a standing ovation. He was at that so he said, I gotta admit there're laughs here and that's how we wrote it. We are three-for-three so far with critics. Are you nervous to screen the movie for Howard and the guys on the show? I'm always nervous. See, guys I grew up with and played softball with are gonna love it I knew that. And I knew people were gonna like the jokes, but the director [Frank Sebastiano] got people to care about the story a little bit and the game at the end. Howard and Robin [Quivers] are tough critics so I'm always nervous about that. He's gonna like it or he's not gonna like it. He usually doesn't like sports movies; he's not a sports guy and it's not his type of movie. But he'll be supportive like he always has. And look obviously there are going to be critics that hate it. But I know, if you've ever played softball before in a league, you've gotta laugh at a lot of this stuff.
1,000 screens is a pretty impressive run for an indie comedy. Well God bless the "Stern Show." Because of my success from these fans, they're like... You know, it's a two-and-a-half million dollar movie but the awareness is almost like a small, studio movie because of my involvement with the show and talking about it. So we got a chance to make money here. They're gonna open on 200 and they say they're gonna go wide with 1,000. Because of the limited release, I heard there will be a shorter window between the theatrical and DVD release dates. It's coming out in September and we'll see how long it lasts and the goal is hopefully to get the DVD out for Christmas. The DVD will have a whole lot of extra stuff. Movies are shot now with a whole extra crew there shooting another movie for the fucking DVD. It's insane. It turns into a seventeen-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. That's funny cause the "Stern Show" was almost a behind-the-scenes documentary when you were shooting and doing the show at the same time. It's a great way to promote everything, that radio show. Even when [Howard] was bashing me for missing days of work, he's still talking about the movie. That's why the awareness is so high. I had heard a number of different release dates so when will it actually hit theaters? It comes out in New York, Philly, Cleveland and Jersey on September 15th. Then, I belive, on the 29th they're expanding to 1,000 screens in other Stern cities that I've told them, from touring over the last few years, "Look make sure it opens in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Pheonix and Austin." It's nice that Jersey is finally included. A lot of indie movies never make it out here and just play in New York. With this one, they know. It's gonna be all over Jersey and around Philly, which includes South Jersey.