Under the influence of antidepressants, painkillers and Jack Daniel's, and desperate for any form of sleep, comedian Artie Lange chugged a bottle of Clorox bleach and stabbed himself nine times in the chest with a butcher knife. In his new memoir, "Crash and Burn," Lange describes this suicide attempt in January 2010 as "psychotic," caused by a cocktail of drug abuse, stress from booking too many standup gigs, and the decision by "Howard Stern Show" producers to place the comic on indefinite hiatus.
"It started out where I thought, 'I just needed some sleep,' and then, as I got weaker and weaker, it became, 'I don't care whether I wake up,' " Lange recalls, speaking from his apartment in Hoboken, N.J. "I gave myself the kind of schedule that no human being could do without the help of drugs, and even with them, once they wear off, there's no way to ever bounce back. I put myself in that position."
Lange sounds groggy on this Tuesday morning, nearly four hours into a press junket he says began at 6 a.m. "I don't know why I do this to myself," he says.. If the past four years have been "rock bottom" for Lange, who says he's now "clean" after spending 18 months detoxing in intensive care, psych wards and rehab clinics, they have also been a source of comedy.
When he performs Saturday night at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, his material will draw on his stints in treatment centers around the country. In "Crash and Burn," released in paperback in June, one incident recalls a "gigantic" mental patient named Terry who insisted on calling Lange "Jimmy Kimmel." Another involves his stay at the West Palm Beach holistic center Hippocrates Health Institute, where nurses proceeded to cleanse his body of drugs with daily colonics.
"It wasn't a rehab. It was a spa, and it was the most awkward place ever. You're walking around that place, and everyone is getting something done to their a--," he recalls with a laugh.
Lange says other experiences in South Florida have been more pleasant, including his performances at the South Beach Comedy Festival and the Fillmore Miami Beach, and the time he celebrated his fiancée Adrienne's birthday last year at the Setai in Miami Beach.
Lange's latest standup material should appear in a new comedy special, "The Stench of Failure," in October, and he's preparing to shoot a television pilot this summer that he describes as "a dark comedy about my life on the road when I was at my nuttiest, when it was complete chaos, and it will deal with my drug addiction."
Lange rules out any possibility of rejoining "The Howard Stern Show" as an on-air sidekick, blaming his relapse on the show's demanding morning schedule. Stern has remained a source of guidance over the past two years, as have his friends, including comedian Nick DiPaolo, his former co-host on DirecTV's "The Artie Lange Show." So has Bruce Springsteen, who called him a year after Lange's suicide attempt to offer a few encouraging words.
"He's a guy who knows everyone in rock 'n' roll, but he was saying that addiction is the great equalizer," Lange says. "Whether you're Keith Richards or a guy off the street, it's all the same crap, and you've got to deal with it eventually. But the most important thing he said was that you shouldn't feel alone with your disease, which meant a lot to me."
Artie Lange will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. Tickets cost $41.87 to $48.23. Call 954-344-5990 or go to CoralSpringsCenterForTheArts.com.