Comedian Artie Lange, known primarily to most from his work on the Howard Stern radio show and MAD TV, attempted suicide a few days ago. He has been released from the hospital to “continue his recovery.” As a long-time listener of the Stern show (now a former listener), I am all too familiar with the sad and sordid tales from Mr. Lange’s life – a rough New Jersey upbringing, a father who died a miserable death after becoming paralyzed in an accident, cocaine and heroin addictions, weight ballooning past 300 pounds, an inability to keep the nice schoolteacher girlfriend who hung in there as long as she could, loneliness, pressure to perform, on and on and on. The Belushi/Farley parallels are made often – the good-hearted talented fat funny guy who drowns his “Tears Of A Clown” pain in drugs and drink, throws money at people to try to buy their love, spirals out of control until they finally push it one too many times. Over and over, it seems, Lange has wanted to join that club quite badly, but not quite enough to spare his family from the pain of his ongoing and protracted death rather than the quick one.

I’m not heartless. Artie Lange is an addict and a man with some serious mental issues. I have hoped over the years that with the very substantial personal support he has from kind friends and family, hefty bank account, and some sort of realization of what is so good about his life and being alive would be enough for him to take action and get the long-term intensive help he needs to get well. I don’t hope for that any longer. He has spent his entire adult life veering from catastrophe to catastrophe, entirely of his own making. This is what he wants, as incomprehensible as it seems. If the guy really truly wanted off the planet, a thousand times over he could’ve taken a page from the Cobain playbook and made sure that the outcome was assured. But no, instead he makes the choices that force the people in his life, and those who follow his career, to focus on poor Artie, to clean up his messes over and over and over, to make excuses for him, to invest in his misery.

What kind of “good man” is Lange to do this to his mother? After her husband dies, she gets to spend the rest of her life tortured by her only son, waiting for the final call from the police to tell her it’s over. What kind of decent human being stabs himself nine times, KNOWING it will be his MOTHER who finds him lying there bloody? My sympathies don’t lie with Artie; they are with his mother and sister to have to endure this sheer hell he inflicts upon them. At some point you can’t blame it on his addictions and illnesses any longer. This is who he is, the bottom line.

The Stern show is not for everyone, for sure; it is often incredibly offensive and harsh, with moments of great hilarity and long stretches of chat about whatever is going on in the lives of the regulars that work on the show. When you listen to it over the years, you get sort of sucked into the soap opera aspect of the latter, and the (relatively) honest manner in which Stern and Co. speak about their lives, warts and all. They all have their quirks and strangeness, which can be quite funny to explore. But as more and more about Artie Lange’s imploding life became known to the public, it started to become less and less funny, at least to me. Especially disturbing was the thought that Stern and SIRIUS XM see an increase in show listeners every single time Artie has a crisis, and that there is profit to be made in exploiting his sickness. Putting a mic on a snoring Artie in the radio studio is humorous, until you realize he has nodded out from heroin use. To use a show phrase, “it’s not fun or funny.”

I stopped listening to the show some time ago, for a variety of reasons: it sucked up a great deal of my time, it no longer was entertaining me the way it had in the past, it seemed like Stern was bored and rushing to get out of the studio every day, comedy bits were being recycled too much, too many dim-bulb porn girls were used to drive traffic to Howard TV, and the in-studio guests generally were Z-grade after the move to SIRIUS. The benefits to Stern moving off terrestrial radio were short-lived. But that said, I got many great laughs from the show over the years, learned something about how the guts to be honest can connect you to other people like in no other way, and got to see a man having a Brazilian wax. Artie Lange was a great addition to Stern’s world – down-to-earth, quick-witted, with the best laugh. When Artie really laughed at a bit, I would laugh with him; it couldn’t be helped. I always thought that if he had the ability to laugh, to enjoy anything at all, that there would be something for him to grab onto, something worth turning things around.

Whenever it is that Artie Lange finally does himself in, for some it will be very sad, as well as a relief.

Artie Lange as toddler, with his father and singer Frankie Valli.