After years of battling addiction on-air, Howard Stern Show writer/performer (and, in a very indirect way, CBC employee) Artie Lange has finally had his long-dreaded Richard Pryor moment, ending up in hospital after a bloody suicide attempt. The New York Post‘s story this morning, almost certainly provided by law-enforcement sources, was essentially confirmed by Stern on today’s show.
The incident presents Stern, nearing the end of his contract with satellite radio monopolist Sirius XM, with one of his greatest performing challenges. His entertainment philosophy has traditionally been “Anything personal I find out about my cast is fair game for the air”. Robin Quivers’ disclosures about being sexually molested by her father have been a running gag on the show for 15 years. But Lange’s act of frightening self-violence is on an entirely different level (though it arrives against an ugly, intensifying backdrop of deaths and criminal-justice run-ins for Stern’s “Wack Pack” of peripheral freaks and misfits), and Stern is obviously flustered and discouraged.
What strikes me about the incident is that Artie Lange could get his hands on a gun easily enough if he wanted to. Equally obviously, what he did was done in earnest. But self-harm doesn’t always mean that one is pursuing extinction per se. Over the period in which Lange’s personal problems and addictions have been fodder for the show, the comic has talked endlessly about his psychological issues concerning his father, who was paralyzed in a fall when he was in high school. One notices, however, that he was discovered on Saturday by his mother when she came to drop off food—which, as listeners know, she does almost every day. (Hell, listeners can tell you what specific dishes were probably in the tinfoil.) So my question is: who was Artie really trying to hurt?