Artie Lange: Jack and Coke
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
By Ryan P. Carey
Artie Lange recovers quickly from an off-putting intro of particularly mindless gay and dick jokes, almost as if he simply wanted to establish the mood for the evening with an opening pop from the frat-a-holic Howard Stern hordes on Jack and Coke. The rest of the album doesn’t exactly get wholesome by any stretch, but the hollowness gets replaced with a certain amount of humanity and realness as Lange shares his self-deprecating and skeptical point-of-view.
Some themes receive ample coverage on Jack and Coke: drugs, prostitutes and sports seem to dominate, as well as fatness and Italian-Americanism. Something I particularly liked is that, with the exception of one funny story about Chris Rock on Stern, Lange doesn’t fill out his album with “celebrecdotes” from his years with Stern or Mad TV. He shows his work ethic by doing almost an hour and twenty minutes of solid material. And the material, for what it is — stories about his lifestyle, vulgar opinions about Hollywood stars, his personal take on politically correct issues like AIDS and the Special Olympics — does cater to the Stern crowd, but only occasionally comes out being offensive just for offensiveness’ sake. There’s usually a unique outlook or at least a funny punch line offering some validity for his very foul vocabulary. And even if this isn’t a knock-out sidesplitting disc, you have to hand it to Lange for maintaining an original voice and clever material in an age when shock comedy is overdone ad nausea.
Jack and Coke is not going to disappoint any Artie fan — or Stern fan, for that matter. Half the reason I would tune in to Stern when it was on terrestrial radio was to listen to Lange’s shitstorm of a life unravel in a manner that was often more poignant than funny. And though his lifestyle may or may not be totally out of the woods just yet, his presentation on the record is clean and clear. He also uses a past-tense framing for most of the debauchery which allows us to laugh a bit easier than if his messed up stories were talking about “earlier tonight”.
As for quality and quantity of laughs, Lange is not quite Jim Norton (but he’s definitely more likeable). And he’s funnier than most of his stylistic contemporaries. He channels some Carlin and even gives a shout-out to Pryor.
Ryan P. Carey, D.D.S. is a Philadelphia-based comic and senior contributing writer for STAGE TIME. Check out his blog at http://dolphindentist.blogspot.com.