The Problem Isnt Just Trump. Its Our Ignorant Electorate.

For many of us, mornings have taken on a certain nauseating sameness. We roll out from beneath the blankets and, before the scent of coffee has reached our nostrils, we are checking the news feeds for the latest semi-literate tweet coughed up by the ranting, traitorous squatter occupying the Oval Office.

The rest of the day is spent in a kind of horrified suspension, holding our breath, waiting for whatever outrage will inevitably belch forth from the White Houseonce a bastion of seriousness and decorum, now ground zero for the demise of western democracy. How many lies will Trump spew today? Which dictators will he suck up to? Will he smear a Gold Star family? Attack a woman who dares to call out his smarmy predations? Unveil a puerile, racist nickname for a Senator or member of his own cabinet?

As much as we loathe it, however sickening it might have become, every day seems all about him, a former game show host and real estate failure, a hawker of rot-gut vodka and bullshit degrees from a fraudulent University who once styled himself as the Donald. The cable news shows lead with his most recent flatulence, the op-ed pages brim with intimations of doom, late night comedians are having a field day.

He is the president and, thus, bears watching. But we would be mistaken to think that he is truly the center of our universe, a man with a plan, commanding the heights, directing the action.

Virulent as he may be, Donald J. Trump is a symptom not the disease. Without us, he would amount to nothing more than what he had always been before the bizzaro presidential election of 2016: a foppish narcissist desperate for any measure of affirmation; a joke; a nothing. He did not create his voters. They have been there all along, seething with sometimes justifiable anger and suffering their various insecurities. They created and enabled Trump. And make no mistake, in all their vulnerable humanity, they are us: Gullible, compliant, distracted, marinating in irony.

At root, we the people are the problem.

We are understandably reluctant to impugn the intelligence and integrity of our fellow citizens. It is arrogant, uncivil, bad form. Who are we, any of us, to hold ourselves superior? When Hillary Clinton referred to some Trump supporters as deplorables, she was roundly castigated on all sides. How dare she? Yet it is an uncomfortable reality that anywhere from a fifth to a third of our electorate can be fairly (if gently) described as low-information voters. If the results of numerous polls and questionnaires are to be trusted, they know very little about the world they inhabit and what they do know is often woefully incorrect.

Surveys conducted every two years by the National Science Foundation consistently demonstrate that slightly more than half of Americans reject the settled science concerning human evolution. They are not unaware that virtually all credible scientists accept the overwhelming evidence that we evolved from earlier species. They simply choose not to accept that consensus because it doesnt comport with their deeply held beliefs. Many also embrace the absurd notion that the earth is only six thousand years old. Astonishingly, in the early 21st century, around a quarter of our citizenry seems unaware that said earth revolves around the sun.

It is a mistake to regard concern about such ignorance as effete snobbery or elitist condescension. While misapprehensions about basic astronomy, earth science and biology may have little impact on these folks daily lives, does anyone actually believe that similarly uninformed views arent likely to affect their grasp of policies regarding, say, climate change? Income inequality? Gun violence? Immigration?

Profound knowledge gaps like the aforementioned reveal an inability to think critically and leave a person vulnerable to all manner of chicanery. We are all ignorant about many things. Dont get me started on my dismal grasp of mathematics! But the hallmark of a sound education is not glorying in what you think you know, but, instead, appreciating the vastness of what you dont know.

If ignorance is the key that opens the door for charlatans like Trump, improved education, whether in school or in the public square, would seem to provide an obvious solution. But here we confront the perverse Dunning-Kruger Effect identified by psychologistsessentially, the less we know, the more certain we become of our superior knowledge. We have also discovered that exposure to facts and evidence does not always have the expected impact. Many people, when confronted by irrefutable proof that some core belief is incorrect, dont change their minds but dig in their heels. What feels right to them must be right and no amount logic and reasoning will dissuade them. Emotion trumps evidence.

Not too long ago, I fell into conversation with a woman aboard an airplane. Our chat somehow turned to health care. She offered the opinion that people who couldnt afford health insurance didnt deserve medical services. Why should she pay for someones care when they were obviously too lazy to earn their own money?

Because Im my own kind of fool, I rose to the bait. Did that mean they should be allowed to die in the street? I wondered. Well, no, she said. That would be inhumane. They could always go to an emergency room. So she was willing to pay for their care, I observed, but only in the least efficient, most expensive manner. This gave her momentary pause, but she quickly regrouped, simply repeating her prior assertion: Why should she pay? I didnt ask who she planned to vote for in the then-upcoming presidential election, but given that she had also voiced the opinion that women were, by virtue of their gender, unqualified to be news anchors, Im guessing it wasnt Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein.

She is hardly the worst example of an unthinking voter. Bill Maher once invited onto his show former GM Executive Bob Lutz. One supposes that such a fellow has benefited from an adequate education and that hes open to reason. Yet, when the subject of climate change arose, Lutz denied it was happening. A bunch of nonsense as far as he was concerned.

As it happened, Maher had also invited Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, educator and Director of the Hayden Planetarium. Tyson patiently explained why Lutz was misinformed. The planet was warming. Humans were largely to blame. This is how we know.

You might expect an educated person to respond by at least engaging on the topic. Tyson was, after all, vastly more knowledgeable on the subject at hand. Had their roles been reversed, with the topic being cars, I have no doubt he would have deferred to the automaker, asking questions, trying to improve the state of his own knowledge. Not Lutz. You could see him shutting down before Tyson had even warmed to the topic (no pun intended). As Upton Sinclair famously put it, Its hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

Anyone who has watched the focus groups of Trump voters has seen this sorry dynamic played out again and again. Everything, no matter how tawdry or malicious, is excused or minimized. You get the feeling these folks would accept the sexual molestation of teenage girls as a trade-off for Neil Gorsuch. In fact, many did in supporting Roy Moore.

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era.

Much has been written about the impact social media and the internet in general have had on how people receive and absorb information. By now, we are all familiar with bots, trolls, phony scandals and the tendency of folks to hunker down in their own info-silos. The old adage that a lie is halfway round the world before the truth gets its socks on has never been more salient.

Consider the recent attacks on one of the young Parkland shooting survivors. A teenager who had just witnessed classmates being gunned down at his own school quickly discovered that speaking up for common-sense gun regulation resulted in vicious trolling and the viral lie that he was a paid crisis actor. This was similar to what befell the grieving families of the small children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Imagine waking one morning in a state of searing grief over the violent death of your baby to discover that some odious prankster like Alex Jones is telling his gullible audience that the whole tragic incident was staged, that your child was actually a paid performer doused in artificial gore and posed in a gruesome tableaux of death.

That Jones and his ilk have not been thoroughly shamed and driven from the public sphere says a lot about our growing tolerance for vile nonsense.

Trump did not invent Fake News. The Big Lie has been the stock in trade of con men and tyrants since time immemorial. But he understands its value. Alternative facts as his lickspittle factotum, Kellyanne Conway infamously put it, has long been his metier. Hes a bullshitter, a phony and now hes our president.

This shouldnt have happened. But we let it happen, though Trump did have plenty of help

Unsurprisingly, the Fox propaganda machine and any number of right-wing radio ranters enthusiastically clambered aboard the Trump Train. They were abetted by many in the mainstream media who, mindful that Trump lured eyeballs to advertisers and too timid to call him out as the carnival barker he so obviously was, went along for the ride. A number of Republicans in Congress dismissed him at first. But when it became clear he had a shot at winning and that his devotees comprised at least half of their party, they scurried to adopt him as their useful idiot.

Its true that we are not all equally culpable. Roughly three million more people voted for Trumps chief opponent. But the right-minded among us didnt do enough to forestall the plainly looming disaster. The proof of that is the Trump presidency itself.

So, if we in our various incarnations are the problem, then what is the solution? Is there any way out? Wed better hope so. Whats certain is that its on us. We made a wreck of our government and its up to us to fix it.

There are positive signs:

A once compliant media has begun to take the gloves off. Genuine conservatives, outraged that their movement has been hijacked by philistines, are sounding the alarm. People are rising up and calling BS. For every Sean Hannity there is a Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper or even Shepard Smith (at Fox News, no less!). For every Paul Ryan, there is a David Frum or Max Boot. Frothing crowds at CPAC are countered by the #MeToo movement and impressively eloquent teenagers fed up with politicians of any stripe who cower before the gun industry. On a good day, a John McCain or Jeff Flake will stand up to the cringing accommodationists in their own party. And, of course, Donald Trump himself, along with his corrupt lackeys, face a formidable foe in the person of Robert Mueller.

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers recent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee should mark a turning point, though he merely confirmed what has been apparent for some time: that even as our nation is under attack from a Russia determined to subvert our democracy, the president has not directed any relevant agencies to defend the country. This is a violation of the oath Trump swore on inauguration day and smacks of treason. We have entered uncharted waters.

Whats clear is that we need to use all non-violent resources at our disposal to rid ourselves and our country of the dangerous infection spreading from the White House into our body politic. These are not normal times and our usual reflexes will no longer suffice.

Trump is a problem of our own creation. We must become the solution.

Ron Reagan is an author and political commentator who lives in Seattle and Arezzo, Tuscany.

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John Oliver Praises Parkland Shooting Survivors for Taking on the Gun Lobby

Yes, John Oliver is back.

After several months off, the irascible Brit returned to the desk of Last Week Tonight for its fifth season premiere. He began by addressing the heartbreaking events of Parkland, Florida, wherein a MAGA hat-wearing 19-year-old armed with a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle targeted the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, taking 17 lives in a hail of gunfire.

These events are now so familiar, we basically automatically know how each side will play out: thoughts and prayers, fuck your thoughts and prayers, its a mental health problem, yeah, but its also a gun problem, and then someone says nows not the time to talk about gun control, and then everybody moves on until it inevitably happens again, said Oliver.

He added: But this time felt slightly different because when the nows not the time argument came out, the kids from that school said, You know what? Yes it fucking is.

In the wake of the massacre, the teen survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been calling out the empty rhetoric of obfuscating talking-head charlatans like Tomi Lahren and gun lobby flunkies like President Trump, who somehow managed to make the tragedy all about himself. This is a generation of kids who were born after Columbine, who will no longer accept mass shootings as their new reality, and who are outraged by the governmental apathy and indifference.

They say that no laws couldve been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS! screamed MSD High student Emma Gonzalez at a recent rally.

We call BS, echoed Oliver. It is a little ironic that the people who are acting with the most maturity in this horrifying situation arent even old enough to say the word bullshit in front of their parents. Those kids have already announced a march next month, and in doing so theyre challenging adults to participate in a real conversation about gun violence.

Whether or not President Trumpwho partied at a Mar-a-Lago disco bash mere hours after visiting wounded survivors of the Parkland shootingwill participate in that dialogue is anybodys guess.

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Trump Tells Shooting Survivors: Solution to Your Problem Is More Guns in School

While meeting with survivors of last weeks school shooting, President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed the idea of preventing school shootings by having more guns on campus.

One week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the president sat for a roundtable discussion with some survivors and their families, teachers, and parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine victims, and listened to their harrowing stories, impassioned pleas, and thoughts on how to prevent future massacres.

When Trump spoke about proposed solutions, he suggested that arming teachers in their classrooms could act as a deterrent when a gunman enters a school.

If you had a teacher with, who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly, the president said. And the good thing about a suggestion like that, and were going to be looking at it very strongly, I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it, I think a lot of people are going to like it. But the good thing is youll have a lot of people with that.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that there actually was an armed guard on the high school campus, but that the guard never encountered alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.

The president, appearing to reference how football coach Aaron Feis died shielding students, suggested: If the coach had a firearm in his locker he wouldnt have had to run, he would have shot [Cruz], and that would have been the end of it.

He continued: This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun. Its called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. Theyd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.

The president also mentioned a hypothetical scenario in which there would be armed military veterans in every school protecting students.

Youd have a lot of people that would be armed, that would be ready, Trump said. Theyre professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, that left the Army, left the Air Force… Theyd be spread evenly throughout the school.

If would-be school shooters knew that trained vets and armed teachers populated campuses, they wouldnt go into the school to start off with, the president said.

I think it could very well solve your problem.

He went on to say that a lot of people dont understand that airline pilots, a lot of them, carry guns. I have to say that things have changed a lot.

Trump then proceeded to poll the room of students and their families on whether they liked his idea.

Later Wednesday, the Broward County superintendent, Robert Runcie, pushed back against Trumps suggestions, saying before a CNN town hall: We dont need to put guns in the hands of teachers. You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket.

The president also spoke about mental health issues, suggesting that it should be made easier to confine an individual who hasnt yet committed a crime. Years ago, we had mental hospitals, institutions, we had a lot of them and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was a stigma, Trump said. Today, if you catch somebody, they dont know what to do with him. He hasnt committed the crime, but he may very well and theres no mental institution.

He also assured his audience that he supports strong background checks for gun purchases, an idea that has gained some traction in the White House.

Were going to be very strong on background checks, Trump declared. Well be doing very strong background checks. Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody. And we are going to do plenty of other things.

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Parkland Students to President Trump: Stay Far Away From Us

PARKLAND, FloridaTwo days after enduring a horrific school shooting, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and parents of the victims have one request for President Donald Trump: stay away.

"In my opinion I do not want Trump here at all," Ameer Hussain, a 15-year-old freshman at the school told The Daily Beast.

Trump is scheduled to be at his resort in Mar-a-Lago this weekend. And reports on Friday said that he would be paying a visit to Parkland, Floridathe site of the shooting that claimed 17 lives on Wednesday while wounding 15 othersto, in his words, "meet with some of the bravest people on earth."

Its common for presidents to visit the sites of national tragedies and, while there, meet with the affected. But Trump is neither a conventional president nor one whom many people here particularly want to see.

Hussain imagined that Trump would use this event to make himself look better politically.

"It's not meaningful, he added. He's the president and he should be speaking on what he's going to do to make it better for next time. My friend group, Hispanic kids, black kids, they're not caring for this at all. My dad is of the same idea."

Another student who participated in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) with Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, but asked that he not be named, said most kids and people in town agree that Trump should not swing through.

"One big reason people don't want him here was his speech yesterday and tweet of his," the student said. "Apparently [the president] said it was the kid's responsibility to report Nikolas Cruz so in a way it was our fault. A lot of people aren't happy about his visit."

Emotions remain raw among students in Parkland, especially after President Trump tweeted on Thursday that Neighbors and classmates knew [Cruz] was a big problem" and that, in such cases, people Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!

The missive left several students at the school livid, with some angirly responding to the president with tweets of their own.

"How is this our fault?" one student said on Twitter on Friday. "We cant even vote and when we say something its usually pushed aside. Dont you dare say that it is our fault, unless you were there, unless you tried your best you have no right to tell anyone what to believe."

The FBI did receive a tip about Cruz in January, but failed to transmit the warning to its Miami field office.

On Thursday, Trump made his first public statement on the shooting, saying that his administration was committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.

It is unclear how far Trumps outreach to the Parkland community has or will progress beyond that. No parent or students who spoke to The Daily Beast said they had heard about Trump reaching out to bereaved families. The Trump White House, meanwhile, has yet to confirm any details related to a potential trip or meetings with survivors and their families.

Were still working on that, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told The Daily Beast Friday afternoon when asked if Trump is meeting with mass shooting survivors or their family members in Florida. The White House also would not confirm to The Daily Beast if the president had already called any of them, yet.

I cant believe that pig is coming down here," said Kylan Reynolds, 23, a graduate of Florida Atlantic University in South Florida. The man is a coward.

Not everyone is demanding that Trump stay away, however. Some, like Nikhita Nookala, a 17-year-old senior at the school, are eager for him to come to Parkland so that he can, in her words, "learn a lesson."

"If Trump comes down I think it's important that he shows us he's with us," Nookala said to The Daily Beast. "I think the death of 17 people should encourage the president to consider [gun] restrictions There's been too many school shootings and we don't need kids to die before they go to college. "

She said that for the president to come down and not take any direct action to limit guns in the country would be "hypocritical."

"By action I mean urging legislators to stop listening to interest groups like the NRA and stop considering the rights of people to keep guns as a hobby over the lives of kids who just want to go to college and get a job and be Americans," she said.

Amos Fernandes, whose daughter is a junior who survived the shooting, also feared that Trump would exploit the tragedy with a visit. But he also imagined that a such a trip could provide piece of mind.

"I think right now, people really really don't want to see him here. But we need to show him that everybody is angry. It's crazy," Fernandes said. "I am so angry and a lot of parents are angry like myself. The whole city is angry."

Fernandes, who lived in Connecticut during the Sandy Hook school shooting, said he was outraged that Congress had done nothing to restrict gun ownership.

"These politicians like Trump are getting paid, and while they're getting paid people are getting killed," he said.

Fernandes' daughter, 16-year-old Kathlyn, said that if Trump does make the trip to Parkland, she hopes it will change his mind about gun control.

"What happened at my school could have been prevented if he had supported gun control," she said. "It makes me feel bad he hasn't done anything. At the end of the day, if you're 18 you shouldn't be able to buy a gun."

One of my former students, shes a junior at the high school went to therapy today, she told me I dont think I will get the memory of gunshots and people screaming out of my head, said Catherine Kuhns, who was standing with fellow protesters calling for common sense gun reform two days after the shooting.

I dont understand why in the State of Florida, you can get an assault rifle at 18 but have to be at least 21 to purchase a handgun. Its just absurd," said Kuhns, who has been teaching since 1975 and at Country Hills Elementary since 1992. In 1998, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President Bill Clinton.

She added: "We will be back on this corner protestingtomorrowstarting at9 amhoping to gather a crowd and hoping President Donald Trump travels past our pathtomorrow.

White House officials have undoubtedly become aware of how fraught a potential swing through Parkland would be. Trump has had mixed results in similar situations before. He did pay a visit to Las Vegas following the massacre of 58 people in October and called the shooting an act of pure evil," but that event was far less politicized. Earlier last year in August, the president botched his response to Charlottesville when he failed to condemn white supremacist James Fields, who drove a car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer.

Several senior Trump aides expressed concern to The Daily Beast that Trump could potentially find himself in a situation in Parkland where he is trapped with grieving parents or students who harangue him about his administrations position on guns, creating horrible optics and more negative press for the president. The same officials also voiced worry that the presidents response to such a situation could potentially make the situation on the ground worse, unintentionally. Asked for an explanation, one White House official referenced the incident when President Trump ended up making a widow cry when he meant to comfort her.

The fact that Cruz wore a pro-Trump "Make America Great Again" hat while making racist remarks to his fellow classmates makes a visit all the more complicated.

Still, some allies of the president publicly maintain that he could indeed rise to the occasion.

Weve had many presidents in the past who have gotten into emotional exchanges with distraught parents and siblings and others in times of, for example, returning the remains of someone who died in warThis challenge is not something unique to the Trump presidency, Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser, told The Daily Beast. I know President Trump well enough to know that in a situation where hes met with an emotional response, he canrespond appropriately.

Hes a compassionate person, Caputo added.

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Artie Lange Is Not Ready to Die: F*ck Em All

Its hard being friends with the notoriously demon-plagued comedian Artie Langewhich, full disclosure, I am. This is in no way objective. I truly want the guy to live.

I first interviewed Lange in 2006 as part of the New York Posts coverage of the annual New York Comedy Festival. He had just sold out Carnegie Hall in a few hours and was on top of the world. Over the next few years, we met at comedy clubs from time to time. I mentioned how healthy he looked in a May 2009 Page Six item about his visiting Colin Quinns one-man show (which he mentioned in his book Crash and Burn). When I interviewed him again on Oct. 30, 2009, it was a longer talk this time, with a few insights that surprised me. He talked about the game comics play of initially sabotaging a set with the audience, then seeing if you can dig yourself out of that hole. I asked if he had ever thought that he might be playing the same game with his own life. You should be a shrink, he said.

Sixty-nine days later, I heard the news, like anyone else who follows Lange: that he was near death after stabbing himself in the stomach nine times with a 13-inch kitchen knife.

Then on Sept. 27, 2010, I got a call from comedian Dan Naturman, who told me all about Arties triumphant return at the Comedy Cellar, which led to an incredibly feel-good lead item in Page Six called: Artie Lange Thrills Audiences Again.

I interviewed him several more times over the years, and when my husband Pat Dixon, who is also a comedian, started his own show in 2015 at Compound Media, run by controversial radio legend Anthony Cumia, I told Artie that he ought to consider joining the network. To my surpriseand unrelated to me telling him that, as the pairing of two Sirius refugees is a no-brainer for anyone who follows shock-jock radioin August 2017, he started a new show with Cumia called The AA Show. Now, not only did Lange have a regular broadcasting outlet, but the HBO series Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes enlisted him in called Crashing, where he played himself, was a bona fide hit. His third book, Wanna Bet?, was inked, his standup was doing well, and so if you were doing any kind of predictive sequence, what happened next was no surprise.

Oct. 16, 2017: Artie Lange rushed to hospital, cancels weekend show. Dec. 13, 2017: Artie Lange Arrested After Missing Court Date for Drug Charges. Dec. 15, 2017: Artie Lange Headed to Rehab on Private Jet After Drug Charge.

Less than a month later, on Jan. 12, Lange returned home to New York and tweeted out to his 364,000 followers: Im back guys. Clean & Sober 32 days.

On Jan. 18, after celebrating Dave Attells birthday (Artie just turned 50 himself), Lange met me in between sets at New York Citys Olive Tree Cafe. To avoid the requests for photos from fans and occasional paparazzi, we sat in his SUV and drove around the city for an hour and a half before returning to the comedy club. With one hand on the steering wheel and one on an unlit Marlboro Red, Lange talked about everything from Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump to Louis C.K. to Aziz Ansari to the fundamental question at hand:

Artie Lange doesnt want to die… right?

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Mandy: So I guess Im wondering at what point all of this is enough to get you to stop. Like, for instance, I have a friend who if he did cocaine one more time, the doctors told him his nose would collapse

Artie: Well half of my nose is gone. My nose has no septum. I mean Ive been snorting coke and heroin

Mandy: When was the last time you did coke or heroin?

Artie: Well I just pissed clean at Hazelden so thats 38 days. But heres the thing: 31 of them were in lockdown. So nows the real work. And Im not going to lie to you, its a struggle lying there every night.

Mandy: Whats the longest youve ever been clean?

Artie: Since I was 15, 11 months. And two weeks in my twenties.

Mandy: Do you take, what is it, methadone?

Artie: No, no. I was on methadone years ago. There was a methadone clinic on Eighth and 35th, and I would go there before Howard. They would give it out to me, like special, at 5:30 a.m. I had to stop doing heroin because I was losing my job. They gave me the methadone. Its fucking heroin, basically. I left during interviews to throw up. And I said, Well this is worse than fucking heroin, so why dont I stay on that. I take Suboxone now. Suboxone works well for me, and its accepted by society. It looks like a pill you take for blood pressure every morning, so thats how Ive got to look at it. It lets you not go cold turkey.

Aziz Im sorry is a better name. I dont have any respect for Aziz Ansari. Im glad nobody got raped.
Artie Lange

Mandy: You detoxed cold turkey in jail this last time?

Artie: Ive been in jail like eight times, and this past time, I detoxed. I kicked heroin, like lying on the floor. When I got arraigned, you always want to be very respectful in front of the judge. She was like, What are you doing? And Im thinking to myself, Well, your honor, Im dead. And you know, Im trying to stand up. Withdrawal, the physical stuff, people would see the first or the second day of withdrawals, girlfriends would say, Well, that was really bad. And Im like, You saw the opening act. That was The Clash. That was David Johansen. The Who is about to take the stage. The third or fourth day of heroin withdrawal, if youre a big user like I became, if youre not physically stopped from getting dope, youll get it. With heroin, I became an addict on the road. I always had money. Ive never had to steal. I dont judge those people. Like people say to me, Have you ever blown a guy for heroin? I say, No. But then again, no ones ever asked.

Mandy: If you do fall off the wagon again, are you scared of fentanyl at all?

Artie: No. A real heroin addict is not scared of fentanyl. Id do it in a heartbeat. I want strong shit.

Mandy: Have you seen the tiny amount it takes to kill you?

Artie: I dont know what it is, but draw it back one inch. I would accept fentanyl in a heartbeat. I had a fentanyl patch on in a mental home. It was unbelievable. Ive never ODed. Ive had dealers say, Jesus Christ. What the fuck. But the nose is bad now. I could get a brain infection. If I did it, anything would go right to the brain. But again, I heard that six months ago, and I went and used an hour after.

Mandy: So I mean… you must want to die.

Artie: No, I dont want to die. I want to be high.

Mandy: But that will eventually kill you.

Artie: Im 50. If you would have told me in 1995, if you tried to bring up 2018, it would be like The Jetsons. Id be like, What are you talking about?

Mandy: So youre having fun on borrowed time.

Artie: Im playing with the houses money. As far as Im concerned, Im an overachiever. A lot of money changed hands on the internet when I turned 50. I was so happy. Fuck em all.

Mandy: But I mean… your mom and your sister. Theyre the main people who keep you from wanting to to be reckless with the houses money, right?

Artie: Yes thats the… thats the worst.

Mandy: I called your mom when you were practically in a coma these last few weeks, and her voice was just so heartbroken. I dont think she thought you were going to make it.

Artie: Yeah, you know, my father left us with nothing. I love my dad. He was my best friend. But my father was a criminal. My dad was an impulsive guy, and thats what killed him. Just like my father, with me, there are real high highs and real low lows. Like my mother saw me at Carnegie Hall, when my book went to No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, and I think [Barack] Obamas was like No. 7. She has that framed. But then shes also seen me withdrawing in jail.

Mandy: Your mom discovered you when you tried to kill yourself in 2010, right?

Artie: That was not a suicide attempt. I was in such bad withdrawals. Believe me, I leave a note. The one other time, I left a note. But shrinks go, Youve never tried to kill yourself. Because there was always a mountain of drugs involved. I was in such bad withdrawals, I wanted to feel something different. I was by myself. I wanted to lose enough blood to pass out. When I woke up, I dont know, I figured Id put on a red shirt and go out. I didnt know my mother was coming over. They had an intervention planned that I didnt even know about. I go, Ma, you never planned a surprise party.

Mandy: Does your mom talk to you every day?

Artie: Yeah, my mother knows me better than anybody, but I dont tell her when I slip. You know, when Dr. Drew offered me 250 grand to do Celebrity Rehab, I thought to myself, Do I just want to kill my mother now? Like its going to be me and Dennis Rodman throwing up in the same bucket. I love Dr. Drew, but I knew that show was going to go off the air because the recovery rate is like zero. If Pablo Escobar were alive today, hed be running a rehab. Its such a corrupt industry.

Mandy: You seem to still get offered drugs a lot. I think about that scene in Crashing where its the super hot woman from Showgirls who has coke and wants to do it with you.

Artie: Gina Gershon? Yeah, you know, that episode is based on one of my stories. And if the woman who inspired the episode figures it out, shed be very happy with the casting.

Mandy: Do you think it was a good idea to leave rehab early?

Artie: I have to do this intense outpatient thing which is five days a week. I go in there in the morning, and I get piss tests there. Screen Actors Guild doesnt let you do that to people. Like its almost an NFL union. You cant pee-test people. Not that Im complaining about it, but I dont get fired from shows because ultimately its a forgiving business for stuff like that. People always say its a forgiving business. And, its true. Robert Downey Jr. came back, and hes like the best actor ever. But for every one of him, theres like two thousand Jeff Conaways from Taxi living at a right angle and nobody cares and they die alone.

Mandy: Youre just working so much right now.

Artie: The one genre where I have some juice is the radio business, and you know Anthony Cumia, I love Anthony so much now. I never really met him before. Were both sort of outlaws. Without this podcasting technology you know we both would be out of a job now, probably. Its such a weird existence I have right now. Over on one side, Im doing this crazy podcast with Anthony on Compound Media that I love, and then Im on Crashing which is an HBO-produced show I love, but which could not be more the other way. Judd Apatow is another famous guy who saved my life. Like, what a great person. Ive got books and stand-up, and Im still making a lot of money doing it. If thats not going to go away, theres not much of an incentive to stay in rehab.

Mandy: And Im guessing, from what you said, you dont want to leave your mom with nothing. So what about a gig like the one with Anthony Cumia. Is that enabling or is that helping you stay clean?

Artie: Let me tell you something: I love doing it. Its almost like therapy. A lot of people dont understand a comics mind. People are like, Youre going to jump right into stand-up? Yeah, thats what I have to do. I cant stop doing it. And Anthonys show is like from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Its the most fun Ive ever had in my life. Even more fun than Howard. Because I was never uncensored on Howard. Its his show. Its Howard. So what was happening near the end when his life changed, he would meet somebody in the Hamptons, and we wouldnt know about it. Like me and Fred [Norris, the longest tenured Howard Stern staff member] wouldnt know about it. And then hed be friends with them, like somebody we bashed for 10 years. So Id say something about Richard Gere, and hed go, You got a problem with him? Id go, Havent we always had a problem with him? No, I had dinner with him. Well, can I get the memo? I dont give a shit. Ill put him on the fucking list. But I wouldnt not be able to make fun of Orlando Bloom. The show, I couldnt be on now. And he knew that.

Mandy: Anthony probably does a better Howard impression than Howard at this point.

Artie: Well the thing about Anthony is that hes the same guy off-air. But its not true for Howard. Howards a very fascinating guy. He must have an IQ north of 180. But the example I always use is that Hunter S. Thompson was a guy who destroyed like the wealthy and corporate America, and he walked the walk until the end of his life. He was a crazy maniac in Colorado and shot himself in the head. And Howard was like that for a while. He was making fun of all these people, and when he got a chancelike no one else has become an A-list person through the radiobut when he got a chance to be with those people, fans thought hes going to be like Hunter S. Thompson. Like you see them through the window eating, and hes going to bust through the window or moon them or something. And when he got the chance, like Jennifer Anistons wedding, he starts making out with Orlando Bloom.

Mandy: Metaphorically.

Artie: Right. And to me as a fan, its like, what the fuck have we been laughing at all this time? Me and my first girlfriend at the time Dana [Sironi], she was close with Beth [Ostrosky Stern]. And Beth is a sweetheart. I dont want to make it sound like Im bitter. I still love Howard.

Mandy: Who are the people from the Stern show you keep in touch with?

Artie: Well, theyre not allowed to call me. I swear to God, Ive had people tell me from the show they were worried they were talking to me. Look, Im a person whos impulsive, and I get very angry and I say things I shouldnt say. Its hurt me my whole life, and Im a junkie.

Mandy: You tweeted a few days ago, Look out Marci. Im talking to Howard without your permission, referring to his high-profile handler Marci Turk. Did you actually talk to Howard Stern?

Artie: No, I dont talk to Howard. We hate each others guts. He cant stand me for some reason, and Ive learned to hate him.

Mandy: Whats your reaction to Louis C.K.? And now everyones talking about the story that was written about Aziz Ansari.

Artie: Aziz Im sorry is a better name. I dont have any respect for Aziz Ansari. Im glad nobody got raped. But you know, I agree with Samantha Bee when she says it doesnt have to be rape to ruin somebodys life. Thats true. And what Louis did is despicable. That was a rumor for a long time. But if youre a couple of women at the Aspen Comedy Festival, youve got a lot going on, probably. And theres this comedian, who back then he wasnt famous, but hes always been respected, and they certainly knew him. And hes promising them shit supposedly, and its just because he wants to jerk off in front of them. Its just the creepiest thing ever. Louis was always overrated to me. He has like five jokes hes written that I like. But you know Ill go along with it, if it gets me spots. I just think hes overrated. To me, it was like the emperors new clothes came off. In the hotel room.

Mandy: Have you had any women approach you with any kind of Me Too moment, something they wanted to confront you about?

Artie: A girl? No. I mean, some people think Im a misogynist because of stuff on the Stern show. You know Ive never told anybody this, but this is how my family feels about sex predators: After I told my father about a high-school teacher hurting a girl I knew, the way my dad dealt with it was by waiting outside the teachers house, putting a bag over the guys head, and leaving him in a car for two days. My dad came back, disguised his voice, and he said, Stop fucking touching little girls. Im not condoning how he handled it, but thats just the truth. My father thought that was justified. You know, there are people who think Goodfellas is horrible. We think its a comedy. My momshe is the strongest woman in my lifeand she and my sister are my heroes. Any woman whos ever dated me will tell you, Im like, Are you sure? Can we get this in writing and an email from you? I think in Hollywood, its a case of these nerdy guys who dont know what to do with a woman, and they get a chance to do it, and they do something inappropriate. Like Ive never been a Casanova but Ive always been able to get a date. I think the more time you stay asexual in your adult life, you get creepier.

Mandy: Ive had several comics over the years tell me about their personal dislike for Aziz based on his standoffish behavior. Do you think theres any schadenfreude right now as he is coming under fire?

Artie: Im probably one of those guys. I thought he could follow me on Bitter. I dont like bashing of comedians in general. I hated the Dane Cook-bashing thing. And Dane goes on to make all that money, and that bitterness comes out. Then his brother steals millions of dollars from him. I wish Dane well. And you know, I think Aziz gets a lot of that bitterness, too. You know, his timing is perfect for comedy. But what he does at the Comedy Cellar is not going to endear him to anybody. What he does there, he sits in the corner like a young Dylan writing jokes, and he can do that at home. We get it. Youre a hard worker. But I guess were going to have to get over that, because a new generation of people is coming.

I think he was trying to figure out a way to get rid of me. I did the job for him, but I dont think he was rooting for it.
Artie Lange on Howard Stern

Mandy: Do you think that Crashing captures the changing culture in comedy at all?

Artie: Judd is so great at what he does, and so is Pete [Holmes]. The way Judd lets you improvise, and the money… see Ive never been involved in something that you might call a hit. Except the Stern show, but that was very different. Judd is so successful. The money HBO is spending. They shot it like a playyou dont have to do over-the-shoulder stuff. And the way that I talk and work, it was way better for me. Judd knew that. Like the scene in the pizzeria, Judd read my book, which was flattering, and he said, Just tell me stories about your life, about what can happen off-stage, so like the ghost of Christmas future. Comedy future. I think its great, because Judd lets us talk.

Mandy: I was relistening today to your very first Howard Stern appearance. And Stern is joking, saying, You need coke. Youre a lot better on it. He also says, Go out and get into more trouble, and well have you back on.

Artie: I know. But you cant blame anyone else for any of this. Howards genius is seeing which way the wind is blowing in society and acting accordingly. I think he noticed after the Janet Jackson thing, we started getting fined for stupid shit. Were getting $500,000 fines for jokes Im making about farting. The guy is a genius at marketing and comedymore so in marketing. I think he saw over time the way the show was going, and that it would not be conducive to have me on it. But he also knew that I was popular. I think he was trying to figure out a way to get rid of me. I did the job for him, but I dont think he was rooting for it. I think he conquered that era of radio with me. I wouldnt fit in now at all. I cant stand Gwyneth Paltrow. The contrast between the old shows is crazy. Like if you listen to shows we did of us talking about Jennifer Aniston or Ellen DeGeneres dancing in the 2000s. He said Aniston was a cunt. Even I was like, Jesus, it must be personal. Now he goes to her wedding.

Mandy: So whats going on with your health? The diabetes has gotten really bad? Have you had to amputate anything?

Artie: God no. The rumors have gotten really bad, havent they? No, the diabetes is under control every time I go to the hospital. But the thing is, its a confusing disease. One day a Twinkie could save your life, and another day it could kill you. Im not a good preparer so thats why I was bad in school. I was like, Lets get the fuck out of here and get to life. Which comedy lets you do. But yeah, with diabetes, youre supposed to measure your blood sugar every time before you eat. Im like, What the fuck, are you kidding me? Im going to take my blood sugar in the parking lot of McDonalds? Its bad, but when I go to the hospital they get me under control. So now its under control. Its fine, actually. But you know, give me two months out of the hospital and my blood sugar is higher than my credit score. Thats the signifier of a loser. They also put me on the liver list. I needed a new liver. But I went to a medical clinic someone recommended, and they gave me this special shit they put in the saline, it cost like $80,000, and my liver enzymes were like 900, which is like Mickey Mantle at the end of his life. And it went to normal, completely normal. My kidneys, my liver are all fine. The doctor said, Youve got the bloodwork, despite the diabetes, of an Olympic athlete.

Mandy: Have you thought about going down to Hippocrates Health Institute, where a lot of entertainment industry people have gone?

Artie: I did that once. Yeah, my sister found out about it. You need a prescription for an apple. I ran away from that in 2008. Howard said, go away for as long as you need to. Eight days in with these two other guys who were Stern fans who would have done anything for me, we just escaped in the one guys car. I got a $3,500 room at the Setai in South Beach, and I got a hooker and a bunch of pancakes. And I called into the show and said I have whiskey and pancakes with this Ecuadorian hooker, and he put me on the air. So I left early from that, and I was out of control. And Howard didnt think I was going to die or anything. You know, Chris Rock came in once and said, Howard, I think youve got to fire Artie. I love him. But he needs consequences.

Mandy: I guess my take is, from observing you from afar, youve said, Im clean so many times, and that youre always somebody who is going to use.

Artie: People think that I want to be someone who uses. I dont. I mean, I remember in Little League when I didnt use anything, I was very happy. When I am emphatic about it, in my personal life, I dont lie to friends of mine. But I can think of a lot of reasons why you dont tell your boss youre doing heroin, and why I lied to Howard Stern. Theres also a misconception I hate that Howard didnt care about me. He tried to get me help. Several times he said to me, Take as long as you want, and when you come back you have a job.

Mandy: So do you think some of the drug abuse comes from massive, massive self-hatred? That was the case for me, I know, and many addicts.

Artie: Thats interesting. Listen, Bernie Brillstein was talking to Norm Macdonald and me once. Hes the legendary manager who managed [John] Belushi, and he managed Chris Farley. And he supposedly said to Belushi and Farleyits funny he had guilt that he said this to Belushi, and 20 years later he said it again to mehe said, Well, whatd you get into show business for? Not to fuck hookers and do drugs? I was brought up on Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor. With Richard Pryor, I wanted to do almost everything he did, short of burning himself. And thats a terrible thing to think, but I got the opportunity, and I made every mistake you could make. I was like, Why not? The first time we went to Las Vegas with Howard, I fucked 11 strippers in four days. We were like the Rolling Stones going in there. Two years on MadTV aint exactly the Rolling Stones. The stuff Ive done with Norm Im so proud of because it was Norm, but it was never like a big hit. Like Dirty Work has become a little bit of a cult thing, which Im proud of. But with the Stern show, this was like rock-star shit. We flew into Vegas on a private jet, and theres a line around the block, and its all for us. Howard is married. Fred is married. Everyones married, and then theres me. The strippers going down her list, and she says, I guess Ill fuck him.

Mandy: Do you still talk to Norm Macdonald?

Artie: We communicate with text, like everybody else. He put a very nice thing in his book about me. He called me the last time, and he said, you gotta stop doing this. He was worried about me. I love Norm. Norm saved my whole career. Out of nowhere. I was about to start driving a cab again. I got the call for Dirty Work, and that led to everything else. Norm. Howard. Quincy Jones, who gave me MadTV. And Judd now. These are famous guys. [Bruce] Springsteen called me. And Apatow said to me, he said, You must be a really bad addict going back to this shit after all these people, your heroes, saved you. Hes right. I mean, Quincy Jones saved my fucking life. He also got me these insane privileges in L.A. County. Like my own shower. And I asked Quincy, How do you have so much sway in prison? He said, I made Thriller.

Mandy: So why do you go back to the drugs after you get clean each time? Is it the boredom?

Artie: Its the anger. Ill give you an example. Its a story I kind of keep on the down-low, but there was this girl that I dated in San Diego. She worked at an agency as an assistant. She was 23. I was 28, and I was on MadTV. And she was pregnantshe got pregnant, found out it was a boy. I was all excited, and she was scared to death because of how I had been living. Me at that age makes this look like Mr. Rogers. So the first place we made out was Zuma Beach, and she said, Lets go to that place. I want to tell you something. Shes crying, and she says, I had an abortion. I was mad, and I said, Why? And she said, You know, Artie, youre going to make your mark in this business, but I hope you do it before you die. And I cant deal with that.

Mandy: So anger is often the cause of relapses for you? Anger at the world?

Artie: It is a strange world. Its like rereading the Unabomber Manifesto its kind of like, I get it now. I dont agree with how he went about it, but he was clearly on the money about technology. Or look at the movie Network. That one scene, he lays everything out about what is to come.

Mandy: When do you find out if youre going to jail?

Artie: Feb. 23. You know, if they want to send me away for being a junkie, thats fine. The judge was very fair. Very smart. I dont know if she was a big fan of mine, but thats all right.

Mandy: When do you think you were happiest in your life?

Artie: You know, its funny. When I was broke, when I left the port as a longshoreman, and I decided to drive into New York City one night, I was 19 years old. When I started doing well, I was driving a cab, I was broke, trying to help my mother out. We were about to lose the house. And I told her I could go back to the port. She said I could keep doing it. But you know, I was happier during the struggle because of hope. I was 23, broke, driving a cab, parking a cab in front of The Comic Strip, which was the first place I passed. I would have [Joe] Matarese or [Dave] Attell watch the car. I was happier then, I swear to God.

Mandy: Hollywood can be fairly crushing. So many transactional relationships and people who dont care if you live or die and want to use you.

Artie: At the Stern show, I saw how toxic that entire environment was. You have some people who are without talent who just leached onto Howard. Talentless guys whose entire life is based on pleasing that one person. I saw people who werent comedians who thought they could sit in that chair and do what I did. When I went down with the heroin thing, they were clearly making statements about it. Like if I died, they would have been almost happy about it, I guarantee it. I saw the sharks swimming like Ive never seen before. I thought I knew a lot about people in a non-naive way coming into that job, but man, the way people wanted what I did for a living. What pissed me off is that they thought they could do it. And you know, theres a reason that chair stayed empty. Im done being humble with some things. That chair isnt empty completely because Howard felt like it; that chair is empty because he knows no one can do what I did. There are people who are funnier than me, but theres no one who would have been as honest, and no one who knows that show better. I left a lot of blood on that fucking floor, man. I told stories that cost me relationships with some people, and I didnt realize it. I almost got arrested. The DEA came to the fucking show because of something I said on the air, in their fucking windbreakers, to grill me about Heath Ledger because they thought we had the same heroin dealer. Im like, Why the fuck do you think that? I guess theres reasons they could. There was a security guy who worked the door, and he saw the whole thing, and he said, Artie, you are one entertaining fuckup.

Mandy: What do you think of Donald Trump, who used to do the Howard Stern Show quite a bit?

Artie: I love Trump. Ive had like four times when I interacted with him. I roasted him. Trump said I was the best of the night, but then Howard is so smart, he told me to tell the joke that was making fun of him in business. I do, and then Trump goes, Artie was the worst of the roast. He bombed. I had a CNN guy call me about it, and I said, Im not doing it. Because Im fucking rooting for him. And I golfed with him and Eli Manning once at his club. I did nothing but laugh along with him. Then I saw him at Howards wedding. Howard had bought out Le Cirque. But it was still small. I had played Carnegie Hall at this point, but it was so nerve-wracking. Billy Joel and his wife were there, two feet from me. Howard. Trump and Melania. Barbara Walters, Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase. It was a tough room, you know. And I killed. The first joke was how much Beth looks like Christie Brinkley, so I made a Billy Joel joke. And thank God he laughed at it. But Howard was drunk, and doing that great Howard laugh. I loved making Howard laugh. But Trump came up to me afterward, because other people spoke and kind of bombed, and he shook my hand, and he said, That was a very hard thing to do, and you were amazing. He respected that even though I look like a slob he could tell I worked hard. Because, yeah, you think I walked into Stern because I won a lottery? So I always respected the guy.

Whether youre for him or not, what he represents is that this country can vote out politicians and elect a game show host because theyre pissed off about stuff. You know, there are two guys on that Billy Bush tape. One guy apologized. The other guy didnt. One guys working at a gift shop in Kennebunkport. The other guys president. The fucking country likes alpha males. The Midwest does, I know that. And the stuff with the Mexicans. He didnt say he hates all Mexicans. He told the truth about the drug problem. How do you think I get dope? Trump just doesnt give a shit. You know, Louis C.K. wrote an op-ed piece, while he was, jerking off next to women, calling Trump Hitler? And its like, Calm the fuck down. It washes down what Hitler did. A guy who let the Mob take away garbage because you have to? The naivete of these people. If you build a building in New York, you have to deal with the Mob. Trump knows that. Ted Cruz lost so many votes during the primaries when he attacked him on that.

Mandy: What do you think of the porn star Stormy Daniels and Trump? I guess he asked her to spank him with a copy of Forbes.

Artie: Well, I think Ive done worse. Comparing him to Harvey Weinstein? Thats a fetish. Listen, if Trump has raped someone, of course I hate his guts.

Mandy: So for you, what has the reaction been to your latest near-death experience? From everything that Ive read on Twitter and Reddit and YouTube, I feel like half the fans are saying, I dont want to watch him kill himself anymore, and like, Ive stopped believing him.

Artie: The fact that I havent got it yet is hard to understand. I think theyre disappointed in me. It was an easier sell at 30 than it was at 50.

Mandy: Whats the best sobriety advice youve received, do you think?

Artie: To not make my Higher Power my career or another human being because it can disappoint you.

Mandy: Do you believe in God? Do you pray?

Artie: You know, Ill give you something Ive never told anybody. So my father was obsessed with Houdini the magician, and Houdini was obsessed with the occult. Houdini always tried to contact the other side, like dead relatives. So Houdini said, If I die, lets have a word. If the psychic tells you the word, you know, we talk. So my father said, when he was lying in bed, he had the plan to kill himself, but I didnt know that. He said, Lets do that. I go, OK. His father, who I never knew, died when he was 11. He got shot in front of him. His father worked at a factory. The Otis Elevator Company in Newark. It was a bookie, I guess. But he said, Lets make it Otis.

So Im in rehab this latest time, several weeks ago. And Im in the van, which the hilarious security guards call The Druggie Buggie. Or The Loser Cruiser, thats what they call it in jail. So Ive just come out of the shit, with the withdrawal part, and I looked better, I guess. It was a beautiful day. Where I went in Connecticut, it was like a Christmas card, it was unbelievably beautiful. And I said, I feel better this time. I felt really good. The sky was clear. I was with people I like, and they both said out of nowhere, I think youre going to make it this time. And I said, I guess I gotta think like that. And I stretched over, and there was a car that said Otis on it. The elevator at the rehab that never broke, they said, when I told them the story, the Otis Elevator Company was repairing the elevator. Listen, I dont believe in any of that shit, but that is the most spiritual thing thats ever happened to me. I tell my mother that, and clearly shes religious, and she goes, Dads talking to you. Im telling you, that was fucking freaky. So you know, just at that moment, when I had hope and I looked up and it was a clear sky and it says Otis, I was just like, Jesus Christ.

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