Unlike his comedy hero George Carlin, Artie Lange isn't a master wordsmith. (Sentences like "I have never eaten well, and because of that this shits thing happens to me every once in a while" aren't exactly Dickensian.) But like Carlin, he can be funny and brutally honest at the same. He also has amazing recall for the details of his autobiographical stories; he seems to notice everything, from the dress a drunken taxi passenger was wearing to the radio show he was listening to when he encountered her. After stints as a cabbie, a stand-up, and a TV comic, Lange eventually made his own move to radio, joining the cast of The Howard Stern Show. He seems to assume that most people reading his instant bestseller will be Stern fans, and while that's certainly true, Too Fat To Fish is more than a companion volume to Stern's program.
A collection of stories from Lange's tumultuous life, Too Fat To Fish manages to be hilarious even while discussing topics as harrowing as a suicide attempt. That chapter, titled "Wah! I'm Out of Cocaine! Wah!" has the best writing and contains the least humor. (Lange does say that he's upset his mother didn't put his suicide note on the family fridge, which he acknowledges as "a lame attempt at levity in a chapter that is nothing but a sea of depressing shit.") Another chapter chronicles his brief stint on MadTV; in a single insane evening, Lange abuses cocaine and alcohol, hurls produce at his agent and fellow MadTV cast members after a botched intervention, and ends up in jail for assaulting a police officer. He later becomes addicted to painkillers, then heroin, which someone at a comedy club suggests as "better for your liver." He gives endless credit to his longsuffering mother, sister, and countless friends for sticking by him, and apologizes to the ones that didn't. His deceased father, whom he idolized, comes up frequently as well.
Lange's story is ongoing and on display: When he calls in sick to the radio show, his co-workers spend hours speculating on the air about his possible relapse. In spite of all the material in Too Fat To Fish, Lange says he has more to share; he recently announced on the air that he was asked to do a second book. Here's hoping he can get his act together and stay alive long enough to write it.