Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Crash and Burn by Artie Lange (2013) Book Review

A Highly Engaging and Often Disturbing Account of One Man's Journey to the Darkest Depths of Depravity

As a long time fan of the Howard Stern show, I was well aware of Artie Lange's problems with drugs and alcohol even before reading his first book, Too Fat to Fish. I found that book a good read, although I found myself bored with some of Artie's stories that were rehashed from the show. As a knowledgable Stern fan, this book went into greater detail about Artie's mental and emotional state and taught me many things about his personality that I had not known beforehand. I found the behind the scenes stories to be, for the most part, informative and insightful, and sometimes even disgusting. One of the best stories included was his account of an embarrassing night at the playboy mansion, a hilarious tale that reminded me of how talented a story-teller Artie can be.

This book covers the time period from after his first book came out in 2008 to the present day. During that time period, Artie Lange went through a personal hell, cycling through drug binges and withdrawals, constantly trying to dupe and outwit his friends and family so he could continue his destructive habits until it all came to a head in a most disturbing way. Some of this book is very hard to read, especially if you are a fan of Artie and wish to see him well. I actually saw Artie Lange when I went to a book signing for Too Fat to Fish in 2009, and can personally attest to the fact Artie looked totally out of it. At the time I had no idea how bad off he was.

The book is a fantastic and highly emotional account of a man who lost everything due to his own demons, but some parts of the book made me a little frustrated. Even though this was written after his crash and burn, he doesn't seem very regretful for the horrible things he's done to himself and others. Sometimes he regrets his actions, but then a paragraph later he will defend them or even praise his own contentious and irresponsible behavior. In the book he also bashes many celebrities and normal people who, in my opinion, didn't deserve to be ridiculed in such a way. A sarcastic wit is what makes Artie's humor so great, but at some points it seemed to me like he was being too harsh, and that made me sympathize with him less.

That aside, he does say nice things about some of his fellow comedians who have passed away such as Greg Giraldo and Mitch Hedburg, which I found very informative and nicely written. These comedians struggled with addiction and lost their battle. Their passings effected Artie deeply, and that hurt resonates with the reader in a profound way. It was in these passages where I felt he was being the most genuine.

For fans of Artie Lange, this book is a must read. For fans on the outside, as a stand alone book of an addict who descends into an abyss of drugs and booze, the book is still effective. However, it does have a tendency to become redundant as he tells one too many stories of getting high on airplanes and his general disdain for flying. I did find his rituals of scoring drugs while keeping it a secret from his friends and family very intriguing.

Overall, I must say I enjoyed this book more than Too Fat to Fish, and besides a few minor complaints I had a great time reading.

Artie, if you read this, I hope you stay clean man.

American Movie (1999) Review

What makes Mark Borschardt so relatable is that we all know someone like him. He is slightly mad and socially awkward yet assertive and intelligent, a fast talker with a quick wit and a big mouth. He is at some points self-confident and optimistic of the future, and other points hopelessly down in the dumps or drunk out of his already wacked out mind. He is also passionate about his life’s ambition, to fulfill his dream of making a feature horror film inspired by his own favorites Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

In the pursuit to complete the film Mark undergoes a series of hurdles and setbacks that succeed in making bad situations worse, prolonging an already drawn out production and frustrating his family and friends. In order to secure funding for the film, he must coerce his notoriously stringy elderly Uncle Bill to help finance the project, resulting in quite a few scenes of comedy gold. Interviews with Mark’s family are candid and revealing, shedding light on some factors that may have influenced Mark’s obsession with cinema.


The colorful cast of characters is filled out by his long since burnt out friends Mike and Kenny, who have been helping Mark make his films since they were all kids. Mike Schank in particular steals the movie with his slow moving, soft-spoken voice delivering some of the funniest lines in the movie.

American movie is a fantastic documentary that paints a thorough and engaging portrait of a man inspired by passion and driven by obsession. It offers a glimpse into the life and psyche of a flawed yet sympathetic character in both his darkest and brightest moments. If you’d like the learn something about the power of peserverence, I suggest you watch this film.