My apologies if this sounds at all callous, but sobriety agrees with Artie Lange. On his first stand-up DVD, It's the Whiskey Talkin', it's obvious that Lange is in one of his many well-documented out-of-control phases; he appears on stage very drunk and while it doesn't affect his performance outright, it still hangs over the entire show like a specter. His timing is a little off, and he has a tendency to shout his entire act -- it's more about creating a party than it is about doing stand-up. In 2009, however, things changed for Lange. He gave up drinking and an addiction to heroin, getting clean for the first time in years. It shows on his first comedy album, Jack and Coke. He's a better comic: sharper, more focused and controlling the crowd rather than allowing their energy to dictate his own. With his demons at least temporarily in check, Lange has finally released an album worthy of his tremendous potential.
Lange devotes the majority of Jack and Coke to his usual obsessions: stories about gambling, goofing on sports stars like Lawrence Taylor, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Tyson, his Italian heritage, his past experiences as a drug abuser and destroying political correctness. While he does make the mistake of pointing out just how edgy he plans on being (if you're truly edgy, you don't need to call attention to it), there's no denying that the comic takes the notion of "working blue" to its fullest extent. The good news is that while it felt like Lange wanted to be shocking for shocking's sake on Whiskey, Jack and Coke's focus on timing and crafting jokes gives a purpose to the darkness and foul language. It works.
While Lange's delivery has shown great improvement, his material has not. It's the same kind of hard-edged, occasionally dark collection of non-PC punchlines and degenerate stories about drug abuse and gambling. Material has never been Lange's problem, though, and on Jack and Coke he's finally doing his jokes justice. If you're a devoted fan of The Howard Stern Show (as I am), chances are you've heard a good deal of the jokes and routines on the album in some form or another (some, I think, are even holdovers from It's the Whiskey Talkin'); while it's nice to have them collected in one long set, it's unfortunate that the element of surprise is largely missing. The uninitiated will likely enjoy Jack and Coke somewhat better than the die-hard fans (which sounds backward, I know) -- so long as they know what they're in for. Jack and Coke is not for the easily offended.
- Album Release Date: 11/17/09
- Label: Shout! Factory
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.