In his book, Mike Walker says:
“…I realized Stern was a genius, flying by the seat of his pants and creating something new that changed the world of entertainment. He spawned Reality TV. As for Reality Radio, he owns it. He was brilliant at drawing characters out, defining and polishing them. And these characters have become household words famous in their won right-Robin, BaBa-Boo-ey, Stuttering John, Artie, Fred…..”
I whole heartedly agree with Mike’s brilliant assesment. The reason why the show works is because Stern allows his characters to be real. But, when does Real become too Real?
The facts are simple, Artie Lange is a heroin addict. He has been addicted to drugs for his entire adult life, however Howard repeatedly states that he does not have a problem with this. But why should he? If we take Mike Walker’s quote at face value, we see why. For Howard, there is no longer an “Artie Lange” individual; but Artie Lange, a character on the show who is addicted to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. He has an opportunity that most Reality TV producers only dream of-a fully functioning heroin addict and hours upon hours to kill on the air.
When Artie is in (it only seems like he misses a lot of days), he creates simply great radio. His one-liners are biting and funny. They are just as genius as Fred’s sound clips in the background. He is also a master story-teller, and as a drug addict has plenty of stories to tell. Artie’s interactions with staff and audience is also fascinating. Fights with Howard, Sal and Teddy are infamous. The interaction with fans is great as well. Who knew that Artie speaks to Ass-Napkin Ed and Hanzi on the regular basis?
But what about when Artie is out? Does the radio show suffer? The answer is a “no” First of all, there is endless speculation about Artie that makes for terrific radio. I love hearing fans bash Howard for not taking care of his “bro”. Besides, Howard and Robin are pros and have much to discuss even when Artie is out.
So, to get back on the topic, what should Howard do about “Artie Dilemma”? There are two possible solutions; do nothing and enjoy the ride, or to give some tough love and send him to rehab to get healthy. And my answer is this: who is Howard? If Mike Walker is right, then he should do nothing and reap the benefits. Every time this question is brought up, Stern claims that he doesn’t mind the drug addiction as long as Artie does his job. That would put his actions into category of doing nothing. I guess Artie and Howard aren’t “bro’s” after all.