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Artie Lange Was the Worst Thing About Joe Buck Live…Except for Everything Else

June 24, 2009

After more than a week, I wish I no longer cared about the Artie Lange – Joe Buck “controversy.” But most things I’ve seen or heard since then have missed a few key points, which I feel compelled to make here.

For those who missed it, on June 15, 2009, Howard Stern regular and heart attack victim-in-waiting Artie Lange appeared on the inaugural episode of Joe Buck’s new sports-oriented talk show. During Lange’s brief segment, he did the unthinkable. He launched a full-on assault against all decent, nonthreatening, family-friendly television programming. That’s right: Artie Lange cursed on HBO.

I’m not here to defend Lange, mind you. For me, he’s but a peripheral wisp on the comedy horizon. I once may have seen him take up time and lots of space (insert more “Lange is fat” jokes here) during a Comedy Central roast, but that’s about it. I think I fast-forwarded through the Lange bit to get to one of the two or three funny people (ahem, Bea Arthur, God bless her) they somehow always cajole into doing those things. Of course, I could easily verify that it was indeed him and not Greg Giraldo or some other hack, but I’ve just enacted for myself a lifetime ban against googling Artie Lange.

On Joe Buck Live, Lange’s homophobic “jokes” were particularly crass and offensive. And they weren’t funny. Ever the linguistic pioneer, Lange quipped that “Romo,” as in Tony, rhymes with “homo,” as in sexual. If you feel like the “Romo-homo” construction is over your head, just stick with it. When it does sink in, you’ll realize the genius at work.

All irony aside, what I’m really saying is that Artie Lange sucks.

But, from a comedy standpoint—and from an “I want TV shows to be interesting” standpoint—Artie Lange was the least offensive, least sucky thing about the first episode of Joe Buck Live.

In defense of this position, I present three out of the dozens of things about Buck’s show that were suckier and more offensive (i.e., less funny and more boring) than Artie Lange.

1. The cringe-inducing bits where Joe Buck pretended that the apartment buildings on his set’s matted backdrop were real. Twice, Buck went to a telescope at the back of the stage to “spy” on his “neighbors” across the “street.” The objects of Buck’s odd voyeurism? Shrimpy sports expert Bob Costas and Bud “Don’t call me Monty Burns” Selig, the baseball commissioner whose vigorous response to the national pastime’s steroid crisis has included a long bout of flatulence and several silent calls to his nurse to speed up the morphine drip.

In the bits, Buck “caught” Selig playing Guitar Hero (right, like he could lift the guitar) and Costas and his dog lounging on the couch in matching pajamas. If that sounds God-awful, you’re wrong. It was actually much worse. It was “God just canceled his HBO subscription” awful.

2. Joe Buck himself, the embodiment of all things safe, bland, and Midwestern—and, therefore, not suited to carry the weight of a personality-driven TV show. When Lange went on his tirade, Buck could have bantered back and told some jokes at his foe’s expense. For example, “Artie Lange is so fat, he sweats gravy.” Sheesh, something, anything, except what Buck actually did, which was to coax Lange into further boorishness by responding like a humorless toad-boy. If Lange was the bully (which he most certainly was), then Buck was the tattle-tale kid whose parents pull some strings to get the bully expelled.

3. Which, when you think about it, is kinda what happened. After the fracas, Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, issued an official ban on further Lange appearances on any HBO Sports telecasts. In his statement about Lange, Greenburg said, “We don’t have any interest in his world.”

Better think again, Ross. Guys just like Artie Lange are the ones most likely to watch an hour-long sports chatfest, because theirs is the “world” of uber-fandom. They are the ones who love their teams and hate the other guys beyond any remote semblance of rationality, and they’re snarky and rude and foul-mouthed and perpetually doubtful of the enemy team’s manhood. (Are there any homophobic slurs that rhyme with Albert Pujols? Uh, never mind.)

In short, I would argue that the average sports obsessive is a hell of a lot more like Artie Lange than Joe Buck.

And shows about sports that don’t appeal to those guys will disappear faster than the ninth hot dog during Artie Lange’s afternoon snack time.

Another joke Joe Buck could have made.

  1. fieldengrey permalink
    June 25, 2009 10:03 am

    I wish when people wrote about me on the internets they also linked to gravy recipes.

  2. October 30, 2009 5:04 pm

    You can see Artie On Fallon’s show here.


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