The Magazine

No Laughing Matter

The less you know the funnier he is.

Mar 9, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 24 • By ZACK MUNSON
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And yet, somehow, Lange soldiers on, landing gig after gig: a role in a Norm MacDonald movie, Dirty Work; a development deal from 20th Century Fox, a permanent home on Howard Stern's radio show.

The truth is, Lange is funny. Just watch him in Dirty Work, or on MADtv, or as a guest on any talk show. And he has amassed a following on Howard Stern. But he is also a that guy--"Oh, that guy"--so do we need to know about his first experience with a hooker? Or the time he defecated in his motel bed? Is all this really necessary?

Lange professes great admiration for another troubled comic, admitting, "I can only dream of being as funny as Chris f--ing Farley." Farley had a small role in Dirty Work, and Lange calls Farley's death a "wake-up call," saying: "I couldn't believe it. I'd just done a movie with him, and he was so vibrant and alive. And drugs took all that away from him. I got the message all right."

Since Lange developed a heroin addiction soon after Farley's death, it is unclear exactly what message he, in fact, received. And as interesting as it might sometimes be to ponder why so many entertainers live (and sometimes die) in this squalid and demented way, a book like this raises another question entirely: Is there any reason we should be privy to their excesses and failures, their most intimate and disturbing peccadilloes, simply because they make us laugh?

Zack Munson is a writer in Washington.