The Crazy Prank That Landed Artie Lange In Jail

The world of comedy is filled with jokesters, you know, because that's the trade. Comedians live their lives for the laughs. Gags and pranks are their profession. Comedian Artie Lange is no different in that respect, but, even in the world of the witty, the guy stands out.

Lange has been pursuing comedy since he quit his job as a longshoreman in the early '90s. In 1995, he caught his big break when he moved to Los Angeles for the first season of MADtv. Once a show like that is on your resume, there's no going back. Granted, Lange was on the sketch comedy show for less than two seasons, thanks to a charge of cocaine possession. Shortly after, he scored a co-starring role in the 1998 film Dirty Work, which People Pill says was all thanks to his co-star, Norm Macdonald. Lange would end up appearing on Macdonald's sit-com before securing a home on The Howard Stern Show. Let's be honest, that's where most of us know him from anyway.

Lange has always been a funny guy, and though his comedy wrote his paychecks later on in life, it's gotten him in trouble in the past. Like, that time he was arrested for pulling a prank. Here's how that went.

Artie Lange got in trouble when someone didn't get the joke

Pranks can be funny, they can be mean, and, sometimes, they broach a legally gray area. In the case of the prank that got Artie Lange arrested, things bypassed legally gray and did not pass Go, did not collect $200 and went straight to Miranda Rights.

Lange's been a jokester all of his life. He's the type of guy who was used to getting in trouble during school for joking around, but when he was 17, he took things too far. At the time, the future comedian had the hots for a certain someone who happened to be a bank teller. Well, the young Lange went down to the bank to pay her a visit. And what did this 17-year-old jokester do? He pulled a prank.

As Lange described in an interview with NPR, he slipped his crush — again, a bank teller! — a note. "It said, 'I have a gun. Put $50,000 into a bag, turn around and count to a thousand. Act natural, no, act casual. Thank you for your cooperation, Artie Lange Jr.,'" Lange explained. He assumed the teller would realize it was a joke when she saw that he'd signed his name at the bottom — since no actual bank robber would gett very far plastering his or her identity on the evidence — but, no, she didn't get the joke.

That's when Artie Lange's prank went south

This teenage Artie Lange was standing there waiting for a laugh when the teller hit the silent alarm. She was "white as a ghost." Apparently, she'd stopped reading right after the line "I have a gun," like any rational person who doesn't want to die for her day job would have. As you'd expect, Lange freaked out too. He tossed the note in the trash and tried desperately to explain to the woman that it was a prank; just a stupid joke, one for which he probably didn't expect to go to jail. 

That's when the police showed up.

Who knows what Lange was actually thinking at the time, but people do silly things for love. What made the story even more ridiculous was that Lange was at the bank playing a prank, which he admitted to NPR was his way of flirting, while his girlfriend was standing next to him. That means both his love interests got to see the future comic get taken away in handcuffs.

Teenaged Lange tried to explain the prank to the cops, but it didn't keep him from staying out of jail. The judge, on the other hand, believed that Lange wasn't actually trying to rob the bank and dropped the charges from attempted robbery to disorderly conduct. He did, after all, create a bit of a panic.

Lange has been arrested several times since

Since young Artie Lange's prank arrest didn't ruin his life, it makes for a fun story. His other arrests, though, aren't as easily joked away. The comedian has managed to put together a rap sheet consisting mostly of drug-related arrests. We're not here to make fun of him for it: substance abuse is a serious problem, and many comedians lose their lives to illicit drugs. For Lange, these arrests caused some career setbacks.

His first drug arrest since his rise to fame came during the second season of MADtv, which People Pill says cost him his spot on the sketch comedy show. Lange did a stint in rehab but ultimately found career success afterward. He was on The Howard Stern Show for eight years before going on to pursue other ventures, including his own show and podcast. Lange was doing well for the better part of a decade before his second drug arrest in 2017. The first drug arrest was for possession of cocaine; the second added heroin into the mix, according to

Lange was arrested again for drugs while on probation from the 2017 incident and entered a court-ordered rehab program. Things appeared to be going well for Lange until May 2019, according to USA Today, when he was arrested for "failing to comply with the terms" of his treatment program.