By Mik Hyldebrandt
The first thing out of her mouth are those two words, but her delivery is laced with sarcasm of the disarming kind. So, even though you dearly wish you’d been able to deliver a snappy ‘hey, you old bitch’ comeback, you immediately sense that Lisa Lampanelli’s insult style – rough and direct as it may seem – does not come from a dark place, but rather out of the desire to shake things up a little. And of course to make you ache from laughter. I had the pleasure of speaking to the lovely queen of insult comedy to talk about her upcoming show at Center Stage Theater.
Mik Hyldebrandt: Thank you for that greeting. So how are you doing today?
Lisa Lampanelli: Awesome, just doing my shit and gearing up to come to that dirty South Atlanta. I gotta get all the dirty cornholers out to see me. I don’t want to deal with straighties anymore, I’ll take the gays because they are kinder. Well, not to each other, but to me anyway.
You’re known as the queen of mean, but a lovable one at that – when did you realize that it was your ‘thing’?
Right now I’m defying the stereotype of how mean I am because I’m about to play cards with my 88-year-old mother. Because I want her, you know, to keep me in her will. Anyway, I was about a year into doing comedy, and I enjoyed messing with the audience, and they didn’t get mad if I poked a little fun at them. So I did tons of audience work until I realized I didn’t want them to respond back, I just wanted to talk to them – kind of like a relationship where I don’t want to hear your mouth, I just want to heat mine. So I followed what made me laugh and over the years I honed more into that roast style and attitude.
What can the audience expect from the March 24 show at Center Stage?
I took six months off from comedy to do a play in the city, and in that time so much has been happening. I’m not a political comic, but there is the universal truth that Donald Trump deserves to be made fun of, so I rehash the roast I did of him on comedy central and wrote a whole new roast that’s very inclusive of all the new things that go on, which is a daily occurrence with him. And of course, there’s me working off the audience with stories about the time I was on the Apprentice, my divorce, and my weight loss – so it’s new things plus the classics like calling the gays every kind of name that you are legally allowed to call them.
You draw parallels to your own life and poke fun at yourself all the time. How does it feel to reveal all of that?
It’s great! I always felt that if you can’t make fun of yourself how is the audience going to respond when you’re making fun of them? People said to me after I lost the weight ‘you don’t have anything to make fun of now,’ and I said, you fucking see me? I’m 56 years old, going into menopause, and I have a haircut that looks like Justin Bieber fucked Marge Simpson. There’s enough to make fun of not to mention my horrible personality. It’s an important part of the show.
Do you think that’s where the lovable queen of mean comes in?
Everybody knows I only make fun of people I love, which is why I never make fun of the French. The French have an exemption because I fucking hate them – everyone else, it’s fair game!
Your jokes can at times be about race and people’s weight and so on. Have you ever been nervous about getting up on stage and making jokes that go too far?
I’ve never gotten nervous for a live performance because I know what I’m good at. It seems the first seven years of comedy is about thinking why did that one person not like me? The next seven are ‘fuck you if you don’t like me!’ And then the rest of my career is more if you like me that’s great, and if you don’t that’s ok too. But usually the audience is there to see me, and I do give a shit that I make them laugh!
Are people in your life or people you met nervous that you will roast them?
YES! But I quickly go ‘I’m not getting paid for this, so don’t worry about it.’ The same if people ask me to be funny, I’m off the clock, and you’ll get nothing for free. And there is nothing more annoying than a comic who is always on. It is so awful and boring. Everyone deserves equal attention at the dinner table.
What’s something that will surprise people about you?
I host a really fun game night every week for my mom and friends and family. They are not famous people, and I do it because I want more than anything to have that connection with them at this point in my life.
So being with your family is what better defines you now than being on stage?
I don’t care about a job, but I care about doing a good job, so now this game night is the best hour of my week. This tour runs until the end of June, and then we’ll see what happens. I’m at a point now where I make a certain amount of money to pay my bills, and then we’ll see what happens after that. I love looking at an empty calendar.
What’s next for Lisa Lampanelli after this tour?
I love time off, I love nesting, and sitting and looking at the water with my dog. Right now, I’m also working on two books; I’m doing a storytelling event that may turn into a tour. So I like to do anything that tickles me and sounds fun. I got an email a while ago from Comedy Central about this show called Taskmaster where five celebrities compete mentally and physically. And I thought I’m so doing that because Reggie Watts is the host – and I thought it would be fun to go up against other people in a non-dramatic way. And it is so fucking hilarious, and I had so much fun. It was maybe the funnest thing I have done in my career, and it helped me cement my attitude about only doing things I really want. It’s premiering on Comedy Central on April 27th
Anything you’d like to add?
You know the interview started when I said ‘hello faggot’, so put that in there, and take it from there, faggot!
Lisa Lampanelli performs at Center Stage Theater on March 24. Tickets at Ticketmaster.com.