Lisa Lampanelli: LGBT ally extraordinaire gets ready to roastEntertainment Feature Thursday, July 12th, 2012
Comedian Lisa Lampanelli is not afraid to tell people exactly what she thinks. Known as “Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean,” Lampanelli’s raunchy, yet honest, stand-up act has entertained audiences for more than 20 years.
She began her comedic career in New York, but received her big break in 2002 when she was selected as the only female comedian to roast Chevy Chase on Comedy Central. She’s since gone on to roast Pamela Anderson, Jeff Foxworthy and David Hasselhoff.
Earlier this year, Lampanelli finished in fourth place on the Celebrity Apprentice, winning $130,000 for her charity, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Lampanelli performs at Humphrey’s Friday, July 13, at 8 p.m.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: What are a few of the highlights of your comedic career?
Lisa Lampanelli: There are three biggies. The first was making it through the Celebrity Apprentice without murdering someone.
Then taking down the Westboro Baptist Church; I don’t know if you read about them, but they are the most hateful group of douche bags on the planet. When I was in Kansas, they said they were going to protest my show because I had supported LGBT rights, so I said for every protester that showed up, I would donate $1,000 to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (the oldest HIV/AIDS prevention group). They would have to live with the fact that all their evil was turned to good for the people that they hate. That, I was very proud of. That was a big deal to me personally.
The third thing that I’m proud of is that I’ve made the C-word a very acceptable part of the vernacular in today’s society, because it is the best word on the planet.
Where do you get the inspiration for your comedy?
I think a lot of it is just going through everyday life and taking notes in your head of all the silly things that happen around you, and all the people that annoy you. That’s usually enough anger to fuel a comedy set.
How has your comedy act changed over the years?
I think no one really starts out where they end up. You don’t start out and say, “Hey, I’m going to be an insult comic,” and just start flinging things out at people. It takes warming up and getting a little skill under your belt. First, I started doing regular old comedy and then I started doing a lot of crowd work and people really liked it and I liked it and no one would get mad and I wouldn’t have any walk-outs. It’s fun for everybody, including me, so I thought let’s just do it. It developed; and then the roasts kicked in and I thought, this is the direction that I’d like to go. It developed into me talking more about myself and my family and my relationships, and it evolved into an insult comedy act, but also about myself too.
What’s the best reaction you’ve received from a crowd?
A standing ovation before you even start. That’s awesome when you can walk out and they stand up; that’s a big deal. And obviously, when they stand up when you’re done, that’s awesome. But the recognition when they just jump up because they’re happy; that starts everything off on a great note.
Have you ever had anyone get really offended?
In the 23 years of my act, I can count maybe 10 instances. I used to do eight sets a night in New York, and I can only remember a small handful of people getting mad. It wasn’t even really their fault. They were drunk, they just didn’t get it and if you don’t get it, that’s OK. There are plenty of comics out there that are different and who you can go see. So if they get mad, you just think, “That’s OK. That person doesn’t belong here. That’s fine. I’m sure their taste is different and they can go see someone else.”
What can you tell me about your new one-woman Broadway show?
Hopefully it’ll be out in 2013. I got really bored with comedy and I’m not really into doing TV so I thought, “Should I just retire?” I’ve got nothing more that I really want to say. Then the writer of Billy Crystal’s one-person show approached me about doing a show about me and my struggle with men. So we developed a show, and it attracted great producers and a Tony-winning director. It’s really exciting and it has made me get less bored with comedy now. I feel like, now, comedy is funny again too. Each one feeds the other.
How long will the show run for?
With Broadway, what you usually do is announce a limited run and extend it if people buy tickets. I would stay on Broadway for 3 years, trust me, if those tickets sold. I never want to leave my house again. I love being home in New York. As you probably know, you travel a lot as a comic and it gets a little rough. However long they’ll keep me, whether it’s 3 weeks or 3 years, I’ll stay.
You perform in San Diego later this month; have you been to San Diego before?
Yes, I’ve played in San Diego a few times. I think this Humphrey’s joint is supposed to be cool. I hear great things about it so it should be fun.
Anything new or special about the show?
My stand-up is different every night. For stand-up, I just go with it. I play with the audience a lot. This will also be the first time in San Diego that I talk about Celebrity Apprentice, because it was so traumatic and crazy and I have such great stories from it. I’ll give all the inside scoop that I’m not really supposed to tell; but at this point what is NBC going to do to me. I’m not scared.
What were some of the big moments from Celebrity Apprentice?
My big thing was winning $130,000 for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and that’s a lot of dough. Also, I was happy that I showed emotion on the show and not just anger. I allowed myself to cry and let people see that I have a softer side. If someone hurt my feelings, I showed it. We all have feelings, and I think it’s a good thing that people know about comics that we’re not just tools.
How did you get involved with Celebrity Apprentice?
Trump, apparently, has a great sense of humor about himself, because I roasted him for Comedy Central and about a month after, I got a call saying that they want me to do Apprentice. I love that show. It’s my favorite show. My husband and I would watch it every Sunday night for the past three years. I immediately said, “Absolutely.” Trump had a great sense of humor about himself and liked that I made fun of him, which I would have never guessed but I’m glad it was true.
How did you select the charity?
I had the history with them from when the Westboro Baptist Church thing happened and I donated all the money to them. I really liked the vibe of the charity too. When I would go to the headquarters, it was a very warm and inviting place for people. I started serving meals down there when I was in town. It was a no-brainer. They were clearly going to be the charity that I would work with on Apprentice.
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