Interview: Comedian Lisa Lampanelli, Performing Tonight & Tomorrow in SoCal
Sure, Lisa Lampanelli might be a frequent roaster if not the Roastmaster at the New York Friars' Club, she might have been given the title Comedy's Lovable Queen of Mean, and her website might be located at www.InsultComic.com, but she was nothing but charming on the phone when we talked late last week.
The east coast-based comic does come to California a few times a year and LA is lucky to get her so close by tonight at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula and tomorrow at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. Her Comedy Central special, "Tough Love," just aired in April and while there isn't another special in the works, Lampanelli tells us that she's working on a one-woman Broadway show that we hope to hear more about soon. To get more info on Lampanelli including her schedule and merch check out her website.
Thomas Attila Lewis: You're east coast based, but you have fans everywhere, tons of them in LA.
Lisa Lampanelli: When you're at the stage I'm at, you know that your fans are coming to your show so you're not scared of any audience. So if you do Charlotte, North Carolina, or you do LA or Dallas, they're still essentially the same [group of] people.
TAL: So much of the business operates out of Los Angeles, I'm sure you must have to spend some time there, is that the wrong assumption?
Lisa Lampanelli: Oh no sure, sometimes we'll coordinate those trips with doing George Lopez or Leno or things like that, or doing meetings with people or pitches and stuff. But so much of my life is not involved with TV, it's not a big priority right now, it never really has been. But I always get a kick out of someone famous in the industry coming to the show, I love that, I love to show off, and being like "They've never seen anything like this shit!" But I don't even think about [the industry].
I have no bad memories associated with LA or most places, really, but I've never disappointed getting on the plane: "OK, now back to real life." I never get phased by LA because everyone is so nice to you, I don't even care if they're being phony, I just like it when people are nice to me. "Well, that was fun, people are so sweet." I don't care if they say something behind my back.
TAL: There is a lot of phony there, there's the fake architecture, the fake people who've replaced their body parts with fake parts.
Lisa Lampanelli: I know, that is really strange to me, it really is. It cracks me up when comics do a lot of surgery and replacement of things. It's like, "You're a comic, you didn't sign on to be some ageless ingenue." But they feel it's necessary, so, whatever.
TAL: That's a bit of a tragedy, because it's the parts that [give them character] that they try to get rid of.
Lisa Lampanelli: It's a huge self-hate thing. It's sad that you would really want to just look like "they" think you should. It's sucks to not be some ideal but you're more interesting in a way. There's only one Kathy Griffin, or me, or Sarah Silverman, or whatever but there' a thousand hot blonds. I'd be lying if I was saying if I didn't want to be that for about a month but it's not that interesting after a while.
TAL: You're a big supporter of the gay community, how weird is it that California has rescinded gay rights for marriage?
Lisa Lampanelli: It is really odd, it just goes to show that there's no predicting any of this. You can have just as many stupid people in New York as you can in LA, as many smart people in Kansas City as there are in Seattle. There's no stereotype that's going to work across the board for every place. So if you think that's going to happen in LA, then guess what folks? No way. But there's hope for the future.
TAL: I think they're trying to figure out how to get around the Central Valley homophobes and the religious nuts who want to exclude.
Lisa Lampanelli: I always say this in my act: I definitely approve of gay marriage, we should legalize gay marriage but outlaw gay divorces because if you asked for it, you got it bitches!
TAL: I've seen that in your act. It's funny that in the evangelical community, they have a higher divorce rate than others. I guess being Born Again means you can get divorced again and again and again.
Lisa Lampanelli: [Laughs] Right!
TAL: I know you just had a TV special that aired but how does that work for you? How do you approach your material to create one of these?
Lisa Lampanelli: I just had my special air in April. Usually most comics in my position seem to have a good special in them every 2 years. There are some comics that put out one a year which is too much for me, I can't think of anything that funny in one year. So I kind of work on [building] things like that. As far as things that I'm working on that are separate from comedy, I'm writing a Broadway one-person show based on my book that I'm writing with the guy who did Billy Crystal's one-man show on Broadway. So that seems to be the focused because the book was pretty powerful and meaningful, it said a lot about evolving, food issues, issues with men. While it was really superfunny it resonated with people was that working on yourself is hard but it can be really funny too. So we're working on that, to bring it to Broadway for a limited run. So that's what's been taking up a lot of my time.
TAL: You are are also doing "The New Majority" tour with Gabriel Iglesias, Russell Peters and Steve Byrne, you're the one white person, the one woman too. You already have built a great crossover audience, what will those shows be like.
Lisa Lampanelli: Oh they're great, I only have to do a 1/2 hour vs what I normally do but even though we each go on separately there is a real collaborative feeling to the show with these guys. They are all so great! I mean I get every type of person to come to my shows but with these it's volume, there's a lot more people. I think there's about 6,000 people at each place we're playing. So to get 3 or 4 times the amount of people that would see you on any night is just great for me.
TAL: That's cool, and I'm excited to see what happens with your Broadway show.
Lisa Lampanelli: It's funny because I had thought the idea about 3 or 4 years ago but we couldn't get it together until recently: I had wanted to do this so bad. It's so weird how you decide something is right for you and then doors keep opening up. This is the path, I know it's right, it's pretty cool!
TAL: Will part of your show go over your history as a journalist?
Lisa Lampanelli: I never wanted to do a show that was "Here's My Story" because for only about a minute will people be interested in the Roasts or myself as a comic because what they really want to see is themselves in you: food, my stuff with men, marriage, it's just so hard, that's a struggle for a lot of people. I just want to make light of it, have fun with it, tell the truth and not be embarrassed about what you go through. We're all a mess but if you work on it, it gets a bit better.
TAL: Those are great themes, but what's funny is that a lot of people don't know about that part of your career. I was addicted to Spy Magazine [which you wrote for] and it was a tragedy that it's gone. So you wonder why Vanity Fair is around?
Lisa Lampanelli: That was our editor! Graydon Carter was our editor and now he's the editor for Vanity Fair, so it's great that he's still around in the business.
TAL: I was really into music but I wasn't much of a metalhead but I knew what was going on because of your writing.
Lisa Lampanelli: Yeah, it's pretty funny - it's cool to have done that stuff and it really helped me promote myself [as a comic] because I knew my way around the press a little bit. Everything you've ever done you end up using.
TAL: Can you give us an example of how this helped you?
Lisa Lampanelli: Sure, just like I know to make sure people tape every interview or how to yell at them if they don't research it right or if they get quotes wrong. I know how to put out what I want people to know about me and to make sure that your point gets across the right way. When I couldn't afford a publicist, I knew how to get people to do stories, you need to know how to work it a little bit.
TAL: How to communicate...
Lisa Lampanelli: Yeah, writing your own press releases, I know it sucks, but if you can't afford somebody when you're starting, at least you know how to do it.
TAL: That's some great insight - hardcore comedy fans will love that.
Lisa Lampanelli: Cool!
TAL: Thanks for your time and safe journeys to your shows in LA.
Lisa Lampanelli: Great, thank you!
Lisa Lampanelli performs tonight at the Pechanga Resort in Temecula and tomorrow at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. For more info, check out Lisa Lampanelli's website.