Comedian Lisa Lampanelli has been called many things in the 20-plus years she’s been in showbiz. Rude, funny, insensitive, funny, crass, funny. She’s heard it all.
Being called skinny, though, is something new.
Lampanelli and her husband both underwent weight-loss surgery and the results have been more than impressive.
“At this point, [I’ve lost] 92.5 pounds,” Lampanelli says. “We have been struggling ... It seems like since we both turned 18 there’s just something about our weight that we just haven’t been able to handle. He’s tried with huge amounts of exercise and I’ve tried with tons of dieting, I even went to rehab for food addiction, so I tried everything you can think of.
“We were at the point where we were like, ‘We’re over 50 and if we don’t get this handled we’re going to start getting diabetes and heart disease and all this crazy stuff.’ So we went to see an awesome doctor and we just looked at each other after looking at the doctor and said ‘OK, this was meant to be.’ My conscious is so clear that I tried everything that this is how it’s supposed to be now.”
Lampanelli is probably best known for her involvement in celebrity roasts, such as the roasts of Donald Trump, Larry The Cable Guy and rapper Flavor Flav just to name a few.
The talented and successful comic will bring her style of comedy to the Music Center at Strathmore at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. Due to strong language, the show is not recommended for young audiences.
While she makes a living making people laugh, it wasn’t until Lampanelli started working as a journalist at Rolling Stone did the comic switch fully get turned on.
“I don’t even remember having the conscious thought that I should try comedy, but I remember I was working at Rolling Stone and, I guess some book came out about comedians,” Lampanelli says. “I used to read a lot of books at Rolling Stone Press, and there was a book with Robin Williams on the cover and I was like, ‘You know, I kind of always wanted to try that, but it looks really hard. I mean, what do you do? How do you even begin?’”
She asked her coworkers if they thought she had what it took.
“[They] said ‘Oh, it’s the most self-centered job on the planet.’ And I said, ‘Wow, that’s for me.’ Anything that’s all about me is perfect,” Lampanelli says. “So I took a comedy class just to kind of help me figure out what to talk about and luckily things just started rolling well enough for me to actually continue with it.”
It’s important to know that, although Lampanelli makes fun of just about everything and everyone on stage, what you see off stage is vastly different.
“I think we’re all kind of 10 percent of what we are on stage,” Lampanelli says. “That part is about 10 percent of our personality, meaning, you know, I’m yelling and screaming on stage and being outrageous and that’s only a small part of who I am in real life. If you give me bad service somewhere or you’re an idiot to me, I’m going to go off like I do on stage. But it’s just a small percentage because I don’t think anyone can live life at that kind of big, big, high tilt.”
For Lampanelli, knowing in her heart she’s not a bad person helps her get past any public misconception.
“I’m lucky because — it’s almost like a [Don] Rickles thing where you do it with love in your heart,” Lampanelli says. “It’s pretty obvious that the people I make fun of are people I like. Like, I never make fun of people in the audience that I dislike. If I see them scowling or something, I just stay away from them. I think they know it’s good natured, so I never had to deal with that.”
Lampanelli’s on-stage persona seemed to bleed through to her fellow Trump ‘employees’ during the fifth edition of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Several of the celebrity contestants said they thought she was too emotional.
“At the ‘Apprentice’... people were watching the ‘Apprentice’ who didn’t know my type of comedy so they were shocked at the stuff I would say and that I would react to people the way I did if I had anger or whatever,” Lampanelli says. “Those are people who just didn’t know my act so I kind of didn’t give them any credibility because if they would have researched me, they would have known that’s what I do.
“I feel pretty lucky that people have been able to tell there’s a difference.”
Lampanelli lampoons everything and everyone equally. Race, sex, religion — if she can joke about it, she will. That’s not to say anything’s up for grabs.
“My rule has always been if I can make it funny, I can talk about it. So, if it’s AIDS and I can make it funny, that’s great. If it’s cancer, if it’s rape, if it’s Sept. 11, if I can’t make it funny — my job is to make you laugh, so if I can’t make it funny it’s off limits,” Lampanelli says. “Luckily most of the subjects I can make funny. Sept. 11, I haven’t been able to do yet, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen for me just because I’m not that smart, but I think that should be a comic’s job — if you can make people laugh with it, you can talk about it.”
Recently, Lampanelli says she’s been working on relaxing more, something she hasn’t been able to do in a long time. She spending more time with her family and friends and trying to stop putting all of her focus on work.
“Since July, I’ve been trying to get more in balance because I was literally 90 percent work, 10 percent everything else for about 20-something years,” Lampanelli says. “I recently bought this house on the water in Connecticut, which was perfect timing with the hurricane. I had three months where I had off that I could sort of enjoy relaxing a little bit. It started to get to where I really like having a little bit of a life with friends and family and entertaining people and just, overall, not being work, work, work anymore.
“So I’m enjoying weird little things I never did before. Like I made my sister let me do all the shopping for Thanksgiving, which I would have never wanted to do that, but now that I’m more relaxed, I’m like ‘OK, I’ll do that.’ That’s not to say I’m not totally motivated, but my motivation is definitely lower than what it used to be.”
In 2013, Lampanelli will unleash her first one-woman show on Broadway. The show will have a real story, according to Lampanelli, and focus on all the things from her life — good and bad.
“Having lost a little bit of motivation, I’m enjoying the process [of writing the show] instead of going, ‘When the hell is this thing going to be done, rawr-rawr-rawr-rawr-rawr!,’” Lampanelli says. “It’s more like ‘Hey, this is really a great thing to write this and to make it perfect and make it really, really good because it’s showing a whole different side of who I am.’
“So it’s a story about a lot of the struggles I had with food, men, insecurity, comedy — the struggle for self acceptance, really.”
At the end of the day, Lampanelli may be an insult comic, but it’s not just about insulting different people or things, it’s about getting people to be honest with themselves and each other — and to make people laugh.
“As an insult comic, I think the message has always been we’re all exactly alike,” Lampanelli says. “One of you is no better than the rest of you. I really have this thing about I only make fun of the people I like, so I always like people going away saying ‘Wow, she hit everybody equally.’”
“... You can’t be afraid to tell the truth about yourself. I tell the truth about everything, I mean, I don’t hold anything back now. Any crazy thing I’ve done or anything I’ve gone through, I’m just going to tell the truth. ... I love when people don’t front and they say who they are and I hope people can take that away from what I do.”