Lisa Lampanelli is known as “The Queen of Mean.” Lisa Lampanelli is one of the nicest, most thoughtful people we’ve interviewed.
Phone interviews aren’t that great. It’s difficult to build any rapport with someone that talks to strangers on the phone to sell a product. It’s very difficult when one of those people is doing it multiple times a day. It’s even more difficult when that person doesn’t really need to do phone interviews. Lisa Lampanelli is a great person to converse with over the phone. It’s 2015. Very few people are good at conversing over the phone.
Lisa Lampanelli will be at The Lincoln Theatre on Friday, May 29. Her next special, Back to the Drawing Board, premieres Friday, June 26 on EPIX. Come back Friday for Lisa’s NIGHTMARE GIG story.
Brightest Young Things: How do you work out new material?
Lisa Lampanelli: I do it at my shows, the shows are funny so even if a joke isn’t selling, I can always win them back with something else, but I don’t go to clubs to work out material, that’s not how my process works now. Other comics do that and it’s fine, that’s just not how I work, I just go up and do it and if it pisses people off I record it so that I can obviously still try it again and make it better and see what happens with it, and just work with it from there.
BYT: I’m sure you’re sick of the comparison, but you have a style similar to Joan Rivers, to Kathy Griffin, you guys are all essentially in the same camp. Do you feel like you have some responsibility to fill that void?
LL: No, and I don’t ever get sick of a comparison like that, because I love them both, especially Kathy with her being such a nice person, she’s so sweet, she’s seen me a few times and she’s always so complimentary. Yeah, I think we have a nice tradition going there with women comics who are just as funny as guys, and it’s cool that people are finally figuring out that women can still be funny, and I think Joan was the first one to really drive that point home.
BYT: Who do you take on the road with you? Do you have the same stable of openers?
LL: I have one opener, and I mean Kathy never had an opener so I considered just not having one for a while because it’s not necessary, but it’s still more fun to travel with somebody who builds up for twelve minutes before I go up and then I take it from there.
BYT: That person has a very good life right now.
LL: Well I told that person, because I just got a new opener starting in D.C. next weekend, I told her, because she’s still great but she’s not a seasoned veteran, she’s not a ten year pro yet, she’s done it for five years very well, and she asked me, “You won’t be mad at me if you have a bad set?” and I go, “Dude, I care more about my coffee being right in my dressing room so consider that more your big responsibility.”
BYT: That’s awesome, who’s the comic?
LL: Her name is Ashley Austin Morris and she’s a playwright and an actress and a comic, and we’re doing a play together that’s going to be off-Broadway next year, so she seemed like a natural fit.
BYT: You just mentioned you’re writing a play, so you and Louis Black are literally leaving money on the table, not doing these 1200-2000 seat theaters around the country if you’re working on off-Broadway plays so why do you wanna do that?
LL: Oh no, it’s actually just one play that I’ll only be in for a certain amount of months next fall (2016), so it’s only going to take me off shows for maybe a couple of months, and it’s one of those shows that has a rotating cast with other celebrities, so it’s just a fun and real cool experience. It’s also about my struggles with eating food and weight loss and body image and I think it’s a really satisfying play to do, and I think it’ll just be fun to do kind of a different thing.
BYT: This relates to the next question, my mother is a really big fan and I got her tickets to see you at the Chicago Theater like ten years ago, I think it was a Just For Laughs event, and she loved it and she loves you and she loves all the specials, and I’m actually visiting her in Chicago so I had her write five questions for you and the first one relates to this: are you happier due to the weight loss, or are you happy in general and weight loss happened to be a product of that, does that make sense? Do these two things correlate in any way?
LL: Yes, they do. I couldn’t work on my real issues without losing weight first, I hated the way I looked I hated the way I felt physically, always tired and dragging. I couldn’t work on the stuff that really mattered if I didn’t get the food and the eating out of the way first, so, yes. Am I happier after weight loss? Definitely, not because of the weight loss but because it allowed me to work on other things. Am I happy in general? I’ll tell you and I’m not even kidding; a year ago I would’ve told I was happy 75% of the time and now I’ll tell you I’m happy 99% of the time and it’s because of all the stuff I’ve been working on over the past year, psychologically and emotionally and spiritually, and that started with the weight loss and it lead to that, so it’s all turned around and I’m very happy with life now.
BYT: Well you say psychologically and emotionally and spiritually, do you mean like a therapy thing, a yoga thing, a meditation thing, is it a mixture?
LL: That’s all of it; I go to a yoga retreat, seven days a month I go on a spiritual retreat of some sort, it’s just a part of what I do now. I go to a shrink twice month, I have a couple self help groups where I can help other people while helping myself, I also do way more volunteer work because I kind of feel like I miss interacting with other people. I worked for 25 years in comedy and I was happy with the job but I wasn’t happy with life, and I felt the only thing that filled the void inside was helping other people, and sure some of that comes from comedy but most of it comes from doing things everyday that make me feel better about myself with relation to other folks.
BYT: Where are you volunteering?
LL: I’ve done a lot of charity shows recently, the reason I started doing a lot more service was because a year ago my dad died and it was six months waiting for his passing and taking care of him, so that was something I wanted to do for him, so when he died I missed that service component and I started helping other people, coaching three or four other comics, I did a benefit for an art museum, and I recently stopped by the Ronald McDonald House and I would totally volunteer for; I haven’t started yet, but that’s a place that’s literally on my block, there’s no excuse for me not to volunteer there. I also do charity work for Gay Men’s Health Crisis for which I won some money on Celebrity Apprentice, $130,000 dollars. I also help with a group that helps get people to Weight Watchers who can’t afford it.
BYT: So this is all amazing stuff and it completely goes against the whole “queen of mean” thing.
LL: Well it doesn’t really because of course that’s a character, it’s almost like mistaking Archie Bunker for Carroll O’Connor, or De Niro for the guy in Goodfellas, so when you’re working on stage you’re kind of touting your personality but you’re not really that way, so yeah I think people were a little surprised I do a lot of help for other people, but I’m kind of doing it for myself. I mean even going on stage is a service because it brings people up from thinking about their lost job or their lost spouse or something like that, so that even helps people when I’m doing comedy; it’s all done to make them laugh.
BYT: Absolutely, you just mentioned spouses so, another mom question, how is the divorce going? My mom really liked the way you talked about your then boyfriend and then future husband and now current ex, any chance of reuniting with him? Obviously if it’s too personal…
LL: Oh no no, when my father was going through what he went through last year I knew we were just friends and roommates at that point, and I knew I deserved better and I felt a lot of guilt that I had picked the wrong person and just kind of went with my gut at the time, and every day I would look at him and think, “God he could be so much happier.” And I was really lucky that two months after I told him, he told me, “you’re right,” and he met someone new (who I inadvertently introduced him to), and they moved in together, so I don’t feel any guilt anymore about leading him down the wrong path.
BYT: You sound incredibly free right now. Things are really working out.
LL: Oh my God, ever since he and I split up, every since I stopped trying to fill that void in my life, I feel like just a new person. I do everything myself, I have a good time, I just love everything I’m doing on my calendar. Like I looked at my calendar and I just said, “Man that’s how I like my life to look.”
BYT: This is so inspiring! I did not expect this to go like this.
LL: I know, it’s weird. A lot of comics just joke around, but it’s just as important to get the truth out there.
BYT: I feel like it’s my job to ask about the Comedy Central roasts. I’m assuming you’re just done with that in general.
LL: Well, not really, because I really enjoyed the one we did on ESPN, we roasted Terry Bradshaw and I like the challenge of being really clean on a roast and it was great and it took it to a different level for me in terms of roasts, but I liked doing that. And I liked being on ESPN because it’s a loyal fan base there, every male of a certain age, you know it’s a really cool network, so I’ll probably continue doing the ESPN ones. But if Comedy Central ever asks me to roast someone I really like, then I’ll do it, like Howard Stern or one of my heroes, then I would totally do it. If it’s someone I’m not really interested in, then I’m not doing it.
BYT: Yeah your presence was definitely noted in the last few.
LL: Yeah sometimes you just gotta move on from things, but if people miss you then that’s still good too!
BYT: Good, I’m glad! I think we’re good, I think this will sell some tickets. You’re a very nice woman and I enjoyed talking to you, sorry I sound surprised!
LL: No, thank you! I’m really very grateful to be doing this, I used to hate doing press a lot because people were always joking and this and that, and I told my manager I’d rather be real in an interview, so I really enjoyed talking to you in this way. This is for the Washington show, right?
BYT: Yes, this is for the Washington show.
LL: Oh good, I wanted to stick in that at the show some of the material they’re gonna see is gonna be a preview of the special that’s going to be on in June on EPIX, but a lot of the material is even going to be deeper stuff, I’m gonna go on a lot about ex-boyfriends, a lot about new stuff, how I turned out this way. It’s funny, but it’s real stuff, I think people will enjoy it, I’m really looking forward to doing that in D.C.
BYT: So you’re saying in addition to your whole life and all the stuff you’ve been doing thus far, the material you’ll be doing will also be changing with you slowly.
LL: Yeah you will even notice slightly in the special that’s coming out that it’s a little less insults and lot more stories, like about what your mother had questions, for instance. I ask questions about the divorce, about body image, weight loss, self hate. In the special there’s a lot stuff answering those questions and stories, but the next special (in like three or four years) will go a lot deeper too, with where this journey’s at, about this insult comic to spiritual gangster and it’s like “Wow, what the hell happened to her?” But hey, that’s the good thing about comics is we make people laugh about it along the way, so it always works out differently.