By Carly Sitzer
Lisa Lampanelli, comedy’s “Queen of Mean,” doesn’t plan on cleaning up her notoriously dirty act anytime soon; in fact, the only thing you’re going to catch Lisa cleaning is her (and maybe your) closet. Lisa sat down with Buzzsaw to talk about her hidden talent of closet-cleaning, her softer side and what fans can expect on her fall tour, which you can catch at The State Theater in Ithaca on September 19.
Buzzsaw: Had you been asked when you were an undergrad [journalism student] what you’d want to do with your life, what would you have said?
Lisa Lampanelli: I probably thought I was going to be like Tom Wolf or something, doing new journalism and writing bonfires of vanities, and I ended up interviewing heavy metal bands. And who knew that, just moments away, would be the delightful career of insult comedy.
B: How did you first get into comedy?
LL: I always wanted to try it, but how do you even start? It’s a big mystery. Somehow, I heard an ad for this guy who was teaching a comedy class. So, while I know you can’t learn to be funny, you can learn how to construct jokes and how to construct a five-minute routine to try out. So I took the class with him, and luckily I did really well the first time I went up—or I probably would’ve quit! And I’ve been in comedy ever since.
B: If you weren’t a comedienne, what do you think you’d be doing professionally?
LL: I don’t know, because I really don’t want to be doing anything else. I could probably be the most kick-ass personal assistant ever, because now I know how to talk to these people in the business. I would also be a great closet organizer, because sadly in my heart, I think I’m someone who likes to just throw out someone’s clothes and make the others neatly hanging in the closets. I know, it’s a small thing, but it’s a valid one.
B: You’re also a writer, can you tell us a little bit about your book?
LL: Well, it came out last night, it’s called Chocolate Please. It’s a memoir, but it’s also funny. You have to have your touching moments and your moments of being real, but I’m also a comic, so I wanted a punch line every few lines. It just came out on soft-cover Sept. 14, so all of you that were too cheap to get the hardcover, you can now get it with the soft-cover.
B: Were you more reserved when you were younger or were you always outgoing?
LL: Well, I think I always had my own sense of humor and my own way of doing things, but I wasn’t really, like, “class-clown funny.” In fact, I wasn’t even voted class clown—Michelle Sweeney was—and where is she now? I don’t think she’s doing this, I don’t think she’s doing comedy and cashing checks. Lisa Lampanelli is, so fuck you Michelle Sweeney.
B: Even though you’re the “Queen of Mean,” do you ever still care about your reputation or how people may perceive you?
LL: I think everyone does and I think they’re lying if they say they don’t. Like I read Kathy Griffin’s book and she seems to get a real kick out of when she’s in a controversy, and I hope that’s true. When I’m in one, I really sweat it out, I get super upset. I always talk bravely about it—like, “Oh, screw Nick Cannon””—but at heart, I’m always like, “Please like me! Please don’t stay mad at me!” At heart, I’m a big wimp like everyone else.
B: How do you explain to other people that you’re really not offensive and it’s really for the joke?
LL: I don’t really bother to explain it, because if they can’t see it, they’re stupid. I make fun of groups and people and actually by making fun of the group, I’m making fun of the stereotype and the people who believe in it. My motto is, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that’s an AA expression… How do you explain comedy? If it’s funny, it’s funny.
B: How do you think your humor has changed since you’re getting married? Do you think your fans react differently to it?
LL: I think I take more chances, I’m really edgy anyway, but ever since I have this big, strong Italian traveling with me and I feel safer and say even edgier stuff and don’t worry. Are people really going to try to attack me with him on my arm? So I think it hasn’t really changed as far as taking an edge off, but there are a lot of jokes about him and his anatomy, so thank god he gets and understands the jokes. Or else he hits me with an open hand. So basically, it hasn’t changed too much, maybe a little bit of the subject matter, but people seem to like it.
B: What advice would you give to younger people who might want to become comedians but might be shy or don’t know how to get started?
LL: I would just say, don’t even try it. You’re not funny, I’m funny, you’re not. Quit, run for your life. It’s a hard business, it’s a lot more work than people think. So pretty much don’t try it, just try to live off you’re parents.
B: What’s something you don’t think your fans know about you?
LL: I cry, I cry pretty easily. I have a doggy, I just got a little doggy that I named Parker, after Sarah Jessica Parker. Because I love her and she’s ugly-cute and so is she. Right now, he’s driving me insane because he’s eating my $500 rug, but that’s true love if you don’t mind when somebody does that. [My fiancé] Jimmy Big Balls isn’t allowed on the carpet with his shoes on, but I’m letting the dog shit on it, that’s how soft I am at heart.
B: What can fans expect on this tour, which will be coming to Ithaca on September 19 at the State Theater.
LL: Well, they’re in luck, but only because of one thing: I’m taping a new special in December, and I have all-new material that has never been on TV before that I’m doing now. So they’re going to see stuff that they’ve never seen on HBO, Comedy Central, all new stuff.
B: Any last words or closing thoughts? Anything that I didn’t ask that you might want to mention?
LL: Well, I would just like to say: Ithaca College, I know you have nothing going for you and you might wish you were Cornell and you’re not. But come to my show anyway, because I’m not allowed to go to Cornell, because they are politically correct. So come see me, but don’t sit in the front unless you have a sense of humor because I will murder you.