Most everything you need to know about comedian Lisa Lampanelli and her upcoming Murat Theatre concert can be summed up by this exhortation: "Tell people to come to the show, and don't sit in front if you're a friggin' pussy," she advises. "I don't need to be stared at by some soccer mom-whore, like 'Ew. She's the reason we have school shootings.' It's not me; it's the blacks."
The self-described "Queen of Mean" is joking, of course. But her fans eat up the insults. So she'll say things like: "You're a Hispanic man? You look so employed." And describe Barack Obama as "a black man who is just white enough to do a good job and show up on time." And make this comment about Sarah Palin: "She's got five kids. What is she, black?"
Lampanelli made her name doing celebrity roasts, and when it comes to putdowns, she's got a million of 'em.
In a phone conversation, she's significantly kinder. In fact, she said she's looking forward to coming back to Indianapolis. "I thought I would hate it, but it's cool," she said about our fair city. "People there don't appreciate it, but I think it's good."
Here's the conversation.
NUVO: You had a line in your HBO special where you said, "You would love me if you knew me in real life." If I knew you in real life, what would I find?
Lampanelli: You would find that I cry a lot because I have that hard shell. Like a Tootsie Pop -- hard on the outside, soft on the inside. If I just stopped telling people to lick me. So you would find that I cry at many movies and television experiences and when my feelings are hurt. But I hide it at the roasts, when I pretend when everybody's calling me stupid things that I'm actually having fun. I have to look like I'm having a good time with my supreme acting ability, and then I just go to the therapist the next day.
NUVO: What kind of a kid were you? If I'd known you in high school, what would I have thought?
Lampanelli: You know what's weird? I was not voted class clown, which I fucking resent because Michelle Sweeney, that whore, was so funny. But she was over-the-top funny, like stunt-ish and pranks. Not L.L. I was always subtle with my humor, as I am today. So I never was voted class clown. But I was funny and amusing and I hung out with the only homosexual in the Catholic school. So it was like that show My So-Called Life
. I had the homo and we went from party to party for entertainment and had a damn good time. And I only made out with the boys. I didn't do anything else. Isn't that sweet?
NUVO: So what happened to Michelle Sweeney?
Lampanelli: Nothing. I wish she's dead. Because the fact is, anyone who beats me out for anything, I hope they die. So I hope she's dead and I really hope Flight of the Conchords, who beat me for the Grammy, are also dead. Because you know what? Their show is dead enough from no laughter, so what do I care? My HBO special beat them in the ratings by double, so it's like, "Ha-ha, guess who really wins?"
NUVO: Your ethnic background is Italian, right?
Lampanelli: I'm a dirty Italian guinea. I'm 75 percent wop.
NUVO: Do you make Italian jokes?
Lampanelli: Why would I make Italian jokes? Italians are perfect, just like myself. I stick with the coloreds. Actually, to make fun of blacks or Italians is pretty much the same thing. We're all kind of moolies when it comes right down to it, aren't we?
NUVO: I suppose so.
Lampanelli: We are. Just agree with me, dummy.
NUVO: Why do you think people like to be insulted?
Lampanelli: My theory is, it's either they have a huge amount of self-love -- meaning they were brought up right and don't mind being made fun of because they know it's not true -- or they have huge self-hate, which means they were raised like I was and feel they deserve to be shit on. So you know what? I try to provide that service for everyone. Especially the homos. The homos hate themselves a lot, so that's why they pay big bucks to see me.
NUVO: You have a journalism background and wrote about hair bands. What was the most interesting thing you covered?
Lampanelli: I interviewed Ozzy three days after he came out of rehab the first time, so that was good. And I sensed he was drunk already, I really did. But back then, in your 20s, you don't know. You second-guess. I interviewed Bon Jovi and I must tell you: dumbest man on the planet. Dumb as a post. But hot, so who cares? You don't have to develop talent or personality when you have looks. And I interviewed the rest of them, like Iron Maiden, Cinderella -- all the good ones.
NUVO: So how'd you make the transition to standup?
Lampanelli: I had gotten sick of earning $12,000 a year as a journalist, as you know. So I said to myself, "How can I say the C-word to people and have them pay me money?" I always wanted to do comedy roasts. I'd heard an ad on the radio for DJs for weddings and things like that. So I thought I'd better get used to talking on a microphone and it would be an easier transition. That was definitely true. I did that for a year and was really good at it. Then I saw an ad for a comedy class and took it and, thank God, I killed at my first open mike. I was so conceited, I called in sick the next day.
NUVO: Were you immediately the Queen of Mean?
Lampanelli: No. You don't push those things. You never know where you're going to end up as a comic. It kind of just happens. You see what you're good it, listen to your tapes and go, "Hm, that's fun." About seven years in, I noticed that all the stuff I tickled myself about when I was listening to my tapes were insults or just crowd work and talking to the audience. So I just followed that.
NUVO: Is it correct that the Chevy Chase roast was your first?
Lampanelli: Yeah, the Friars Club forced me into that one.
NUVO: Is that the one where he was so offended?
Lampanelli: He was not offended. He was hurt. It was in Entertainment Weekly
that that was the worst moment in his life because he realized he had no friends and he had burned a lot of bridges. We all made jokes about how nobody he knew was there. It was taking place in New York and Jane Curtin was on Broadway and I made some joke like, "Wow, you know you're bad when Jane Curtin's on Broadway and she won't make the trip." So I think it made him think, "Oh, my God, what did I do with my life?" So, good. And he was a rotten bastard then and he still is. He was such an asshole at that roast. He looked so uncomfortable and grumpy and he was rude to everybody. So you know what? Good. I'm glad he has no friends and I hope he's dead with Michelle Sweeney, too.
NUVO: Your joke about three boyfriends dying in the last year -- is that true?
Lampanelli: Absolutely. My ex-husband died of a heart attack. My ex-boyfriend, who was 380 pounds, died. People are like, "What did he die of?" I was like, "He was 380 pounds. What do you think: He fell off a skateboard?" The other guy died of jaw cancer or some crazy shit. I didn't really care, except for the fat one. He was a good guy.
NUVO: How much has your relationship with Howard Stern meant to your career?
Lampanelli: I've been on The Tonight Show
six times. That will definitely get your ticket sales up. But there's a thing about Stern fans when you go on and Howard actually says, "Oh, my God, I love this girl. She's so funny," his fans are drink-the-Kool-Aid people. Whatever he says must be good. That's why my ticket sales started going crazy. Because every time I went on there, he'd give me this huge, passionate endorsement, and then people would come out. To have your hero in life love you, that's really cool. But that's more of a self-esteem thing. Him and Rickles both like me, so I must be OK.