The Lisa Lampanelli Interview
“Queen of Mean” Lisa Lampanelli is performing at Heinz Hall this Saturday, December 1. When we learned she’d be returning to the ‘Burgh, we just had to request an interview. Contributing writer Isaac Kozell has been doing a brilliant job with our comedy interviews so far, and he certainly didn’t let us down by landing one with Ms. Lampanelli. If you’re in the mood for some gritty comedy this weekend, purchase your tickets, head to Heinz Hall tomorrow and prepare to be thoroughly amused.
Lisa Lampanelli was thirty minutes late for our phone appointment. But for good reason. She was in the middle of having her Connecticut home repaired from damage inflicted by some feisty bitch named Sandy. I asked her if she was getting her life back together after the storm. This is where I got a first hand taste of just how down to earth Lampanelli can be.
“It’s funny because there are like eight guys working at my house and I’m like, ‘Really? What are you guys doing for the houses that have real damage?’”
Best known for her work as a straight-for-the-jugular insult comic, Lampanelli has been branching out recently, appearing on Celebrity Apprentice and developing an intimate one-woman Broadway show. I made the mistake of assuming that her upcoming December 1st appearance at Heinz Hall was a warm-up for the Broadway run.
Lisa Lampanelli: No! For Pittsburgh it’s just balls out, Howard Stern-approved comedy.
Isaac Kozell: What has your past experience with Pittsburgh been?
LL: I’m shocked as hell to always sell out a bunch of shows. I’m like, “How am I so popular in Pittsburgh? When did this happen?” I guess they have a really loyal Howard Stern fan base and a lot of the guys who appear on his show have success in Pittsburgh. So, to me, Pittsburgh is kind of no-holds-barred, do whatever you want and people are going to accept it.
IK: We have a strong LGBT scene in Pittsburgh. I know you are an advocate. What drew you to that particular cause?
LL: It just seemed like I never felt I fit in anywhere and gays kind of had that same sort of marginalized situation. I think I always identified with people who are misunderstood and don’t quite fit in. Having gay friends, all of the successful couples we know have…you know, every couple I know that has been together for more than fifteen years is a gay couple. I just kind of admired that. I always gravitated to people who were outside of the boundaries anyway. It just naturally occurred. It’s something you can’t force.
IK: I saw you do part of your Broadway show on Dr. Oz. It was a different side of you that I had never seen before. It was really cool and very personal. Are you concerned that opening up to a softer, more personal side poses a career risk?
LL: I don’t think it’s a risk. Even if you lost 50% of your fans, you still have the other 50% and you’ll get new fans no matter what you do, as long as you’re being real and honest. So, it’s better to sort of put yourself out there and be like, “Well, if you don’t like it, that’s fine.” I don’t really worry about it at all. What I do worry about is getting bored and doing the same thing over and over. I would much rather take a little risk. It may show the people who don’t like me, or don’t even know who I am, that, “Wow. I get her now. I have the same struggles she has.”
IK: Where do you see this taking your career? What is next year going to look like for you?
LL: Nothing has ever worked out the way I planned it. So, I don’t know. But I’m going to do this Broadway show in the fall next year. It will be more real but still be hilarious so that people who are fans won’t see some maudlin exercise in “Look at me, I’m serious now!” bullshit. It’s still going to be a hilarious evening with a few moments that are very telling. But anything I’ve ever planned never works out. Something better happens. So that’s what I think is going to happen.
IK: I read an interview with you where you said that the word “cunt” is the best word on the planet. Do you still stick to that and if so, why?
LL: Oh, yes! I’m very proud to have made the c-word an acceptable term. I take full credit for that. I feel like the only word you can’t call a woman now is “fat.” That’s the word that any woman, small, big, whatever, will cut you for. So yeah, I love the c-word. The more harsh the word, the better it is.
IK: I think we can embrace the cuteness of it. If you say it with a smile, it’s got a sharp, quirky little attitude.
LL: Yeah! It doesn’t even have to be a literal smile. It can just be an internal smile, like the kind I do comedy with, so that people would know I wasn’t serious about it. I think it’s terrific.
IK: What’s your favorite roast that you’ve ever been a part of?
LL: I really like the Gene Simmons one. There’s something about getting acceptance from all of those rock star guys and having them say, “She’s so cool.” The jokes were hard hitting but Gene was so cool about all of them. He doesn’t care what you’re saying as long as you’re talking about him.
IK: After your time spent on Celebrity Apprentice I’m curious about your opinion on Donald Trump’s recent…I guess I’ll call it, outspokenness?
LL: He’s allowed to say whatever he wants. He’s been so good to me as far as letting me open my big mouth about things. He let me roast him twice. He let me say what I want. So I can’t really tell anyone else what they can and can’t say. But if you don’t like his ties, don’t buy his fucking ties. Do what you want in life.