Lisa Lampanelli has long been regarded as a queen. The Queen of Mean, The Queen of Roasts, and moreover, the adored Queen of Comedy who has solidified herself within the LGBT community, the one audience the insult comic laments she can always rely on. With that reliability comes immense loyalty in return: the controversial comic has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, as well as proactively participated in a plethora of LGBT causes and fundraisers.
Lampanelli has achieved, and maintained, a dramatic weight loss, completed food and codependency rehab, written and produced the Broadway play “Stuffed,” and launched her podcast Get Stuffed.
She has opened up to Out In Jersey in what is arguably her most interpersonal conversation yet. From working with President Trump, committing to celibacy, her covert education, life-altering struggles and upcoming New Jersey appearances.
Will Loschiavo: Of all the venues you typically perform at in the Garden State, which one do you prefer most?
Lisa Lampanelli: Well I am supposed to say the Wellmont Theater in Montclair of course. Or I can actually not lie and say any place the big dirty homosexuals come out to see me! I don’t need all these straighties, I need some ‘mos, bitch.
Although it’s become your staple, do you still enjoy being referred to as the “Queen of Mean?”
LL: Well you know I am the only true insult comic left since my hero, Don Rickles, passed away last year. Yes, this is a very big honor. I feel it’s also a very difficult career to navigate because there are few people who can call you a ‘cunt’ who you’d buy tickets to see a second and third time. I consider it a badge of honor.
Speaking of queens, you are also the Queen of Roasts, having participated in countless Comedy Central celebrity roasts over the years. Which do you feel was your absolute best performance?
LL: This is tough. I really loved the Flavor Flav roast. There was so much diversity, and it was definitely way more diverse than any other roast. But it really is a tie between Flavor Flav, Donald Trump, and David Hasselhoff. They had the most material that was available to us. There was so much to poke fun at between those guys. I think when you are given a subject who is so crazy and has so many things wrong with them, the roast is going to be perfect.
On that note, you roasted Donald Trump twice. You even starred in Celebrity Apprentice making it to the final four. Having gotten to know Trump personally, what was your experience like working with him? Is the man you know the same man in the White House today?
LL: I guarantee you we are all kind of who we were. Meaning, for example, you often hear people say ‘so and so got money then became an asshole.’ Correction: they were an asshole without money first. I think Trump was always who he is today. The thing is, he never had the opportunity to showcase it to the degree he has now.
Did Trump have a thick skin? Was he able to take a joke?
LL: Yes! This is what kills me. He was always a gentleman to me. After the roasts he would hug us thereafter, give us kudos, etc. I just don’t know how he lost his sense of humor between the roasts and the White House. You can’t say anything about him anymore, except for maybe me because I believe he still thinks I’m kidding. In the show I do in Jersey I am going to perform a really good Trump piece. There is no arguing that this is a cluster fuck of a presidency. As long as this may be for just a few more months, I believe we will survive. After that, I don’t know — fuck Oprah for President — I think it may have to be Lisa Lampanelli and Howard Stern for President. We can’t do a worse job!
You raised over $130,000 for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis on Apprentice. You raised $50,000 for the GMHC after the Westboro Baptist Church began protesting your shows. Are you heavily involved with the organization? What other charities do you work with?
LL: Absolutely! My big charity has always been the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. At times I have donated $1,000 for every protester who came to harass my ‘moes. I look out for my boys. They strike I strike harder. I also work with the North Shore Animal League America, where I adopted my dog Parker, who has changed my life. I support three-legged-homos and two-legged-one-eyed dogs.
Do you feel like the three-legged-homos identify with you and vice-versa because they connect with you as an underdog?
LL: Yaaas! That is what I have always believed at least. Albeit, I am sure some of you are just bitches and enjoy hearing people being called names, let’s be honest ‘cause some of y’all can be real mean (laughs). I do feel I am kind of this corky looking older woman who was of a certain weight before she became a certain age. And now even though I am the most beautiful woman on the planet because of my weight loss surgery, hey, the homos still know I am on the outside just like them. So, I think we are all on the outside together!
There is also an element of misperception the community seems to correlate with. You get heat for being crude and labeled unintelligent, yet it is not widely known that you completed your bachelors at Syracuse University and various programs at Ivy League universities. Does this disappoint you, or do you enjoy using your education as a weapon?
LL: I am always smart enough to get into these Ivy League schools for the summer and it all stops there (laughs). I completed three different summer programs: one at Yale University, one at Harvard University, and one at Columbia University. I will go to all of the Ivy League schools… just for six weeks alone. That’s kind of how long I can withstand anything — six weeks — like relationships, hair color, that sort of thing.
How was the experience?
LL: My favorite was the summer acting conservatory I attended at Yale University that I was not sure I would even get into. It was right around the time I was starting to raise money for my play. I learned an abundance about acting which truly shaped me. It stuck. It is one of the hardest professions to do properly.
Right now I am obsessed with The Walking Dead. I actually just watched an episode prior to this interview and its ironic how good all of the actors are compared to this one woman who clearly was not up to par. I don’t want to be that person in my own play or sitcom where people go ‘boy, everybody is good, but she just got by on her name.’ I actually do enjoy learning things. What I loved about attending the Ivy League programs is that its mostly young people! It’s people who are not bitter yet, who don’t have the stereotypical comic victim mentality of ‘oh why didn’t I get what I wanted in life,’ and I just freakin loved it. I loved thinking I was 25 again.
Were you partnered at the time or did you enjoy hot college hookups?
LL: I was married for Yale, I was still a chubby 20-something for Harvard, and for Columbia I was with a very toxic boyfriend. I actually worked myself out of the junk food of men to a very decent ex-husband. We’re still friends. And now I am going on five years celibate! It’s been the best five years of my life. All I need is another urinary tract infection to beat this pussy up again.
Does this include staying off the chocolate train as well?
LL: I have had it rough in the love department. Thus, I finally promised myself I am not going to date again until I really meet an equal. I can’t do that to somebody again, where I date or marry someone knowing they are not spiritually, financially, emotionally equal; knowing we have not done the same amount of work on ourselves.
Every once in a while a guy will come on to me and I think it’s so funny a man will hit on a 56 year-old bitch with blue hair. You get this self-esteem boost where you go ‘I still got it’ but I know I am not ready yet. I love the idea of someday dating again but it is just not a priority for me right now. It is the last thing I think about today having been a serial dater for so long. I have come to really enjoy my own company. I don’t mind dying single; it’s probably the best thing for the world.
We live in an interesting society. In one-way people, especially those in the public eye, are torn apart brutally on social media. Yet, on the other hand, everyone seems to be hyper sensitive and offended by anything and everything. Do you feel people today look to, or like to, be offended?
LL: I think people love making themselves angry with something they or someone else feels victimized about. For instance, when I started doing insult comedy I never had any ethnic groups getting mad at me. But I had white people getting mad at me for making black jokes. They could speak up for themselves and it is really victimizing someone else by saying they can’t speak up for themselves. So fuck you white devil, that is none of your business.
Listen, I never have a problem with people getting mad at me or asking for apologies one-on-one. It is when people have to fight battles for people who aren’t defenseless. It’s a way of keeping people defenseless. I don’t like or dislike social media. I use it as a promotional tool. If you want jokes out of me then pay for tickets. I am not wasting jokes on losers in 140 characters. Lick me!
You always seem to stand your ground whether what you say causes an uproar or not. Do you feel, in the case of Kathy Griffin, that the backlash she received was warranted, and moreover, that the public apology she issued hurt her more than helped her?
LL: Unfortunately, I think that was not as well thought out as it should have been. I feel bad for her because I think it was just something that went awry. We all make mistakes yet to apologize, then say you are not apologizing, then act victimized over it, is a really bad look. I think she can definitely have a hell of a comeback, and best-selling book with that.
It is disappointing people overreact to comedy. I can’t see someone with that much drive and talent staying down for too long. I believe in her. She just needs to shift her mindset, let it go, focus on the positive. We all are really lucky. There is no one more fortunate than me who gets to go on stage, call people names, and get a check the same night.
As much as you are an insult comic, you are also self-deprecating, poking fun at your appearance, and being honest about your gastric-sleeve surgery. In a world that has put so much emphasis on appearance, do you find that comedians destigmatize this cultural push for perfection?
LL: Look at all the comedians. There are very few who aren’t funny looking. I always said as a comic you can be ugly, you can be pretty, but don’t be hard to look at. There are some people who are never going to make it ,because people cringe when they look at the face — because it’s never addressed! Any time I had a physical flaw I made fun of it. Because… guess what, we don’t trade on our looks. Many comedians get very hurt that people don’t perceive them as beautiful. Listen, if you were gorgeous, you would be in the movies.
Do you feel as though that is one of the keys to your success?
LL: Clearly, there is one reason for my success… genius! The other thing is warmth. You can’t do what I do without people liking you. I am not going to say ‘hey faggot’ and you not be mad at me if I am not warm, and you know I am sincerely kidding.
I think with Don Rickles and Howard Stern as my heroes, I learned these performers knew how to make offensive jokes while being embraced by the masses that recognize s/he is just joking. The second the mic goes off on The Stern Show, Howard reassures you he is just joking, and you don’t have to say yes because you already know it. I think warmth is a big deal; just letting people know from your attitude that you are one of them.
You had mentioned in the past you tried a plethora of diets, even going to food rehab before your surgery. Following your procedure, you lost 107 pounds in one year alone, and you’ve been able to keep it up. Any specific advice you have for those struggling with their weight?
My advice: before you even consult for surgery, know that you’ll replace the void with alcohol, gambling, or shopping
LL: You can’t name a diet I did not try! Food rehab was the worst. I was amongst all anorexics, bulimics, and a few overeaters. I was still the fat chick! My advice: before you even consult for surgery, know that you’ll replace the void with alcohol, gambling, or shopping. You need to find out what is triggering your downfall. With me, I had dependency issues. It wasn’t just food either; I actually attended codependency rehab. And since [then], I never dated a bad boy.
I went into surgery knowing 100% of the work thereafter had to be emotional. It is an inside job. We don’t get fat because we like food. We get fat because we are using food as medication for a void we are trying to fill. I focus on why I ate, not what I ate. I am constantly asking myself if I am hungry for food or if I am lonely, tired, etc. This is a lot of work but it is not worth dying young over. I want to live another 50 years. The only way that is happening is if I keep this weight off because it is a big deterrent to lifelong health.
Do you feel these interventions also give you good material?
LL: Nothing strikes you as funny in the moment because you are fighting for your life as well as not to kill yourself with food or dating bad men. Thereafter you do go ‘yeah it is pretty funny I was the only one in rehab who has not been molested.’ Not to mention, I am also the only woman in entertainment who has not been banged by a powerful man!
Trump did try to grab me by the pussy, however, my cock and balls got in the way (laughs). No one has come on to me but we all know why: my attitude is not the one you feel you want to fuck with. I think my outward battle-axe nature deterred those cowards from trying it with me. Also, I joke it is not being good looking enough, but those guys hit on everyone, even if it was not kosher Harvey Weinstein. #TimesUp
You were very hands on with the play Stuffed, which you wrote and starred in. Assuming your own background motivated you to do the play, what made Lisa Lampanelli want to then highlight all forms of eating disorders?
LL: I originally wrote it as a one-person-show about my struggles. After my father died, who I helped significantly — including when he was in hospice — I felt a real lack of service. I did not know what to do with that element of me that likes to help people. It was then I realized, if I rewrite this play to include these three characters who struggle with different food issues, I will be serving a larger audience — people who are experiencing all forms of eating disorders, so they won’t feel alone. Ultimately, there is not one person who could not see this show and go ‘I am that person’ about one of us.
Honestly, I don’t want to do anything anymore unless it has some service component to it. What is the point? After this play, I realized there was no way I could do non-service oriented work again.
Do you see a future for yourself in playwriting?
LL: I think there is definitely another play in me about the men for sure. Fighting codependency was almost as hard as fighting food. The junk food of men was really hard, and I barely escaped it without truly making some major mistakes. I think my future is more in whatever comes across my path that I feel could resonate with people. It could be storytelling, lecture or motivational speaking. All of it will have humor obviously. I am not going to not be funny. But whatever form it takes it doesn’t matter as much as the message resonating with the public.
Lisa Lampanelli discusses being good friends with Howard Stern
Having initially began your career as a music journalist, and being good friends with Howard Stern, what’s it like doing your podcast Get Stuffed in comparison to your other creative projects?
LL: What I like about the podcast is that there is a silver lining in each episode. It is really humorous however there is always a message because we make it a point to choose a subject of importance such as friendship, codependency, food addiction, twelve step programs, etc. I keep it structured, one-hour, with call-ins and a co-host. I keep it light hearted, meaningful and there is no pressure. I only want to do projects that don’t make me want to kill myself.
What can fans expect from this upcoming tour?
LL: I haven’t done standup for over six months, which has allowed me to craft some very fresh material having done more observing and less exposing. I am certain this show will really connect with people. They just need to be prepared to laugh a lot and applaud a lot.
Are there any upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for over the next year?
LL: I am part of an eight-week game show, Taskmasters, which will be airing on Comedy Central. It is hilarious! It is also much harder than The Apprentice because you have to use your mind more and it’s also more physical with that. I can’t wait for everyone to see it because I perform really well and pull out some very clever stunts. It is the funniest thing I have done in 27 years!
Any last words to your LGBT fan base?
LL: To all the lesbians… quit getting your hopes up, its just short hair! To all the gay men… put off dying of AIDS until you see me in Montclair at the Wellmont Theater! I am so grateful for your love, and will continue to walk the walk, and of course, talk the talk!