Storytelling will be new career for Lisa Lampanelli
Having garnered a reputation as “The Queen of Mean,” it is hard to believe Lisa Lampanelli is taking her more-than 30-year career in an entirely new direction. Between multiple Grammy nominations, television specials, Comedy Central roasts and writing her own play, Lisa Lampanelli has never been afraid to take on something new. Moreover, Lisa has also never been afraid of curbing her unfiltered sense of humor. Yet, is that set to change with the transition of her career from stand-up comedy to storytelling? Lisa Lampanelli sat down with Out In Jersey to give the details on where she is taking her comedic career.
What was the original catalyst behind modifying your entire stand-up routine and ultimately your career?
Lisa Lampanelli: When I had written the play Stuffed, I felt better about that content more than anything I had ever done previously in my career. This is because Stuffed was funny, truthful and most importantly, resonated with those experiencing the same issues I have endured ala body image, food, etc. Thus, I wanted to do a storytelling production which featured multiple performers talking about the same issues albeit still in a comedic manner. I rounded up some of the actors from Stuffed as well as our fabulous gay icon Frank DeCaro. Our first slew of shows, Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It!, kicked off in November and went over very well.
Your play Stuffed was a success and clearly motivated you to move your career in a different direction. Have you considered creating a Stuffed 2 or another play?
LL: Initially when I wrote the play, I was contemplating creating a follow-up about a different set of issues. For example, Stuffed was about food and the sequel was set to be about relationships. However, I am not a theater person. I do not enjoy the various elements that come with creating a play such as having a director, the structure of sets, sounds, costumes, etc. I like simple formats and storytelling is somewhat of a cross between stand-up and the play.
What has drawn you most to this new format which is seemingly part-comedy and part-self-help?
LL: Honestly, as terrible as it may sound, I loathe working alone. Something happened to me when I hit my fifties in that I had an epiphany of sorts, ‘what is this alone shit? Why don’t I like to collaborate?’ Although I do not like to take anybody’s advice or listen to them, I certainly enjoy having people around me in my working environment. I love being able to play off of someone else, and once you get to know another performer well, you can adlib and go off-script without hesitation.
What do you hope attendees and fans get out of your new shows the most? What is the message?
LL: By literally going from stand-up to storytelling I am basically saying I want to tell the whole truth yet still be humorous and entertaining. I want the audience to absorb the humanity in what I do because there is so much people get out of hearing other people’s stories and going ‘me too!’ If I am on stage and discussing how I struggled with my weight for fifty-something years, if Frank DeCaro tells them how he struggled with his dad accepting him, etc. you will have a majority of the audience laughing while simultaneously realizing they are not alone. Now, more than ever, there is this part of me that does not want people to feel alone, because as a stand-up comedian I felt alone for so many years.
Moving forward, do you feel this is going to be the predominant structure for all of your shows?
LL: I think so. I have not made any major proclamations such as ‘death to standup’ or ‘death to roasts.’ However, right now the thing that feels best to me and that has for the past five years, is definitely this storytelling element. I feel this type of performance can provide me with everything I desire: it can have a message which is humorous whilst giving me what I need to keep on going…touching others. Not to be super fucking sentimental, but if this helps others, I am glad. It is not all about me anymore which I can’t believe I am saying. I almost resent that I like other people now, it is sort of jarring.
Isn’t it ironic that you went from calling fans cunts to wanting to be their life coach?
LL: Oh trust me I will call them cunts still! Believe me. I am in the process of getting certified as a Life Coach, and I think I should brand my business as ‘Fucking Change Life Coaching.’ I think no matter what I get involved in, I will always bring an edge to it. We can’t lose who we are as people. I will always bring humor and lightness to everything I do. My delivery is not changing as much as some may think. Long-time followers don’t have to worry: my work will never be somber.
You are an accomplished comic, so you have a leg up with knowing how to swiftly move from one field to the next. With that said, what are your thoughts on the comedy industry as a whole today?
LL: Quite frankly, I don’t watch much stand-up comedy anymore, and I was never fascinated with that aspect of the business. I love watching comedies, but I don’t study my competition so to speak. Nowadays I care about individuals; but I don’t care about the business anymore. I do stay in touch with my OG peers ala Kathy Griffin and Amy Schumer. The only new comic in recent years who has really impacted me has been Hannah Gadsby with her Netflix special “Nanette.” I recall watching it and being moved because what she was relaying was exactly how I have been feeling for so many years.
Last year, TMZ ran a scathing headline about you with accompanying video of you emotionally walking off stage during a performance in San Jose following a heckler offering you $100 to shut up. Kathy Griffin felt this was a character assassination attempt by TMZ similar to what she experienced in 2017. Do you agree?
LL: First of all, I was so impressed that Kathy Griffin would defend me. We have always been friendly, and I have always liked her. Kathy has supported my shows throughout the years and is simply a good-hearted girl. I was almost in tears when I found out she was publicly defending me because you rarely see people defending others today, and it was an awesome feeling. Having said that, I did not take the TMZ press to heart. TMZ and I are friendly. I even did an interview with them following the incident.
Do you feel certain elements of the media in general are sort of biased against female comics?
LL: Press outlets enjoy stirring up controversy. I do not feel negative press is geared more towards men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, etc. It is a free for all. If you have dirt on someone, the media will eat it up. I do not think there is prejudice when it comes to bad press.
What projects will you be working on over the next year?
LL: I premiered Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It! during the holiday season in Connecticut and New York. Now, in 2019, I am ready to take the show on the road. I am in the process of working on solidifying the tour. I am getting certified as Life Coach. There is also a book that I am in the process of writing the proposal for which details the journey I have experienced over the past 5 years which is more or less about, how you put it, going from calling people ‘cunt’ to saying ‘it’s okay to feel better about yourself.’ I am taking on a lot and it feels as though I am starting anew, which is interesting given that fact I was debating retiring one year ago.
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