Lisa Lampanelli :: Don’t misquote her
When Lisa Lampanelli agreed to do an interview with me, there was only one pre-condition: The interview had to be tape-recorded.
"OK ... but why?" I asked her publicist.
"Well, she talks fast and doesn't want to be misquoted," was the reply.
If anyone might want to be misquoted, it's Lisa Lampanelli. The politically incorrect standup comic has taken insult comedy to hitherto unfathomable levels. There's Rickles, there's Triumph and there's Lisa ... and even the two former comedians are likely to cringe at the words escaping Lampanelli's mouth.
Love her or hate her
"Hey you big dirty fag! It’s Lisa Lampanelli," is how she introduces herself. And it only goes down from there.
Lampanelli is a galvanizing comedian, the kind people either love or hate. She’s not just an R-rated joke-teller, she’s NC-17 with forays into hard XXX, as she talks openly about sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and every other imaginable hot-button issue, all with a sassy Northeastern drawl and a deceptively campy appearance. (She’s known for her blowsy dresses and frilly petticoats.)
But while Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho lovingly embrace their sizeable gay followings, Lampanelli mocks them - or appears to. She’s really a big ol’ softie with a crass exterior. The key is: She gets how her comedy works. Audience members may initially be afraid to laugh, not because she isn’t drop-dead hilarious but because they worry about whether the people sitting next to them will be offended.
"Yeah, and then they laugh and they’re not [offended] and you’re like ’Thank god,’" she says.
Lampanelli recently met a new guy she’s crazy about, but even when she’s being complimentary - if you can call it that - Lampanelli manages to insult.
"He’s white, although he has an enormous dick and he’s Italian, so he’s probably half black," she says. "When the Moors invaded Sicily, the blacks had sex with our mothers and look what happened? A big WOP with a big cock. That’ll be the title of my next book! It has a cadence, don’t you think?"
Actually, her next book, due in September, is called "Chocolate Please," a reference to her preference for dating African-American men.
"I took a year off dating because I had codependency issues," she says in a breath of staid reflection; it doesn’t last long.
"Eventually, I was ready to date a nice guy who’s not a scoundrel or a black," she says. "All my gay friends love my boyfriend because he’s what you people call a bear. They see him and go, ’It’s bear-hunting season!’"
I note that it could be difficult to date Lampanelli - or have dated her - and sit in a room while she talks about your package. "I would hate to be a small-dicked boyfriend of yours," I say.
"Well here’s the deal: You’re never gonna be a small-dicked boyfriend of mine. I screen. The first time [my boyfriend and I] talked on the phone, I said ’Send me a picture of those balls.’ Everyone knows he’s ample and he doesn’t mind being talked about."
(So far, though, she hasn’t posted photos to prove it. "Yeah, I dropped the ball on that - no pun intended," she agrees. "I am absolutely gonna have to sneak a picture when he’s sleeping.")
Funnier than Kathy Griffin?
"Why do your parents hate you more: Because you’re gay or because you’ve dated Muslims?" she asks me. Her own parents, though, are oddly proud of her, even though their lives are on display.
"When I needed to write more jokes, I go back to how my parents used to talk and ding! All you have to do is grow up Italian and you’re fine. Everyone in an Italian house is a racist insult comic. It just so happens I’m good enough and lovable enough to make a living at it," she says. It seems to work for her.
"My mom showed up at my show last night and she was wearing my Long Live the Queen T-shirt. I’m telling all these horrible racist stories about her and she’s loving it - suddenly she’s the big star. My dad on the other hand turned his hearing aid down during the show," so he didn’t have to hear her stories about "my boyfriend’s huge nutsack." Probably for the best.
Not everyone feels the same, though. "There were four fags sitting in the third row: two interracial gay couples, which I think is a double whammy; I mean why not kill yourself now? They were the targets for my gay jokes and they were totally cool. Then this crazy bitch jumps up in the front row and was screaming at me, ’My son is gay!’ I said ’Yeah, one look at your hoo-ha on the way out and I would be, too.’"
Lampanelli describes most of her fans as "bitchy queens," although she has her limits. "Last night we had maybe 20 percent fags; if I have 100 percent I’m fucking Margaret Cho. But all of my gays are nice! Even the dykes are not that nasty anymore. What happened? I think Ellen coming out made them all happy."
Lampanelli’s savvy about her comedy niche. She welcomes the title insult comic ("because no one else can do it - there’s that old Jew Rickles and me. And it’s about time he gets in a box, don’t you think?") and doesn’t even mind being compared to Kathy Griffin ("if by ’compared to’ you mean people having said, ’Wow, you’re funnier than Kathy Griffin’"). And it means she doesn’t have to pander to reach her audience- not even the city where’s she’s playing.
"Let me tell you something: I don’t care about your city, I don’t write no jokes for you. I don’t do nothing special for your city. I don’t care. Here’s the thing about youse people: The ones that come to my show are great; the rest should die."
That’s a sales pitch you can respect.