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Interview: Lisa Lampanelli Comes Clean

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Lisa Lamenelli will likely insult entire races, generations, genders and religions on February 20.
Equal-opportunity offender Lisa Lampanelli may be best known for destroying the dais on the Roasts of Chevy Chase, Denis Leary, Pamela Anderson, Flava Flav, Jeff Foxworthy, William Shatner and more. Or perhaps for her appearances on Howard Stern and Jay Leno, last year's Grammy-nominated Dirty Girl or, most recently, January's highly rated Long Live the Queen HBO special. Her first book won't hit shelves until September, but with promises of dishing dirt on the Queen of Mean's addictions and bottoming-outs, it's on track to be this year's Too Fat to Fish. And with it, not to mention a few other irons in the proverbial fire, Lampanelli's work ethic may soon garner more attention than even her taste in men...

It seems as if Chocolate, Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat and Freaks will be like a one-woman show in book form.
That's actually not a bad way to put it. I had written a one-woman show and I never put it up. I was looking at the notes from that and I go, "Wow, this is really deep shit. I'm going to put some of that in the book." So it does read a little more like a show or a play than this heavy sort of "narrative," but there's tons of quotes and scenes, so yeah, it is sort of visual. You visualize what's goin' on.

Visual? Now I'm thinking of Madonna's Sex book.  
Oh God, no! I have clothes on. The black guy's kind of in -- hmm-hmm -- a little disarray. But that's okay. That's the only way I can get next to a really hot black guy, is to hire them to be on photo shoots with me. So I do a book-cover shoot and a CD-cover shoot and I always include a hot black guy, because I've gotta get my groove back, too!

Okay, Stella. Do you have a favorite Roastee of all time?
They're all the same; they just sit there. My least favorite Roastmaster ever? We Roasted Don King and [Donald] Trump was the Roastmaster, and he was so patently unfunny and awful that it set this really creepy tone for the whole event. He'd be, "This person's lousy! This person's awful!" There should be a joke in there! You're rich enough to hire some people to write for you! Ugh. Get some stage presence, douche.

Do you have a personal relationship with Don Rickles?
No. I met him once. Then I went to his book signing and he recognized me and was like, "Oh my God!" But also I'm a little mad at him because he refuses to die. Eighty-four years old; it's about time I'm the only Insult Comic left in the world. So "Die, Jew, Die!" is what I have to say to him. And also I'm a little annoyed that he wouldn't give me a quote for my book, because I wanted a little blurb on the cover. So instead I had to settle for other enormous celebrities like Howard Stern and Jay Leno and Carlos Mencia, Larry the Cable Guy and Jim Carrey. So guess what, Rickles: "Lick it!" What are ya gonna do?
 
When you mention all those different blurbs and look at your bio -- you love Dangerfield and there's BET, Larry the Cable Guy, Stern and the Friars -- you wouldn't think that Insult Comedy would know no bounds like that.
Everybody likes being made fun of if it's done in a real loving, not hateful kind of way, and when they can tell it's jokes. Everybody wants to be made fun of; they pay extra to sit in the front. People e-mail me all the time going, "The front row's sold out! What am I gonna do? Please help me; I'll pay double!" I'm not gonna do anything for them...unless they're crippled or somethin', 'cause that's fun for me...

There's no demographic that it fits into, which is good for me because the audiences are sort of boundless. I'm not gonna appeal to just a black audience or a redneck audience or an old Jewish audience. But it's also hard from a marketing perspective, where you're like, "Wow, who do we actually market to? Is it gay? Is it black? Is it Asian?" We don't really know where my audience is; we just know it's pretty much young, 18 to 34-year-old males, which is really good 'cause I'm the only female comic that straight guys like to go see.
 
It seems like not even a demographic thing as much as a specific mindset.
If you were legitimately mean and didn't like people, you couldn't make a living at this. You certainly can't become famous, you certainly can't become someone who the audience comes back to again and again. They sense that Rickles doesn't mean the jokes. Same thing with me and Howard Stern. They sense that we envelop everybody and like everybody. But guys who actually have some hate toward a particular group never make it in the business. They're just prejudice or bigoted and people don't like watchin' that. People who get it get it, and if they don't, that's okay too.
 
The day after the HBO special I got an e-mail from this guy who said, "You united that audience. That's very healing." I get a ton of e-mails like that and sometimes I've just gotta print 'em out and remember, 'cause there's some people who write stuff like, "Oh, you shouldn't make fun of black people." I'm just like, "You know what? Your white guilt is really not interesting to me, so why don't you go make some black friends and then maybe we can fuckin' talk. Because every black person who's come to see me likes me, and if they don't they say something and we talk about it." You're going to have ignorant people sometimes and you've just got to write 'em off.

I know you've done a bit of acting, but you seem to be an entertainer who's always going to make their way back to the live stage.
It's that immediate gratification, and we all have that, where you want that immediate response. It's also just what comes really naturally, so you've got to go in that direction instead of forcing it in other directions. I'm developing a TV show with Jim Carrey for HBO and that's gonna be really cool, but it's not going to have that immediate response. It's cool to do all that stuff, but at the end of the day you're going, "Well, what I'd really like to do is comedy. All I'd really like to do is somethin' live." So that's why I'm also writing a Broadway show. That whole the-people-are-right-there thing, it's just what seems to come naturally for me.

Anything else before I let you go on your merry way?
I got laid last time I was in St. Louis by this hot black bouncer and he just contacted me. Even though I'm not dating awful, terrible guys anymore, I might just make out. I'd like to say to the people of St. Louis: Thank you.
 
Lisa Lampenelli performs at 8 p.m. Friday, February 20. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Street. $34.50. 314-726-6161.


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