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​Don’t Take It Personally: Interview with Lisa Lampanelli

Theatre | January 21st, 2015

Photo by Dan Dion

In life there’s usually two sides to every story.

Especially coming from any entertainer with such stature as comedian Lisa Lampanelli. And for those who have willing ears to hear, she has the ability of delivering comedic stories in a way that can be equally hilarious as well as appalling.

But don’t be alarmed, Fargoans. Since 1990 this seasoned comedian has rung many cowbell-sized dings among the ‘status quo’ of all racial, sexual and cultural types.

Lampelli’s got a lot to offer, whether performing stand-up, being a keynote speaker for human rights groups, roasting top celebrities, contributing to “The Howard Stern Show” or various podcast stations. While concluding a holiday break in New York City, Lampanelli preps for another U.S. comedy tour that has already taken off by the time you’ve read this.

HPR was fortunate enough to receive the flip-end of the other sideof Lampanelli’sstories. Remember one thing as you read along: don’t take Lisa’s point of views too personally.

She has love for you too, sourpuss.

High Plains Reader: On your website I noticed you’ll be hosting a celebrity roast session for NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, who also has visited Fargo recently. How did you procure hosting that gig?

Lisa Lampanelli: Right, the roast is right after the show I perform in Fargo. It’s kind of a new thing because the roast will be broadcast on ESPN. It should be great, because there’s never been a roast done on any major sports broadcasting networks, so comedy will get exposure to a much streamlined male audience … so I gotta bring enough testosterone to the playing field.

HPR: How many months has it been since you’ve unloaded that 100 pounds?

LL: Yeah it’s been two and a half to three years now since I’ve lost 107 pounds in total. It’s really been a really cool transformation. But the struggle isn’t shedding the fat off, it’s keeping it off. I literally feel like 25 years old again.

HPR: Happy New Year’s to you by the way … I don’t know when the date to say “Happy New Year” officially expires, but I say it until Martin Luther King Day. So all in all, what ambitions do you have aimed for in 2015?

LL: That’s a good cut-off date, but thank you! I am taping a new special that will be aired in March, so the material of what I will be doing in Fargo and throughout this tour will be fresh content that TV viewers will have to wait until it’s broadcast … So I think the people of Fargo-Moorhead will feel pretty damn special right now … they’ll be getting exclusive jokes and stories never been seen or heard yet on YouTube.

Another ambition of mine is to figure out what more stuff I can do. Not necessarily charity work, but more service and mentoring up younger acts and comedians. After the weight lost, I have more “personal” goals than I do “work” ambitions at this point in my life.

HPR: I’ve noticed your transition from being up on the comedy stage, which you’re much comfortable with, to now seeing you up on the Broadway stage. Explain a little more about this recent switch up.

LL: I wrote this one person show (“Fat Girl, Interrupted…”) for Broadway that has received some interest for production, but like in all things, timing is a factor. Pretty much it’s a monologue where I can talk more so in long form about issues I’ve gone through with weight, food addiction, relationships and things actually that has happened to me … and I really like the stage because although it’s super funny, I hope audiences can be like “Oh my gosh, I go through that too! I am not alone!” which is very rewarding.

Being on the Broadway stage has definitely helped me out because I am more focused on the story itself as opposed to being concerned about if the punchline connects with the audience. The jokes emerge through the story anyways if one is funny enough.

HPR: Alright, finish this sentence: “When I think of Black History Month, I...”

LL: I think it’s too short … Isn’t that what everybody says? Only 28 days? I mean come on! At least give it a 30-day month where it’s not too cold to celebrate it outside. Like have the parade in March at least.

HPR: So finish this sentence: “If there’s anyone I like to roast, it’ll be…”

LL: Oh gosh … Well, people always think you’d want to roast the ones you dislike, but if you notice on the roast specials everyone is friends from one point in time. So you really want to roast people you care for because it is considered a really huge honor and the highest compliment a comedian can get. So I really want to roast my two heroes: Don Rickles, who is still going strong and Howard Stern, one of the greatest interviewers today.

HPR: As a 53-year-old divorcee, can you shed some light on the difficulties of divorce from someone of your stature?

LL: Well, I got really lucky ... It was a really amicable and easy divorce because after so many years it was one of those things where our relationship panned out to be really good friends. At times we’d say to each other, “God, we should have just dated a couple months and then become friends,” but some reason it took off way too fast and out of proportion. With that, one can get caught up with the whole idea of a wedding and having a good time and then one day we find out we’re better off not as a couple … I see what others have gone through, fighting over the kids and the house, so luckily we both agreed to what was on the prenup. I’m really blessed to get through this with a nice guy who I still consider is my friend. A couple days ago my ex and his girlfriend invited me to see Billy Joel with them, which is awesome. A year ago we’re filing for divorce and now we’re all going to a concert together. Kind of like a divorce anniversary present from one another.

HPR: So is divorce going to be one of the concepts you will be discussing on your Leaner and Meaner Tour?

LL: Yeah, I will be talking a lot about my divorce. I think people like to know about the real life happenings of the past year or so. I believe audiences want to have some sort of commonality of who I am as a person, not just as a performer.

HPR: Being an advocate of same-sex marriage, can you point out any correlations or similarities between same-sex marriage and interracial relationships?

LL: In this day and age you’re going to find ignorant people in every walk of life. There’s always going to be the ones who take a second look at a interracial couple which is so funny because it’s so old news. But hopefully with same-sex couples and reactions from the majority heterosexual people, the stigma will die down.

The big deal shouldn’t be one sex in love with each other but more so the awareness of safe sex and health awareness as a whole. I do have a good feeling that some of those Fargo same-sex’ers will come out of the woodwork to check out Saturday’s show. All we can do, as heteroxexuals, is tell those stories and help be a voice of reason for those who haven't experienced that stuff like folks do in New York or Los Angeles.

HPR: OK, last one. Finish this statement: “Interning for Donald Trump on “The Celebrity Apprentice” was…”

LL: Oh, God! Thank God I wasn’t an intern and but if I was doing this for free, I’d kill myself! He actually was one of the best experiences of my life but also one of the hardest because we pulled all-nighters, worked 20 hours a day with four hours of sleep and six days a week. It got to be really nutty because my ego really kicked in because I really wanted to stay on as long as I could for my charity (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). Lucky that happened and I went home proud that I won $130,000 for this cause and I can now be done with Donald Trump and his hair for good! I’m sure it has its own production stylist for the show.

HPR: This ain’t your first rodeo performing in Fargo, so other than the winters and the alcoholism, is there anything about the Upper Plains region that sticks out most to you?

LL: Ah! That’s so funny! Dammit, you cock-blocked my top two answers. We'll pretend that I thought of that answer originally. I did notice last time there was a lot of white people and I anticipated that I had to pretend and pointed out someone as if someone in the show was black, because it’ll be very difficult to go along with some jokes. But I had a great mixed audience time so it felt good to spread out the jokes evenly amongst the many demographics.

Once tabbed as an “equal opportunity offender,” Lisa Lampanelli appears to be primed to expand her brand as more than just an insult comedian. Her wealth of jokes about her post-marriage life and in addition to her discovered energy due to weight loss doesn’t surprise most people who’ve followed her since her days of celebrity roast royalty a decade ago.

Lampanelli, like many of us do in every New Year, examines her own weaknesses on a unique platform. Weaknesses that others prefer to complain about on Craigslist “Rant and Raves” sections or either hide such beneath the dependencies of vices such as alcohol, food or even sexual activities. On Saturday, Jan. 24, 2014, at the Fargo Theatre, one should prop up a chair and take mental notes on a comedian who’s willing to go to the extremes to maintain that every one of us deserves at times to laugh at our own worse critic of our weaknesses. Even when she’s willing enough to point you out from the stage. 

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