Between talking about her extremely amicable divorce with “Jimmy Big-Balls” – a long-running gag in her stand-up – and her dip into theater with a show about eating issues, comedian Lisa Lampanelli has turned the corner on being angry. Now, the “Queen of Mean” funnels that former rage into creativity that’s leaving her with “tons of energy” and making her question if she even has any hate left in her.
Based on your “Celebrity Apprentice” background, I have to ask – what are your thoughts on Donald Trump’s crack at presidency?
Oh my god – I’m about to announce my vice presidency. We’re going to be the hair team because we’ve both gotten so much press about our hair lately. I think we make the perfect fit.
People are still giving you flack about your haircut?
They were when I was doing that Miley Cyrus effed-up look that was standing straight up. Now that it’s a little more feminine, they’re like, “OK, that’s cute now.” The haircut was pretty funny because I’d make fun of it so much … not a lot hurts my feelings lately because I know what I’m doing and I’m old enough to go, “If you don’t like me, that’s OK.” Opposed to, “Why don’t they like me?”
I’ve heard you’ve been doing yoga and other things to get yourself to a better place. Has all of this self improvement shaped your comedy, which is known for being mean?
I think it’s made it that, for two shows a week, I get to say or do whatever I want and not care about anybody’s feelings. So all the cursing and anger that I feel for the five days a week that I’m offstage finds its way out there in a way that people know I’m joking and I’m kidding around. Ever since I’ve started being like that, I’ve started getting standing ovations again. People started responding happier because I’m bringing something fresher to the table.
How does your ex-husband Jimmy “Big Balls” Cannizzaro play into this now?
We had two phone calls this week! We’re really good friends still and he’s getting married again to a girl I kind of accidentally introduced him to – and she’s awesome. But he’s a really good guy. He just wasn’t right for me. We just grew in different directions, and we’re both lucky we got out before anyone cheated or lied or stole, so I just feel like it couldn’t have been an easier divorce. It probably was the easiest divorce in history. We both got a little more mature, I think.
Do you feel like you can joke about him the same way in your acts?
Oh god yeah! I did a show the other day with his girlfriend, and she’s a singer. So we did a little show together, and I introduced her with, “We’re both Italian, we’re both family-oriented, we’ve both fucked Jimmy,” so I mean, she can take a joke.
How would you say your Italian upbringing has shaped your humor?
Well, my mother was and still is an amazing storyteller. She’s just entertaining, compelling; she’s just hilarious. She’s very irreverent; she’ll say crazy racial stuff to get me to laugh. And she loves the gays. She can’t live without the gays. It’s hysterical, and I learned all that from her.
I got the other side of the coin from my dad who was a painter, a fine artist. And he had the more sensitive side. So with things like playwriting and writing different articles and stuff, I’ve summoned his stuff. I got both sides of me from them.
Speaking of playwriting, can you tell me more about your one woman show, “Fat Girl, Interrupted”?
Well, now it’s “Fat Girls Interrupted” since I turned it from a one-person show into a four-person play. And it’s in conversation format. It’s a show about different eating and weight problems, since part of my one-person show was the weight issue. Now it’s four different women with four different weight problems: one being anorexic, one being too skinny, one being fat and happy, and one being me. Which is the overeater who can’t have a life and stuff. So the play’s great! The timing is so perfect.
You ever notice when you’re doing the right thing, the right people come into your life to help you? The minute I give a reading of it, all of these producers and theaters want to meet with me and I know in my gut I’m doing the right thing. This is going to help a lot of people to see they’re not alone in their weight struggles and their body issues.
That’s definitely going to reach a lot of people, including in the LGBT and especially gay community, where there is a prevalence of eating disorders and issues.
Yeah, right? It’s almost like women used to get it the worst, and now I’m like, “At least I’m not a gay guy – they get it even worse than we do!”
How has the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage impacted your gay jokes?
I have more of them! There’s more to make fun of – like how you guys think gay marriage is real. I think that’s hilarious. Or how you think you’re equal now. You guys wanted marriage so bad? Good, now we’ll make it illegal to get gay divorced so you’re stuck with whatever asshole you picked, so enjoy that. I have a lot of fun with it; I enjoy talking about gay marriage a lot because now all of my friends can get married. All my gays. I’m so happy. I love weddings, and I love love, and hopefully I’ll get married another three or four times.
You’ve done a lot of work with Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York. How did you get so strongly involved with the gay community?
It started off when I found out the Westboro Baptist Church was going to protest my show years ago. And I started thinking, “OK, I want to pull this trick on them where however many protestors show up, I’ll donate $1,000 to a gay cause.” I heard about Gay Men’s Health Crisis, so I looked them up online. We became pretty good friends, and I donated that money to them after the protests. And when I got on “Celebrity Apprentice,” there was no doubt those were the guys that I was going to work with. I just love that organization; they do a lot of good work for people who feel alone. I think that’s what resonates with me — people who feel disenfranchised, people who feel left out of things. And they really bring the group together at that place in New York.
So you’ve been to the Detroit area before, but based on your insult comedy, what do you have to say about the city based on our, uh, “reputation”?
Usually in some of these towns there’s no black people, and now I’m like, “Oh, so there’s only black people.” So hopefully white people will come to my show. Don’t be afraid to come to my show white people: there’ll be gays there. There’ll be blacks, but they’ll be well behaved, so I think we’ll be fine.
You’ve said before you only make fun of people you like or admire. Is there anyone you’d never roast because you can’t stand them?
Yes! Who do I hate?
The hate has really bottomed out since I started working on myself. I used to be able to rattle off a lot of people I resented or hated, but now that I’ve been working on myself a lot offstage, I find I don’t really hate that many people anymore. I kind of feel sorry for people, like the Kardashians and people who have no talent and are just kind of leeches. I don’t love them by any means, but I don’t hate them anymore. The people to roast, though, are the people who are your heroes, so my real dream would be to roast Howard Stern and Don Rickles. But yeah, it’s weird; I really don’t hate that many people. It’s really bothering me!
Oh, you know who I really hate? Mrs. Dog the Bounty Hunter. She’s a battle-axe; I can’t stand her. She’s never going to be roasted by me. I had to dig a little, but I found one!
Which is funny, since you actually did some voice-over work on a CMT show called “Bounty Hunters.”
Yes! It was a cartoon about Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall, and they asked me to do this part of a battle-axe who was their boss. And voice over is the easiest thing to do. You go in a room, you don’t have to wear good clothes, you don’t have to wear make-up, you don’t have to get your hair done. You basically read into a mic and then they go, “Here’s your check. Byeeeee.” Sign me up for more of that crap.
Do you have anymore animated work lined up?
I do, but it’s top secret! You’ll hear about it soon! I was dying when I got the offer, too, because I thought, “Are you sure you know who I am?”
Ha, I was just about to say, “I’d love to see your name on a Disney cast list.”
It’s not Disney, but I will tell you one thing: I did an episode of “The Simpsons.” That was the high point of my animated life. I mean, they sent me the cell of me as a drawing with the other Simpsons, and I was just crying. It’s so beautiful.
Do you have any other career goals?
I don’t have any other career goals other than writing this play. I’m actually going to make it into a series of plays. The next play is going to be the same four women and their issues with men and relationships and codependency, since that was a big issue in my life and for a lot of my friends. The next one will be about women and anger, because I feel a lot of women don’t express anger and hold it in or express it not great, like I used to. And the fourth show will be about women and grief because I think, as we get older and our parents start to die and things to start happen, we have to really go through the grieving process, and I don’t think there’s ever been a show that’s put a lighter spin on it… so those four plays are sort of my mission for this decade, and then we’ll see what happens after that. I’ve got, I’m projecting now, until age 94. (Laughs) They’ll wheel me out in a chair. I don’t care if I’m deaf, dumb and blind. I’ll figure out a way to sign language that crap out.
With all of the stress you’ve been shedding, you’re probably way further ahead than other people!
Yeah, that’s why I have so much energy! The weight loss was the first part of getting rid of stress. The second part was getting a dog, who’s just the best dog in the world and is very stress-free. And the third part was working on those real issues, like anger. I’m really glad it’s all coming together!
What are your thoughts on up-and-coming female comics, like Amy Schumer?
Oh my god, I’m so proud of her. It’s so funny with women comics: It used to be where you were the one where they were like, “Oh, you’re the funny woman comic.” Nobody liked woman comics. And I had such a strong male fan base – even straight guys were like, “Wow, she’s cool; we’ll go see her.” Now that I look at Amy’s audience, Whitney Cumming’s audience, people like that, I’m like, “Yes!” Men are finally starting to figure out, just because you have a vag doesn’t mean you’re only good for vag-ging. And Amy’s so edgy and so smart, and when I saw her movie I thought, “This broad can act.” She took two years of conservatory acting at a really hard school in New York (William Esper Studio) – I dropped out after a month (of that kind of acting). She’s really gangster and a hard worker. The time is now for edgy female comics, and men are sitting up and noticing.
Yeah! It only took, like, 800 years.