The dark side (the other one)

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2009-11-26T09:00:00-04:00 November 26th, 2009|Entertainment|

The gays get a lot of love-hate in Lisa Lampanelli’s memoir, “Chocolate, Please”: “If it wasn’t for gay guys, us fat chicks would have no friends.”

For a while there, Lisa Lampanelli – acidic-tongued comedienne extraordinaire – seemed ostensibly one-dimensional.
Like a cartoonish caricature with a clashing image, the ’50s homemaker-like housewife expels the naughtiest of insults and has an infamous craving for black brothas. Turns out girl is darker than some of the men she’s blown: codependency rehab, shitty self-esteem and seemingly unshakable weight issues. Oh, and there’s that whole Catholic upbringing.
All are hilariously riffed on in “Chocolate, Please,” as the unhinged she-wolf claws at familiar stereotypes, magifying our own judgmental ways, amidst telling her life story. She’ll shamelessly call you a fag or a cornholer or a Turd Tickler. That’s her m.o. – cross the line, and walk another 50 feet. In typical L.L. fashion, we get that: “Lisa’s Rules to Live By,” the final section of her memoir, is the pet-peeves part where we find out the pros and cons of penis size, sharing bathrooms and pregnant women in the workplace (to this, there are only cons).
By the end of this breezy, guffaw-granting read, the 48-year-old Lampanelli seems practically licensed to dish advice on just about anything (including all the above). She’s lived most of it – from shitty school lunches (no, not cafeteria-bought cardboard pizza – stuffed peppers) to rehab stints, and the men, or lack thereof, who drove her there.
The comic spitfire was raised in an uptight Catholic household where she was, even then, a ballsy smart-ass, mouthing off to school authority. She couldn’t hold a flame to her superior siblings (she calls herself the “Sophie’s Choice” child), but a flamer? She had that covered. She still does.
Always the fag hag, Lampanelli uses the gays like glitter in the book, referencing a childhood one who looked like – and was sexually similar to – Peppermint Patty and ranting about a converted homo she dated. Who, by the way, was probably the least of her worries. She’s been with scuzzy potheads, clingy losers and chubby whities, and many of them are covered in detailed hilarity. One of her early tastes of chocolate is surprisingly sweet – too bad it became the bitter kind. But the memoir’s meat, so to speak, is really less about the chocolate love – the kind she gets on the back of the book, where her face is smeared in a cake that orgasmed all over her – and more about her comedy career. How it started (a heckler called her fat). How it took off (the Chevy Chase roast). And how Lampanelli’s on-stage schtick isn’t really an alter ago; she’ll fearlessly go there. Anywhere. Anytime. Even in rehab.
And she does a lot of that in “Chocolate, Please” – a mocking memoir that’s as gut-bustingly brassy as her routine, but speaks with a more down-to-earth genuineness that’s usually buried under her put-downs. The biggest revelation here is that, despite her rips on people, Lampanelli’s one to talk: She’s hardly a halo-ed whore. We feel some of her pain (especially that Catholic rearing), and we can relate to her outside of the stereotypes she uses – and those that most of us are too shameful to admit to using.
The snappy autobio book’s as conversational as her relentlessly raunchy routines, and definitely more intimate – energetically zipping through honest insights with raw candor, slight regret and self-deprecation. Never is it too self-serious, though, as very funny punchlines always deflect it from becoming a woe-is-me work. But it still manages to go ever-so-slightly under the skin of one of comedy’s most fearless and funny jokesters. And how many non-blacks can say they’ve been there?

Lisa Lampanelli
8 p.m. Dec. 5
Michigan Theater
603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.