The “Queen of Mean” has shifted gears. Fans need not fear, however: she’s still as foul and hilarious as ever, but Lisa Lampanelli’s barbs are coming from a new place these days.
“I’m less afraid of talking about deeper stuff,” Lampanelli said when reached at her Connecticut home. “I go on all these spirituality retreats, and I can make fun of it. I can definitely learn stuff there, but I’m not afraid to tell an audience about it and I don’t worry about if they’re going to judge me. And even if they do, it always ends up funny.”
And as surprising as it may be to hear the comedian who once quipped, “Betty White is so old that on her first game show ever, the grand prize was fire,” speak of a kinder, gentler approach, nobody needs to worry about her losing her edge.
“I’m still an insult comic,” she said. “I’m still the same old Lisa onstage, except with a little more openness. But I think people are starting to figure out, ‘Oh, she’s got something else going on there, too,’ and that’s nice. It’s nice not to be one-dimensional on stage or in life.”
Lisa Lampanelli, originally scheduled for Dec. 17 but postponed due to weather-related travel issues, has been rescheduled for Feb. 3 at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino. Tickets that were purchased for the original date will be honored. Ticket holders who cannot make the new date will receive a refund at the point of purchase.
Lampanelli, 55, has been working the stand-up circuit as hard as anybody since she got her start in the early 1990s. After finding her niche as an insult comic, she was a regular on the Howard Stern show, the Friar’s Club roasts and was eventually cast on TV’s "Celebrity Apprentice," where her “boss” was the current president-elect of the United States. All this was happening while she was building her reputation as one of the top draws on the comedy circuit.
Success was sweet, but after more than two decades, the grind was getting to her. At one point, Lampanelli was considering retirement. But after a series of life-altering events during the past few years — she lost her father, got divorced and had weight-loss surgery resulting in her shedding more than 100 pounds — she decided to get control of her life and career. She got fit, got serious about therapy and one day found herself itching to document her journey.
“I think I was becoming disillusioned with it around six years ago, and that’s why I decided to write the play, and that’s when it all came back together.” “Stuffed,” the product of that inspiration, recently finished a preliminary run in New York and plans are in the works to open it commercially next fall.
“It’s just something that fuels everything,” Lampanelli said of her experience as a first-time playwright. “You just end up having more fun doing everything. Even your life is better because you did something challenging.”
The newfound energy has served as a refresher for the 55-year-old comedienne’s stand-up act.
“Yeah, it’s been 26 years and this is fun to have this not be all about me anymore, despite stand-up being perceived as a very self-centered profession,” she said. “And I think the play really helped because it was 99 percent about service, about making women with eating problems feel less alone. But stand-up, I always viewed as it being all about me, I’m getting laughs, I’m getting money. In the past few years its become more of a thing that we’re both (she and her audience) getting something out of it.”
A little humility goes a long way
Her fans seem to agree. She’s been greeted with rabid enthusiasm across the board since her personal reboot, she said.
“Isn’t that weird? But everybody wins. I leave so happy and they leave so happy. It’s cool. And again, it’s just something that just had to shift,” she said.
The comic has even surprised herself lately, going so far as to do something she swore she’d never do: apologize for a joke. She was working in a club, when a man near the lip of the stage took offense.
“He just looked hurt,” Lampanelli said. “He didn’t yell. He didn’t storm out. He didn’t act like a little bitch. I just said to him, ‘You seem to have shut down after that last joke,’ and he said ‘Yeah, that kinda hurt.’” She apologized, and invited the man and his wife backstage where they all talked and ended up becoming friends.
“I can’t imagine doing that even, maybe, five years ago,” Lampanelli said. “I’m just so happy that I don’t think I’m such a big shot. I just think I’m very average in all ways, which is good. I’m nobody special. If I wouldn’t want my feelings hurt, so why would I want to hurt their feelings? I think you have to know that there are certain things that could trigger sadness, and I don’t want to be that person.”'