When critics, commentators and even fans describe comedian Lisa Lampanelli, they almost always use the same words -- the "Queen of Mean," or "one of the best female insult comics." But gender modifiers are out of place on Lampanelli. The 47-year-old is by all accounts one of the funniest, dirtiest and most irreverent comedians working today. She's writing her own autobiography; her first HBO special is set to drop Jan. 31; and, with Jim Carrey, she's busy working on a dark comedy about '80s comedy clubs.
Lampanelli's fans love her because she's not afraid to joke about anyone or any topic in the crassest language heard this side of a I-80 truck stop bathroom. On Jan. 9 and 10, she does three shows at the Byham Theatre. She spoke with CP by phone Dec. 30.
Congratulations on the new book and the HBO comedy special.
Yeah, I think it's going to be a good year.
Did you ever think you'd be able to ride the word "cunt"so far in life?
No, I did not. I knew I'd be able to ride a cunt occasionally -- if paid enough money. And hey, who knew the n-word would be so profitable, too? Although it's getting hard to use it much with that new fucking president. That's a real cock-block.
You talk a lot on stage about dating African-American men. What do you think of the new president?
I tell you what, this president I like. I saw his shirtless picture and I was very impressed. I wouldn't have wanted to see Bush with his shirt off, with those tits that hang, so I enjoyed that very much. I spanked one out to Obama in the surf. And also I feel that he will be a good president because he's a black guy, but he's just white enough to do a good job and show up on time. Because sometimes those black people are late for everything. You know what I mean, you racist faggot. [Laughs]
You used to be a music journalist. Are you enjoying getting back into writing with the new book?
I quit journalism when I was 30 and now here I am 17 years later writing a whole book and it's hard. It totally blows because you look at yourself in 280 pages and you say, "What do I do?" So I figured out how many pages were in each chapter and I wrote it to the exact number because I hate writing it so much. I've been dredging up all this crap from the past and I just thought, "OK, I'm doing the bare minimum here." But still luckily for the fans, it's really fucking revealing and you'll know more about me and my twat than you'll ever want to know.
That's a perfect segue for the question I was going to ask you at the end. You use "cunt" and "twat" liberally in your shows. Are the two interchangeable? What's the proper usage?
I, personally, like to use "cunt" in everyday life. So, if I said to you, "Hey, look at that red-headed cunt," that's a nice thing to say, it's a nice term of endearment, as it were. And twat, I think, is the word I use to refer to someone I don't care for. I use it the opposite [of] most people, but hey, I'm a trend-setter.
I know people whom you've called a cunt during your live show and they actually wear it like a badge of honor.
I know, it's so funny. Two weeks ago, two girls showed up at a show wearing T-shirts that said, "Lisa Lampanelli called me a cunt," and they were so happy. I figure if I can get away with it, I may as well because secretly, I do mean it; don't tell anyone, but I secretly hate all these women who come to my show, but whatever. It's Pittsburgh, who cares.
Do you have any memorable Pittsburgh road-ass stories?
I personally don't, which really pisses me off. It seems like anytime I came to Pittsburgh I was dating some loser at home who I had to be faithful to, even though they were fucking around on me. But this time, I'm there for two-and-a half days, there's got to be at least one little piece of chocolate-dabbling I could do, don't you think?
And I think people in Pittsburgh aren't so smart, so at least one of them will have sex with me.
The HBO special had to be a huge boost to your ego and self-esteem.
Oh my God, yes. Not too many people get these, this is hot.
So you've got to be thinking, "Thank God, I'll never have to go back and work the Boise, Idaho, Chuckle Hut ever again?"
Oh, no, I never would anyway. I told my manager once I started doing theaters years ago, that if it ever reached the point that I have to go back to the clubs, I'm quitting. Don't ever let that sentence come out of your fucking mouth; because I would rather Xerox my cunt at Kinkos for a living than go back to the clubs. Not that it's horrible; but the point is, it's just a step down and I'd rather quit entirely and do something else. I'd rather start at the bottom of Kinkos than start at the bottom of comedy again.
You became known to the world from Comedy Central roasts of people like Pam Anderson, Flavor Flav, Gene Simmons, William Shatner and Chevy Chase. You kill every time you go on, but do you ever think twice about taking an easy shot at someone, like the train-wreck that Farrah Fawcett has become?
No, not at all. I mean look at her, rode hard and put back wet. Anyone like her who made a career off their looks can take a joke about it. I take the jokes about my comedy and my looks. If you're going to be on the dais, you have to know what you're in for.
I know there are boundaries in these roasts and you have to watch the people and see how they're taking the jokes. Like for Pam Anderson, I knew my boundaries with her. A woman like me doesn't make jokes about a woman like her unless the jokes are really good. So you have to do your homework even more, because a guy can get away with things like that more than a chick like me can. So, I look over to make sure I'm not totally hurting their feelings, but I'm making them laugh. I'm not a complete animal. How dare you.
I never thought I'd hear the words "Lisa Lampanelli" and "boundaries" in the same sentence.
I have boundaries!
Do you really?
Sure, they're subtle, but they're there. I mean, there are no boundaries in comedy; there aren't any topics that are off limits. I hate when people say, "Don't talk about the cripples and don't talk about retarded people." No, fuck the retards and the cripples, I don't care. Cripples have a better sense of humor than anyone, and retards don't know what the fuck you're saying anyway. So, while there are no boundaries in comedy, there are limits like, "Hey, people paid to see this show and if they're really uncomfortable there's no point in calling them out." It's more fun to go after the people who you know are cool with it and can take your jokes.
That has to be a real skill to sizing people up in an instant from a stage like that.
Luckily, the first 10 rows in the audience are all you can see from the stage, but I still think I have a good intuition about it and that's how I'm able to do it. A lot of comics won't do insult comedy because they don't have any feel for who can take it and who can't. And that's why they're retarded and I'm probably the best comic who ever fucking lived. [Laughs.] I don't want to brag ... But I do have an HBO special, so suck it.
Do you have a favorite roast target? Someone you were salivating to get at, and were you satisfied when it was over?
The best roasts are always with people you like. You can't roast people you don't like, because it comes off mean. I loved the Flavor Flav one, because I knew he would be a good sport. So I loved doing people like him, Pam Anderson, Jeff Foxworthy and Shatner, because you knew they would be real cool with everything.
But then you have this freak Chevy Chase who everyone knows he has no sense of humor and takes himself seriously. But I was like, fuck it, it was my first time on TV  and it was my chance to be seen, get management and take this thing to the next level. So I decided, you know what, I'm going to bring it and if Chevy doesn't like it, he can lick me because he was a scowling, little bastard has-been and I have no idea why he even agreed to be roasted. But that was my big moment.
Lucky for you, screwing over Chevy Chase won't have any long-term negative repercussions on your career. Maybe he can keep you out of Cops and Robbersons 2?
[Laughs] Exactly. Cops and Robbersons -- best movie ever, by the way.
Do you have a dream target? You walk out on stage and there's blank sitting in the front row.
It would be great to have Oprah there. She has just a wealth of information for you. She's this in-denial dyke running around with this Gayle King. She's fat again, which I love. Don't you love how Oprah had to come out and tell us that she was fat again. Like we haven't been watching her on TV.
I think it's a law that you can't believe anything about Oprah, even that she's fat, until she physically tells you to believe it.
"Oh, no, Oprah, you're not fat, you're beautiful." Don't you love it when they say that about women that guys would never want to fuck? Like Cybil Shepherd, now? I mean, come on, maybe 25 years ago you'd stick it, but not now. Or they say, "Meryl Streep, she's beautiful." No, she's handsome. I hate it when everyone thinks guys should want to fuck these women because they are "classically beautiful." Come on, lick me.
But, no, I'd love to get a hold of Oprah because there are so many things about her that are awful. I think she's a closet Scientologist anyway. Have you ever noticed she always has those Scientologists on the show and she never criticizes them. I would go after her for sure.
Has insulting people always come easy? Were you a bully as a kid, were you teased as a kid?
I was never teased much, I was under the radar. I was cute, but not beautiful. I was funny, but not hilarious. I was smart, but not a genius. But I always listened and paid attention to things. My targets were always the teachers. And I never picked on other kids. I saw bullying going on and that's always been one of my big hot buttons. If I see it now, I fucking have a fit. I remember thinking back to seeing people get bullied and I didn't stick up for them. But back then, you're 7, what could you do? Maybe I'm taking it out a little on people now who maybe did that as children.
But, looking back -- thank God -- I never had anything traumatic happen to make me do this type of comedy. Hell, I don't know, maybe I was corn-holed and I blocked it out.
So what can people expect from your book? What kind of deep, dark secrets are you revealing?
Look, I don't have too many secrets. Most times, something happens to me and I tell people, "Don't you say anything about this," and then I go on The Tonight Show or on the Howard Stern show and tell it all.
A lot of the book has details about things that I've talked a little about in the past. I had those three trips to rehab for co-dependency; I was in food rehab, o I have a lot of detailed stories about those experiences and the psycho cunts I was in there with. Going back over the book, I can't believe that people in those places act that way.
There's a whole chapter about how I bottomed out with this one boyfriend and almost went insane. There's stuff about my childhood, but it wasn't a bad childhood. I was surrounded by an angry mom and a lot of loud Italians. There's also Catholic stuff in there; however, I was not corn-holed by a priest. But maybe it was because he didn't find me attractive.
Wow, those insecurity issues cropped up at an early age.
That's where it all comes from. If I had been touched, I probably wouldn't even be a comic right now.
Speaking of co-dependency rehab, did it take?
Oh yeah, it was great. Look, we're all co-dependent, that's at the core of all addiction. I've always had a boyfriend. I went from age 12 to age 45 without a break. So that's 33 years. I told someone the other day that I want to write a Broadway show called Love Addict with a big finale entitled, "Boy, is my cunt tired." It's not even like I had a lot of sex. I didn't lose my virginity until I was something like 20, and it was to my high school boyfriend. So it wasn't sex, but I always had boyfriends.
But I went to rehab and took a year and a half off from dating. I just started going on dates now, and I have set up boundaries and started asking for my wants and needs. And I'm now more single than ever since I decided to open my big fucking yapper. It's really doing me a lot of good. [Laughs.]
So did you really go the whole time without dating or having sex?
Oh, no, I didn't say I didn't bang anybody. [Laughs.] You know, you gotta do what you gotta do. Maybe occasionally, maybe three, four times, I had sex. I mean, I'm older, I'm 47, I hardly have any juice left down there anyway. I mean, what do I need this for, I'd rather hang out with people, you know? It's boring at this point; once you know you can get it, you don't want it.
But the time away was good, I worked on comedy and the book and on how to become a decent human being for once. I no longer blow off my friends for guys, you know the classic thing you do when you're co-dependent on these douchebags. This will be the first New Years Eve that I'm spending without a boyfriend. So, I'm hanging out with these seven fags and me; isn't that crazy? Although I do wonder how all of my friends managed to turn into these big flaming homosexuals. But, at least they're not trying to grab your tit during the entrée.
Send a message out to people who'll see your promo picture in the pretty June Cleaver dress and think, "Honey, let's go to the Byham and see the Lisa Lampanelli."
I can tell you, don't come if you're a soccer mom with no sense of humor. Because they tend to stare at me and think I'm the reason that we have school shootings. But I'm not. It's the blacks. Now, ask yourself, do I have a sense of humor about myself? Yes. Do I have a good sense of humor about others? Oh, hell yes. Then you should come. And also, I rarely run into the audience, so as long as you're not in the first 10 rows, you're probably safe. Those pussies in the balcony rarely get nailed, so just sit up there if you're a tight-ass wimp.
I thought we were done, but you said "soccer mom" and that reminded me to ask you about Sarah Palin. What did you think of that whole debacle?
AHHHH! I couldn't stand her. First of all, everyone was saying how hot she is. Let me tell you something, she's hot for a politician. Compared to Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, she's a 10, of course. But compared to Pam Anderson, she's a deuce, tops. That pissed me off because she's not that fucking hot.
Then there's this thing with her and the five fucking kids. How many kids does this bitch have to have? I got three words for this bitch -- close your legs. Isn't this outrageous. Then she goes and has the retard kid. Do you believe that? I couldn't believe it. That retard kid is God's way of telling you to stop. That is the warning shot from your reproductive system to close your legs, put police tape around your cunt and shut it down.
Lisa Lampanelli 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 9; and 7 and 10:30 p.m. Sat., Jan. 10. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $39.50. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org
- No, she really does hate you: Lisa Lampanelli.