Queen of comedy

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Lisa Lampanelli bills herself as the Loveable Queen of Mean, a fun and friendly personality who has a witty way with the truth. One of the country’s leading female stand-up comics, Lampanelli is known for exploring taboo subjects with her trademark charm. She began her comedy career in New York in the early 1990s, but made her breakthrough in 2002 at the New York Club Friars’ Roast of Chevy Chase. Since then, she’s been an in-demand guest for television programs aired on Comedy Central and HBO. In 2008, she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. The next year It Books published Lampanelli’s memoir, Chocolate, Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat, and Freaks.

Lampanelli recently joined the ranks of comic greats who have hosted their own HBO comedy special. "Long Live the Queen" will be available next year on CD and DVD. In a conversation with Out & About Newspaper, she plots her career path and professes her love for all things gay.

What’s your favorite part of performing in Nashville?

First of all, I’m never quite sure if there are people crazy enough to come out and see my show. You know, Nashville can be kind of a conservative city, but I figure there are enough gays and blacks to keep me in business. The last time I was in Nashville, I played at the Ryman, which used to be where they had the Grand Ole Opry, right?

Yes.

So when you play a place where there’s one type of music and it infiltrates the whole city, it really opens up your mind. If I was raised differently, I might not have become this hair metal chick.

Yes, your original occupation was as a journalist for Rolling Stone, interviewing the famous hairbands of the Eighties. Did you have a favorite?

Yeah, I was an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone, and I worked for the heavy metal magazines of the time. I was big into the progressive rock. I was classically uncool, believe me, but  I loved Rush, Jethro Tull, Yes. Not surprisingly, by the time I hit 30, I had to get out. I thought about what job I could do where I can call people the "c" word all the time, so I decided to be a comedian. Believe it or not, my favorite interview was when I was working at a newspaper doing features on actors who performed on off-Broadway productions. Remember Herman Muenster on the TV show? The guy who played him was named Fred Gwynne and I interviewed him one time. He was a Harvard-trained thespian who had a whole lot of education that he didn’t use. He was a classic underachiever, and that’s kind of how I am.

If someone wanted to make the leap from journalist to comedian now, what advice would you give?

Oh, don’t bother with it. Don’t start. You’re probably not funny enough to do this, so just stick with your $12,000/year job. It takes balls to be able to do this. Don’t be crazy.

What can fans expect from this comedy tour in terms of your material?

Just two days ago I taped my fourth hour-long comedy special that’s called "Tough Love." I’ve been doing 100% new stuff for that special so I’ll probably do that in its entirety. If you’re coming to the show, don’t be faint of heart and don’t sit in the front. You will be picked on. I would say to definitely stay out of my way. I hate it when people come in and have shocked looks on their faces. They should know what to expect.

You’ve been an outspoken supporter of gay marriage. What’s it going to take for this issue to become a non-issue in our country? How is it performing with such conservative comedians as Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy?

Everybody assumes that because somebody religious that the person is intolerant. Some people are like that, but it isn’t everybody. I do all of these roasts with these guys and been lucky to be in these shows. Jeff, now, is very religious, and he’ll just shake all his head at the dirty jokes. He’s always thinking about how his mother’s probably watching the show and what she’s thinking. He’s constantly seeking his mother’s approval. But I’ve never bumped up against any sort of intolerance in my travels. I wouldn’t be hanging around these guys if that were the case.

Nashville has sprung into the national spotlight for the firing of a Belmont soccer coach because she’s a lesbian and will be having a child with her partner. Thoughts?

I think it’s a shock that people are surprised a soccer coach was a lesbian. See, this is what happens you put children in the mix. I say to the gays, ‘Don’t have kids.’ Gays are lucky enough not to reproduce, so when you have all these Chinese adoptions and test tube babies, you’re getting what you ask for. (laughs)

As one of the premier female comics in the country, you’ve built a reputation as someone who can hang with the boys? How do you manage to find humor that both sexes can relate to?

I feel like I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. The men like my act because they think I’m a loudmouth bitch that talks straight like a guy does. The gays like me because I’m like a woman who tucks her penis in before I go on stage. And the straight women like it because they think ‘I wish that I could say some of the stuff she says’. So it’s a genderless thing for me. But I always want to make sure there are plenty of gays at the shows because they have all that disposable income that they can spend on t-shirts.

With which entertainers would you love to share the stage?

I would love to do a co-headlining tour with KC & the Sunshine Band, or maybe the Bee Gees. Are all of them dead now? There’s got to somebody who’s alive. But seriously, I’d love to share the stage with Don Rickles, but he doesn’t do the roasts anymore. That would be a dream. If I could get a gun on that Jew, I would.