Lisa Lampanelli (HBO’s “Long Live the Queen”)

Lisa Lampanelli (HBO’s “Long Live the Queen”)
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The ultimate politically-incorrect comic, Lisa Lampanelli, a.k.a. the lovable Queen of Mean, stars in her first HBO comedy special in January, an hour of outrageous and shockingly scathing humor, taped before a live audience at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA.

Having made her mark on the comedy world for her show-stealing routines at a series of Friar’s Club roasts (some of which actually made it to TV with a little bit of censoring), Lampanelli holds nothing back as she skewers the audience with a shower of insults that will leave viewers either numb from shock, in stitches from laughter, or, most likely, both.

In Lisa’s , first-ever HBO special, Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen, the comedienne slashes everyone in her path and burns every ounce of soil beneath her high heels. From the big, strapping black guy Les in the front row, to the white bitches who annoy her with “It’s my birthday!” after the show, the gooks, the spics, the Donut Punchers and more, no one is safe from Lisa’s wicked tongue. Be sure to check this hilarious special out and check your self-righteousness at the door.

Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen premieres Sat. January 31 at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO.

How excited are you about the HBO special (Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen)?

It’s obviously huge because every comic wants one. And if you get one it’s like ‘oh my God!’ It’s like you’re up there with George Carlin and Chris Rock but, you know, I’m not dead or black. Dead and black that’s even worse.

How did it come about?

Jim Carrey sort of discovered me about a year and a half ago and wanted to develop a TV show for me. Like a weekly series. And we sold the show idea to HBO and got a pilot deal. At the same time my agent was like maybe we should approach them about doing your next special instead of Comedy Central. Thankfully, HBO was like yeah absolutely and it ended up very lucrative and cool for everyone involved.

So what’s the status on the show?

We handed in the script to them. They loved it. They had a few changes. We handed in the new version last week. And we’re just crossing our fingers to see if they want us to shoot the pilot soon. So, a little prayer, even if you’re a Jew.

Could you describe the plot of the show?

Oh yeah. It’s great. As in anything it’s an inmates take over the asylum type of thing. About comedians. About a comedy club in LA. You know what dysfunctional freaks comedians are.

Yeah, I know Artie Lange.

Yeah, you knew how we are. I inherit this comedy club under weird circumstances and it’s sort of me trying to be mother courage to these bunch of retards. It’s a very dark, dark show that really shows how comics are. Not the sort of ‘hey, let’s do a comedy about comedy’. Jim’s like, there’s a reason there has never been a successful sitcom about comedy, because it’s not funny. It’s really a tough world with awful, dysfunctional, weird, twisted, damaged people in it. So we have to show that side of it. And it’ll be like a dramedy. Sort of in the tone of Rescue Me or The Sopranos.

It’s not going to be like Punchline or anything…

Oh God no! It’s not going to have the studio audience or any of that bullshit. It’s one camera, it’s really, really hot.

Good luck with that! I love how you said that Jim discovered you a year and a half ago. (laughs)

Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s hilarious how you do this for 17 years and suddenly…he signed with my agent and said he wanted to produce a show. And they were like, well what do you like. ‘Edge. I like edge. Like Kinison.’ They suggested me and he really dug me and thankfully it worked out.

You did a show on Howard Stern’s Sirius Satellite Radio Channel, right?

I always do one, like every four or five months, I do a special on Howard 101 because I love Howard. I go on Howard a lot and he really helps me a lot. They let me do a special once in a while to promote an event. Since the HBO special was coming on, I said alright this will be a good chance to go on and do my thing for an hour.

Do you live in NY or LA?

I live in New York.

Does that pose any problems for your career in any way?

I could live in Canada. No seriously, I could live in London. It’s easier to fly to London from New York than…you can get anywhere you want to go. I was in LA for two years just to get the legitimacy of some TV credits and get known to the industry out there. Once I was known to them my manager said to me ‘You don’t have to stay here because you’re not an auditioner, you don’t want movie roles, you really want this one TV show – the HBO type thing – you want an HBO special, you want a Grammy, you want to tour, you want to do more radio in New York. So go wherever you want. That’s why comedians are really lucky because we don’t have to be anywhere.

So your goal wasn’t to audition for any sitcom…

Horrible. I’d rather eat a gun. If I can’t have my own show I wouldn’t want to be on one. Maybe that’ll change when I’m like 55 and I go, ‘I can be like Doris Roberts on Everybody Loves Raymond’. If the ship has sailed on my own show and if I don’t get it or something…right now if you told me I could just do comedy for the rest of my life, I’d be so happy.

Right. The idea is that you’re going to be doing something you might as well be happy doing it.

Right. Seriously, if I never had to do radio or TV again I’d be thrilled if I could just do what I do for a living. But you have to stay in the public eye a little. You have to be a little bit visible or your audience goes down and that’s no good.

How did you begin your career in stand-up and when did it finally start clicking in that it was working out and you were able to earn a substantial living in it?

I knew it was going to work from the start, because it went really well the first time I went up. I’m not the type to stick with something if I don’t think it’s going to pay off after hard work. If I don’t have an aptitude for it it’s a huge waste of time. I’m not going to try and be a concert violinist. After the first open mic I go ‘This is worth sticking with.’ It isn’t until you get into it for many years, that you start making, first of all, serious money, and second, where you start going, ‘I’m known enough to people where I can start calling my own shots a little bit. I don’t have to be desperate and be on The Surreal Life or The Biggest Loser or whatever.’ Ten years of going ‘I really earned this and now I can make a living at it.’

Before that you worked for Rolling Stone, right?

I went to college in Syracuse for journalism and then got sick of earning 12 grand a year and said ‘let’s see what else is out there’.

When you were with Rolling Stone, who were some of the people you interviewed?

Well for RS I was not a reporter, I was an editor. I worked for Hit Parader magazine, a heavy metal magazine. I had to do all of these retarded 80s bands like Cinderella and Slaughter. You know, all the good ones? I got into freelance writing because I wanted to meet all of my heroes. Like I loved all that prog-rock stuff. I was really into Jethro Tull and Yes and Rush . So I interviewed all of them. By the time I ran out of people to interview who I was interested in I was like ‘I gotta move on because this is boring.’

What was the impetus to say ‘Comedy is something I want to try’?

I guess it was something that I was always putting off. I knew it from early on. I liked doing the theatrical stuff, like doing the school plays and all that gay shit. At 30 I said ‘what do I got to lose?’ I’d been practicing as far as, I’d been DJ’ing to get comfortable behind the mic. I was doing karaoke leading at the time, because karaoke was big in the 80s. I took a little class in how to structure a set and luckily it worked out from there.

You started coming on Howard a few years ago, right?

I did his show on terrestrial once and then he went to Sirius. I guess the way it started was I did one of the Roasts – he used to do the Howard Stern Roasts and it was a blast because they were the edgiest ones going, you could say anything on there – so I started doing those and he took a liking to me and started having me on as a regular guest.

How many of those Roasts did you end up participating in?

I did all of them but one. I didn’t do the first one. I think it was Ralph or something? I didn’t do it because…oh I forget what happened. Oh, actually Levy was in charge and he put all of his friends on there. And then Howard was like ‘Let’s get some of the people that do the real Roasts on TV. Let’s call Lisa’ I did about four or five or however many of them there were.

Why don’t they do those anymore?

I think it just runs its course. You get sick of doing a certain bit. I’m really sick of doing Roasts. I have to do the next one because it’s for a friend, but I really don’t love doing them anymore. It’s hard. It’s a really long, long process to get that script where it has to be to kill.

You also don’t want to get typecast, either.

I’ve never had that problem because I was always great at it. But also great on The Tonight Show, she’s been nominated for a Grammy, got two great specials. The Jeff Ross’s who the only thing that they’re doing – besides Dancing With the Stars for one episode – not to put Jeff down. You gotta think of your career in a bigger scope. That’s why I was happy he was doing Dancing With the Stars, ‘cause I’m like ‘Okay, what’s next?’ I just had to be careful to not not have specials.

What’s the next Roast?

Larry the Cable Guy. I love Larry and we’re really good friends. He asked me to do it. Of course I said ‘Sure!’ But inside I’m going ‘Jesus Christ, it’s a month away. It’s a month of work on these fucking things.’

Do you have anything else you’re working on?

My book’s coming out in September. The editor sent it back to me with two little corrections. That’s going to come out in September. It’s called Chocolate Please. That’s going to be cool. The pilot with Jim. Hopefully everything will keep going the way it has.

How did the book come about?

I have this agent, this book agent, I guess he does Foxworthy’s books, too. He kept saying to my manager, ‘When’s Lisa gonna do a book? ‘ I never felt I had time or was ready. Last year I was like, “I can do that in the fall. My schedule’s pretty good.’ We had this little bidding war going with two different publishers. Harper Collins wanted to do the book and they kind of let me do whatever I wanted. But they said the first book should always be an autobiography so people get to know who you are. I couldn’t come out with an advice book on how to deal with the races or “Lisa’s Guide To Being A Big Fat Fag”. It’s out September 15th on Harper Collins.

What goes into the set and preparations for the taping of Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen?

That’s funny because, what happened was…we had this idea for a set…because my director was like ‘You’re rock ‘n roll…your show is so rowdy it’s like a rock show. So why don’t we do like Elvis and put your name in Elvis, like he did on that album where it said ‘Elvis’ in lights.’ HBO approves the design. Two weeks later my manager is watching HBO and Ricky Gervais has the same fucking set. ‘Hello HBO why didn’t you tell us somebody else was doing it, retard?’ So I’m sitting in a conference call with them and Warner Bros. records and I looked back over my notes from years ago, like different titles I was thinking of. And I’m like ‘Long Live the Queen is good. But Queen, Queen … Okay, Snow White. She’s looking in the mirror and she’s looking evil, but the mirror’s smiling back. Its kind of like my act.’ They’re like ‘That’s great!’ And I’m like ‘Well I’m totally nigger rigging this thing, just so I can get it quickly done and design it.’ So we decide to put up the mirrors and they do this whole spoof about it at the beginning, a cartoon…

…and Howard made it on there

….yeah! Him and (Don) Rickles. That set stuff was a last minute scramble but it came out so cute. It’s really nice.

How did you choose the city? Santa Rosa, right?

I chose Santa Rosa because it’s so near San Francisco, because I attract about 20% gay. Also because I had my ass kicked royally at that theater the first time I played there. And then we found out that Carlin taped one of his last HBO specials there. HBO loves Carlin so much that they thought it was a good little nod. It was pretty easy to pick. And there’s different minorities in that town and it’s driving distance from San Francisco where people could just run up and see it. Every type there, even the types that are less fortunate than us. We did two shows sold out, so about 4,000 people total. You hate to in the contract, which is stupid because I do really well. I never fuck up. The second show was a more outrageous audience so we ended up going with the second one anyways. They inter cut one thing because I had a make-up screw-up, I hit myself in the mouth with the mic and my make-up was smeared all over it. I didn’t notice it, but my make-up artist was watching in the back, like ‘Oh my God! Stop the show!’ We put that in an outtake in a DVD extra. But, other than that one little clip there, it’s all that exact second show. Isn’t that cool? I hate that inter cut bullshit.

I gotta say I love Chris Rock, but that last HBO special he did was really jarring.

Well…yeah. (laughs) (sheepishly) I agree. I must say.

How are things in your personal life?

It’s getting there. I had gone to rehab for food addiction and for co-dependency. What was great about that is, now that I’m taking care of myself better and liking myself better and working on my food issues, it’s starting to really pay off. I feel better physically, I have more energy. You lose weight as a by-product of taking care of yourself better. I had also taken a year off from dating because I wanted to really be alone and deal with being alone. I had had boyfriends since I was 12 without missing a day. That’s sort of co-dependent, don’t you think?

Yeah.

So I got used to that for a year and a half and I just started dating again. I must admit, I joke around, but I really am starting to attract guys with decent jobs. Nobody’s ever going to equal me in pay, I don’t think.

That might be hard, yeah.

But at least a legitimately good person with a decent job who has morals. I know when to say no. I don’t even attract the “thuggy type” anymore or the criminals or that kind of thing. Because for the occasional booty call it’s fun, but do you really want to take that prisoner home to your mother? I don’t think so.

With regards to how hard hitting your comedy can be, have you ever had someone ever come up and say something where it made you feel bad about having said something?

I’ve felt bad in instances where say I do comedy in a town that is way too racially segregated like a Dayton, OH or a Cincinnati, where I feel ‘uh-oh, maybe the white people are laughing for the wrong reasons.’ But at the time I had a black boyfriend and asked him, ‘Should I feel bad about this?’ and he’s like ‘No, you can’t be responsible for why they’re laughing.’ So those are the only kinds of guilty feelings I get, ‘ooh are they getting me on the right level?’

Official Lisa Lampanelli Website
Official HBO Website

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