I'll be talking with Lisa Lampanelli in about nine hours so I thought I'd go back and re-read our last chat from 2008. I checked the old Comedy Couch archives and... nothing. So I started rooting around the old computer and there it was. Damn, I wonder how many other old interviews are sitting there. That's for another day. Meanwhile, enjoy this "classic" and look forward to the new one in a couple weeks or so.
LISA LAMPANELLI: Is this Guy?
GUY MACPHERSON: Yes, it is.
LL: Is it Guy or Ghee, like those French fags.
GM: Guy. You were right the first time.
LL: Thank God because I’m so fucking over the French. Whatever.
GM: Especially the French Canadians.
LL: Ughch! Die of cancer, French Canadians. Put that as the headline.
GM: So you play Montreal a lot, do you?
LL: God, I hate them... Is there kids in the background?
GM: Yeah, there are four of them.
GM: I know you love kids.
LL: Oh, I hate them. If they’re not related to me, they’re stupid, ugly, fat and misshapen.
GM: That’s exactly how I feel.
LL: Isn’t it true that you like your own kids or the ones you’re related to but everybody else’s kid should die?
GM: Pretty much. Especially at a playground.
LL: Good, good. Now at least we’re on the same page. I like you.
GM: Are you in New York? Is that where you live?
LL: I’m about to move from Connecticut back into New York because I’m bored shitless out here. It’s all for married soccer mom twats and I’m sitting here with no blacks. No blacks at all. I’m like, why am I here? So I’m moving back into the city next week right after my big show in Richmond, B.C., wherever that is.
GM: It’s Vancouver, essentially. Just say Vancouver.
LL: I like Vancouver. I was there a couple months ago and it was awesome.
GM: You were right downtown. I was at that show.
LL: Oh, okay. It was so much fun. And you’ve got the politest crowds in Canada. Like, after the show they’re very respectful. They call me Miss Lampanelli and don’t call me the c-word, which is really welcoming. It’s very nice.
GM: What are crowds like elsewhere that are rude?
LL: No, no, no. Just after the show sometimes. They get drunk and they’ll be like, “How you doin’, bitch?” and all this stuff. And I’m like, “Look, I’m still, like, way above you.” Like, I don’t know if you know this but I’m like a major fucking celebrity. It’s like me and Heather Locklear, okay? So they can just suck it, you know what I’m saying?
GM: Except you’re not depressed.
LL: Exactly! I’m not in rehab anymore.
GM: You are like this big, major fucking celebrity, as you say.
LL: I’m a huge fucking star. I don’t know why Canada hasn’t caught on yet. But they can suck it, too.
GM: You were an overnight sensation. But, really, it took about twelve yeaers?
LL: Seventeen, nigger.
GM: No, but from when you really hit it with that Chevy Chase roast.
LL: Oh, that was 2003.
GM: And you started doing comedy in about 1990?
LL: Yes, exactly. So it’s been 17 years.
GM: Yeah. So there was a 12 or 13 year period before you were thrust onto the big stage.
LL: Yeah, exactly. Like, you know they say it takes a lawyer seven years to become a lawyer. To study. Then seven years to become a good lawyer. Same thing with comedy. In about seven years you kinda know what you’re doing, kinda have your on-stage persona, kinda have your sea legs. And it takes about seven more to really become good at it. So those people that can last long enough, like go through all the crap and the driving and the 21 hours on the road without stopping to take a piss because you’re late for a gig, staying in crumby motels. If you can get through all that, 14 years of that shit, then it finally hits and you’re a multi-billionaire like myself.
GM: Living in Connecticut.
LL: Very wealthy. Enormously wealthy.
GM: You had a couple other careers and you quit. Was there a point in those 14 years where you thought, “I don’t know. I should get out of this racket”?
LL: No, no, no, no. Never with comedy because the first time you do it you know it’s meant to be or it isn’t. I just knew it was meant to be. It’s like meeting the right guy or girl – or in your case guy. It’s like when you and your lover decided to adopt those four ugly kids, you said, “Hey, I’m gay.” You know what I’m saying?
GM: I hear you.
LL: You just know what’s right for you and you know what career’s right for you. So I knew it instantly. The minute you took this job to interview celebrities for minimum wage, you said, “I’m going to stick with that. Some day it’s going to pay off.”
GM: Some day. I’m still waiting for that day.
GM: When you started out in comedy, did you want to be an insult comic or did that evolve?
LL: It just evolved. You can’t force it. You can’t force it into doing anything that it’s not gonna do. Like, for instance, Roseanne didn’t say to herself, “Hey, I think I’ll be the angry housewife.” You just kinda are yourself and you see where it leads. And I always liked the Dean Martin roasts on NBC when I was growing up. It always looked like they were getting along and they all had a good time. And I was like, well, maybe that’s the kind of comedy I like. But you can never sort of force it without seeing if you’re right for it. So thankfully the more chances I took, the people bought in and I’m like, “Wow, I’m pretty lucky.”
GM: You talk about getting the tools or the skills to pull off these kinds of jokes. You can’t just jump right into it.
GM: Was there an “aha!” moment where you just go, “Ah! I get it. I know how to do this now”?
LL: God, I don’t think there’s just one moment. I think it’s just a gradual build. Like, you say to yourself, “Okay, I’m gonna try this: Let me say ‘spic’ or let me call the Canadians dirty people from a country that’s inferior to us.” And when they actually laugh instead of getting mad, you’re like, “Ooh, I can take more of a chance! I can say the n-word, I could do this, do that.” But I always did it with the right kind of intention to kind of point out stereotypes and how retarded they are. And you just see the more you kind of commit to it and the more ballsy you are, for whatever reason you have to be doing this kind of comedy, the more you just stick to it and go, “I’m taking more and more chances.” Like, there’s nothing I won’t say now. I can’t even think what subject could possibly be “oh my God, I won’t touch that.”
LL: Yeah. Because there’s a line in comedy of, “oh my God, don’t cross this line, don’t push the envelope”. But there’s no envelope, there’s no line; there’s funny and not funny. And thank God I can pull off the funny part so it always seems to be okay.
GM: There must have been some instances where people took it the wrong way.
LL: Oddly enough, I can count on two hands in 17 years the number of times people were vocal with me. I think the fact that it is okay, they sense real prejudice. I’ve talked to real black people – believe it or not, there are real black people in this world who speak English – and they’ve said to me, “Hey, if you know what’s behind it, if you know there’s warmth and no hate, we know how to take it.” And I’m like, yeah, it’s the fear-based comic who won’t go there that minorities and people that are outside our little white devil circle, they’re the ones that people are like, “Hmm.” They’re holding something back. But people can tell with me I wasn’t holding it back; I was kind of doing it for the right reasons. Really, like I said, a handful of people got pissed. And thank God because I’m not good pickin’ beating, I never have.
GM: There is a danger with ironic racism. The vast majority of your audience gets it. But do you ever attract the wrong type?
LL: I’m sure. I’m sure I do. And that’s why I make my donations to the NAACP and the Phone in the Spic Today Fund and the Save the Gerbil Foundation for the fags because the guilt I have is assuaged when those cheques are written. What are you gonna do? You have to. You can’t worry what everybody thinks. Do you worry every time you hit your kids when everybody’s telling you you shouldn’t? No, you beat them senseless, don’t you, sir?
GM: No, but I wait till nobody’s looking.
LL: See, now that’s why you’re smart. I like how you think.
GM: Here in Vancouver there’s been some news that I know has made it to the States. Two lesbians were making out in front of a comic who then lashed out at them. Now they’ve taken him to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
LL: Did he lash out at them in a funny way?
GM: I wasn’t there and I’ve never seen this comic.
LL: The key is about intention. I mean, you know about here in the superior country America – you’ve heard of us? – Imus, do you know of this Imus idiot?
GM: Don, yes.
LL: Yes. He’s a fucking idiot and he got in trouble for saying that “nappy-headed hoe” line about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. If he’d have been funny and he could pull it off like a Howard Stern or Rickles or somebody like that, he probably wouldn’t have gotten in trouble. People would have just laughed and said, “He’s a humourist.” So you have to actually, when you’re doing stuff, try to have a punchline. Try to have a point and a punchline. It usually really helps get you through a perceived racist remark.
GM: You can’t just come back, if a joke fails, with, “These are jokes, people, lighten up. This is a comedy show.”
LL: Oh, my God! That’s horrible. I love when comics... If you have to explain that these are jokes, the jokes aren’t funny so the audience is right to have the angry dykes come after you. Because they’re fucking angry people, those lesbos, huh?
GM: They sure are. Did you notice a big difference when you went with the cartoonish look? The big dress and the hairdo.
LL: No, I did not. It was all sort of an accident. I was running from an audition to a show, one of these coloured shows we do here: urban shows with black people in the audience. And I was going and I didn’t have time to change and I noticed my set had a little more of an ironic thing to it. I thought that was a funny thing to play up, because I was dressed very Connecticut housewife kinda thing. So I said that’s kinda cute and they kinda liked that. They don’t see it coming. So then I just played it up. But it’s not like they liked me any more or less. I just think for me I got a kick out of it. When I get a kick out of things, people generally get a kick out of it. You know what I mean? You have to sort of like what you do up there.
GM: Can you separate your act and persona from yourself more now because it’s more like a character when you dress that way rather than just dressing like you normally would?
LL: No because whatever we do on-stage is part of our personality anyway. In my real life I don’t go around calling people names and stuff, but if you piss me off probably part of me would go there. Not necessarily to the racial thing but to the anger thing because all comics are really, really, super angry. I don’t separate it so much. I think it’s just part of my personality. It’s in there. It’s, like, one-tenth of who I am. And hopefully it doesn’t come out at the wrong times and keeps making me money.
GM: How do you approach the roasts? Because there is a line you don’t want to cross, right?
LL: What? What line?
GM: I don’t know. I guess being too mean, maybe, or too personal.
LL: No! If it’s funny it can never be too mean and personal. If you like the person you’re roasting, that’s ideal. You can’t roast somebody you don’t like because then it ends up just coming off mean. I had to roast Jerry Lewis for the Friar’s Club. And I like him. But who I hate is that Sandra Bernhardt, that fucking lesbian, because she doesn’t like me. I don’t know why. Because she’s a cunt and she has no audience. That possibly is the reason. So I never met her, but I had to do jokes about her. I couldn’t back down from it. She was there and it wasn’t an ideal situation because I had to make fun of somebody I didn’t like because people might have been able to tell I meant it. And I was like, “You know what? Fuck it. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna commit.” I’m a decent enough actress to pull it off so it worked. But ideally, like with Pam Anderson and people like that, you want to do it to people you really like and admire and are cute so it can’t go too far.
GM: Good Canadian girl, Pam.
LL: Isn’t she a doll? I love her.
GM: Literally a doll, yeah.
LL: She is! She’s cute, don’t be hating.
GM: No, not at all! Did Sandra Bernhardt talk to you after that or did you just ignore each other?
LL: I left. I had to leave early because I had a gig that night. It was an afternoon roast. But no, she totally gave me the fucking nasty look the whole time and I’m like, “Fuck it, bitch, I’m here for me.” Like, in my head I’m going, I’m here for me, for Jerry Lewis to go back to Hollywood and say how great I am. He requested I be there. He saw me on the Tonight Show and wanted me to be on it, so my feeling was she can just suck a hairy dick. And maybe if she did suck a dick she wouldn’t be so angry in the first place. Dykes have no sense of humour. Ugh!
GM: Those Comedy Central roasts are great. They seem like a lot of fun.
LL: They’re not.
GM: They’re not?
LL: They’re horrible. It takes like a month to prepare because you really don’t want to repeat any jokes. They always want me to go last because I’m the best. Everybody’s contract says they won’t follow me because they’re all pussies. So I’m like, okay, you know what? It’s a miserable night. We pull it off and try to make it look good and it always comes out doing well. But to be honest, it’s more work than anything in your whole life. So it’s fun for you guys to watch; it kind of ultimately blows for us to be there.
GM: Are there any others coming up?
LL: Yeah, and I’m not doing it.
GM: Because you said no or you weren’t asked?
LL: I had to say no because I got a deal with HBO for a sitcom. You know, I can’t do everything. I’m too busy and it’s fucking great to finally turn them down. I know that sounds shitty but guess what – you know what? Sometimes you just gotta move on.
GM: You got a sitcom! When’s that going to happen?
LL: I got a pilot deal. Jim Carrey’s the executive producer. Jim kinda discovered me in L.A.
GM: Another Canadian guy!
LL: I know. I love him. He was like, “Wow, I want to build a sitcom around you.” We met for about six months working on the pilot idea. We met with HBO and Showtime and sold it to HBO. They both wanted it but we sold it to HBO so we’re working on the pilot now. Plus I’m writing a book. I got a deal with Harper-Collins for my first book. So I just can’t do too much stuff so I just had to turn the roast down. But whatever.
GM: So we’re lucky to be seeing you.
LL: I think you are fabulously lucky. I think you should kiss my fucking ass when I walk through in that door. And I expect you to, mister. Mister Ghee.
GM: Is it tough playing Vancouver because we don’t have a large black or Hispanic population?
LL: You kinda do when it comes to my show. There were a lot of different minorities at the show. There were lots of dykes, I remember that. There were a whole lotta faggots. And there was enough blacks to go around. As long as there’s one, we outnumber him and he has to take it like a man.
GM: We have lots of Asians. Especially in Richmond, where you’ll be playing.
LL: That’s what I love! Is it because it’s a casino?
GM: No. Richmond just has a large Asian population.
LL: Ah. I tell you what, I enjoy those Asians very much so I will have to definitely bone up on my Asian insults. Or, as I call them, Orientals because I’m kinda old-school like that.
GM: I notice you said Down syndrome in your act but not mongoloid. I was surprised.
LL: I don’t even know what mongoloid is. Is that when they have an enormous head?
GM: That’s the politically incorrect term for Down syndrome. That’s what they used to say when you and I were kids.
LL: Oh! That’s right, I remember that. Well, I’m going to have to change that because I would not want to be politically correct.
GM: Is your persona based on anyone in particular? Anyone from your family resemble it?
LL: Half of my act comes from stuff my mom actually says and means, which I think is fantastic. She doesn’t know what she’s saying is racist but it’s hilarious. I definitely got my storytelling ability and my loudness from her. And my little element of class from my fabulous dresses from my father. Not that he wears dresses, but he’s just a classy guy.
GM: Are they all thrilled for your success or are they constantly explaining to their neighbours that you’re not really like that?
LL: No, no. They’re just really cool. Honestly, the only parts they don’t like is whenever I talk about sex and black men and stuff like that. Other than that they’re really into it. I was nominated for a Grammy last year for Dirty Girl and they came to the Grammys. So they’re like tickled to death, which is really cute.
GM: Does it ever amaze you what you can get away with? And do you take advantage of it to test how far you can go?
LL: Yes. I can go really far, so it just cracks me up the stuff I can say and people still laugh. It just astounds me that people have that kind of good sense of humour and they’re really cool like that. So yeah, I’m shocked every night what came out of my mouth and that they’re really into it. So trust me, I know it’s a blessing. It’s the only thing I got. It’s my only gift for life so I said, hey, this is a good thing that at least I can get away with something and get paid for it.
GM: But you were a pretty good writer. Good enough to work for Rolling Stone.
LL: Yeah, I know, but my heart’s not in it. Like, you know, look how you’re phoning in this interview. You know your heart’s not in it. You want to really be a mime.
GM: Was your goal growing up to be a writer or journalist?
GM: Or were you just a big music person?
LL: Yeah. Yeah, I was really into really faggy rock, like Rush, another bunch of Canadian freaks, Jethro Tull, Yes. I was a big prog-rock fag so I think I just really wanted to do something with journalism because I was a good writer. It was the only thing I could really master in school. So it just ended up that I did that for a few years and got bored. I interviewed everybody I ever wanted to interview and I was like, “Alright, I’m outta here.”
GM: Was that in the 1980s?
LL: Yeah, when all the hair bands and stuff were around. It was hilarious.
GM: Do you ever meet these people that you once interviewed and say, “Hey, look at me now?”
LL: No. Oddly enough, Rat I interviewed when their big video for Round and Around came out, and they were at one of my shows recently and they, like, waited in line to say hi. It was so cute. And I’m like, wow, I love that has-been rockers everywhere can say, “I like that bitch.” It’s very flattering.
GM: Rickles always has that overly sincere bit at the end of his shows to let everyone know that he’s kidding. You don’t really do that, yet everyone seems to get it anyway.
LL: Yeah. I mean, I do clap for everybody and I throw in, like, four more insults on top of it. It’s my way to fuck with them once again. It’s really the kind of thing where you go, oh, God, I’m not doing it apologetically. Rickles doesn’t do it apologetically. I do it more like, here’s my chance to call you a nigger one more time. So I don’t know what his intentions are but I’m sure it’s perfectly sincere. My intentions are good so hopefully people get that.
GM: Have you met Rickles?
LL: Yeah, twice, and he remembered me! The second time I met him at his book signing and he said, “You’re the comedian” and all his people knew me. I mean, that is so flattering. To have, like, Rickles and Howard Stern know who I am, I was like, oh my God, I have totally arrived. The first time I was on Howard Stern I was like, “I could die tomorrow and be okay.” Once you’re on Stern... Me, personally, that was my thing, that’s who I wanted to approve of me. So it worked. The fact that guy was in my corner, that guy makes people stars so it felt great.
GM: You didn’t grow up watching comedy, you’ve said, did you?
LL: Nope. Like I said I watched those roasts and that was it. My webmaster, who’s a big old dyke also, just sent me a box set of Carlin because he just died. I hate to tell everybody I’ve never seen one second of George Carlin’s shit. I got called when he died from like ten newspapers asking for a quote and I sounded like a retard because I didn’t even know what to say. I don’t care; he’s dead, he was in rehab, he was 70. What a shock he died, you know? Please.
GM: Was anyone an influence? Was it Rickles?
LL: Not growing up. Growing up it was just the roasts. After I was doing it for, like, seven years people would go, “You remind me of Rickles.” I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ve definitely heard of him from the roasts.” So I bought Hello, Dummy!, which was on CD, which was amazing, and I was like, “Aw, that guy’s the best!” So yeah, I really started to get it.
GM: I know you’ve been in a couple of Larry the Cable Guy movies and I know a lot of comics like to knock him. Are you embraced by the community or not? Where do you stand?
LL: Let’s put it this way: The minute you start making money, people hate you. I don’t like to brag but I’m fucking phenomenally wealthy right now. Okay? I’m not Jim Carrey wealthy, but I’m doing pretty good. The minute you start to be successful and you have, like, five Gucci bags and some Chanel scarves and shit, people like to come after you. Everybody was on my side until I started making money. Now it’s actually going the other way where people are starting to kiss my ass a little and I’m trying to figure out who really likes me and who’s a cunt. So some people hate on me because, like, I’m so old-fashioned, that fucking Rickles bullshit. But I don’t know. Whatever, man. Everybody has the right to do the kind of comedy they want to. They shit on Carlos Mencia because he’s successful, they shit on Dane Cook because he’s successful, Larry, Jeff. Anybody who’s making money and making big theatre audiences laugh, losers have to come after. So enjoy, because guess what? When they’re fucking making fun of me, or whatever, I’m writing a new joke and getting paid, son.
GM: It’s the same in music, too, isn’t it? When they’re an unknown alternative band, everybody sings their praises but as soon as they get a hit, they suck.
LL: Yeah. Rap’s the only honest thing because they just hate on each other in songs themselves. I wish there was like a song where I could fucking go after all these douchebags. But it’s alright, I just won’t thank them on my next album, that’s all.
GM: I see a big closer for you. A song where you insult all the other comics.
LL: There you go! Now you’re getting it!
GM: Lisa, thanks so much for calling.
LL: Dude, you’re really cool.
GM: So are you.
LL: No, seriously. Thanks for your good attitude and your good thoughts. It was really, really interesting to talk to you.
GM: Oh, thank you very much.
LL: Cool. Well, I hope we see you at the show.
GM: I’ll be there.
LL: Cool. Yay!
GM: Okay, bye.
LL: G’bye, buddy.