November 30, 2008

Lisa Lampanelli insults everyone Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre

It is Lisa Lampanelli's dream that, for Saturday's show at the Auditorium Theatre, she'll be greeted at the door by dozens of angry Jewish people.

If so, they may have to push their way past the angry Puerto Ricans, angry African-Americans and probably the angry deaf people who remember her last appearance here in 2007 at the Rochester Institute of Technology, which she refers to as "that deaf-retard college."

Lampanelli proudly wears her label of "Queen of Mean."

The insult comic. Racy. Raunchy. Diva of the taboo. Let's browse through the Lisa Lampanelli options on YouTube. There's "Lisa Lampanelli on Sexy Bedroom Talk." "Lisa Lampanelli on Gay Prison Sex." "Lisa Lampanelli on Clay Aiken ...."

Trashing Clay Aiken? Calling from her Manhattan apartment, Lampanelli was openly envious when I told her I'd received 250 e-mails from Aiken fans after a particularly brutal review I wrote of his Jukebox Tour.

So yeah, we hit it off. She also twice called me gay and asked, perhaps sizing me up as a potential suitor, "Do you still make $12,000 a year in that business?"

She ought to know. The Connecticut native has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University, and worked at Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics and Spy in jobs ranging from assistant and copy editor to fact checker.

The ink's still running in her blood, with Lampanelli helpfully suggesting questions, instructing me as to when to use a hyphen with compound modifiers and insisting I research the RIT controversy.

I looked it up, and she was correct. While promoting her show last year, and informed by Brother Wease during a radio interview that there were many deaf students at RIT, she said, "Don't you think deaf students could be maybe just retarded, and they're trying to sneak by saying they're deaf?"

Lampanelli remains unrepentant. In fact, she repeated the comment to me last week, adding, "That was my first protest ever. Which, of course, made ticket sales go through the roof."

Lampanelli also noted that, for a performer who relies on telling jokes and selling CDs, deaf people are "not exactly my target audience."

Interviewing comics is a tough job.

You never know if you're getting their show or the real person.

I pointed out to Lampanelli that the late George Carlin, who I interviewed several times, was always very serious on the phone. Lampanelli agreed. "All comics are, Dude."

Now she thinks my name is Dude.

"When you see Don Rickles and Howard Stern in a diner," she says, inadvertently or not naming two comics who seem to be her primary influences, "they're not in there yelling at the Puerto Rican cooks. That's their stage thing, it's not their persona. They don't do that in real life. I have to sell some tickets."

If saying offensive things during a 20-minute phone interview is marketing, Lampanelli's show should be a sellout. She's funny, although some of the stereotypes she chooses feel more dated than illuminating. Asked about Barack Obama: "We can look forward to some change," she says. "because that's what America needs, another black man asking for change." Also somehow coming up was Hitler: "He was well-intended," Lampanelli says, trying to amp the anger. "Please put that in."

OK, done.

Sometimes she gets away with it because so often Lampanelli is her own target.

"I have no passionate feelings about anything except myself," she says. She's writing an autobiography, and agrees that many comics seem to have self-esteem issues. "I'm a freaking nightmare," she says. "A co-dependent who yells at people. And I'm terrible in bed, too."

Lampanelli says she's been in rehab three times, twice for over-eating. Maybe it's working. She says she's lost 30 pounds. That is, she adds in her unrelenting style, "thin enough to date white guys."

While life's not yet grand, "I'm inching toward it," she says. "I'm no longer dating horrible guys. I'm just dating bad guys. I'm no longer eating emotionally."

How did she land on this uninhibited style? Encounters, like the one seven years ago at a comedy club in New York City. "A guy in a wheelchair told me, 'Don't be afraid to make fun of me, just because I'm in a wheelchair,'" Lampanelli says. And writing for weekly arts magazines, "that's where I learned to be free with vocalization techniques. By the time I was age 37, I let it all fly."

Even the n-word. Taboo for all except rappers. Just ask Michael Richards. "I used to say that's the one word I don't say," Lampanelli says. "But then I decided, 'If you can't say every word, you can't say any word.'"

I can't say I understand the logic there. But in a defense that seems a little more familiar, Lampanelli also suggests, "Anybody who really believes the freaking stereotypes is freaking stupid."

Perhaps, although Lampanelli certainly won't be turning away any stupid people who buy a ticket. You may be smart enough to laugh, but we've also learned that there are plenty of stupid people out there who could take her stereotypes as gospel.

Source: Democrat and chronicle

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