She may be known as the Queen of Mean, but self-proclaimed insult comic Lisa Lampanelli works hard to walk the dangerously thin line between funny and offensive. And she does it well, if regular appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts mean anything at all. Lampanelli is bringing her own personal brand of insult comedy to Tacoma when she takes the stage at the Temple Theatre Feb. 4.
Her only warning: you better have a sense of humor if you are sitting in the front row.
Although many of her jokes today are not for the thin-skinned, her harmless nature and good intentions are generally clear to most audience members.
“People out there can tell if you really have a lot of hate or anger toward certain groups of people,” Lampanelli said. “If you have that kind of anger, you’re bound to cross a line, but people can tell that I have no prejudice and embrace all types of folks. You have to have a certain amount of warmth and likeability so people know that you never truly mean what you say.”
The Harvard-educated, ex-newspaper reporter never actually set out to take on the comedy circuit but, like many others closing in on the end of their twenties, Lampanelli hit age 30 and had a revelation.
“It was basically one of those things that I wanted to cross off my list,” Lampanelli said of her initial foray into comedy. “I wanted to try something new, try it once and see if I sucked or not. Luckily, I started doing well and just kept at it.”
She has been on a steady climb to the top ever since, reaching an important milestone in 2009 with HBO’s “Long Live the Queen” and this year’s Comedy Central special “Tough Love.”
Her move from journalist to prime-time comedienne was less than tumultuous, but did call for a bit of…strategic thinking.
“It was a matter of getting laid off with a little bit of severance pay and unemployment coming in to really be able to work in comedy while also getting paid,” she said. “It was a matter of me behaving just badly enough to not get fired, but to get laid off instead. I worked the system for about six months and started doing a few gigs here and there for maybe $50 a night if I was lucky. It built up from there, and was really a matter of believing in yourself and keeping at it.”
Lampanelli counts Howard Stern as one of the primary influences on her humor, based on his ability to put himself out there and make fun of himself as well as others. “He’s the guy who always tells the truth about himself,” she said. “He’s always making fun of himself, which has definitely influenced me in that regard.”
In 2012, Lampanelli has several new projects in the works, including a part in a new feature film by David Chase (“The Sopranos”) and she is also writing her first Broadway show with Alan Zweibel, who wrote Billy Crystal’s one-man show. “It’ll be about my life, and my trials and tribulations,” she said. “The show is heartfelt and really funny at the same time.”
Even after reaching this accomplished level in her career, her success never fully set in – until the day she realized she was the answer to a question on “Jeopardy.”
“That was huge,” she said. “I thought I wasn’t nearly famous enough for people to get the question right. But, I’m really proud that I’m finally whittling my way into the subconscious of America.”
Lampanelli performs at the Temple Theatre at 7 p.m. Feb. 4. Tickets are $39.50, on sale now at www.ticketmaster.com.
Today’s hot topics according to Lisa:
Occupy Wall Street – I hate those Occupy people, they need to occupy a freaking desk. Suck it up, buttercup, and enjoy a paycheck like everyone else because you know, it really is nice.
Kim Kardashian – Poor Kim, you just couldn’t stick it out. I say be like Khloe and stay with your husband, at least longer than 72 days. I mean, if I can make it through my own first year of marriage, so can you.
Herman Cain – Herman Cain, you horny [bleep]! His biggest sin against humanity is running Godfather’s Pizza.
Jersey Shore – I did a roast with The Situation, and he was booed so loudly Marlee Matlin heard it. One thing I’ve always said about The Situation is that he needs to re-name himself The Defecation because he stinks.
Patrice O’Neal – Everybody says his death was so horrible, but really? You didn’t see that coming with the 400 pounds and the diabetic foot? I can say that only because we were very friendly, and the more you like someone, the more you can joke about them. Rest in peace, Patrice, you fat [bleep].