While 50-year-old former journalist Lisa Lampanelli is best known for hilariously offensive Comedy Central roasts, she has a variety of projects coming up in 2012. There’s her spot on Celebrity Apprentice (debuts Feb. 12 on NBC), which is already making headlines because of a spat over New York Knicks tickets. (She told TMZ that NBC treated her like Rosa Parks). There’s her role in the new David Chase film Twylight Zones (to be released in October). There’s her upcoming Broadway show and her return to Howard Stern’s radio show after a long absence. But in this interview, we take the Queen of Mean back to the basics.
How did you settle on the insult comic genre?
I just kept noticing that I could say a lot of stuff onstage that other people weren’t getting away with. At one point fellow comics would say, “I dare you to say this,” or “I dare you to say that.” I had a good rapport with the audience, and a good rapport with people in general. It just kept escalating. I was thrilled. Then the “Queen of Mean” term was coined, and there was no turning back.
Who are your comedic heroes?
I obviously love Don Rickles because he is best known for this type of comedy. Of course, Howard Stern is probably my biggest hero. He’s so real; he’s himself 400 percent. I just love that honesty that he comes to work with every single day.
What is your favorite insult?
I have to say I love when we do the roasts and good jokes are made about me. I’m always saying, “Can’t you take a joke?” and I get to do the same thing in return. My all-time favorite joke about myself was when Artie Lang was at his highest weight and his most disheveled looking, and he came up and he said, “If I had a dime for every time someone has said ‘Hey aren’t you Lisa Lampanelli?’” It’s good, and it’s funny. There’s a realness to it. I hate bad jokes that just aren’t funny. When a real good one hits, I love it. That one is way up there.
Do you ever have to explain your style of humor?
I know it sounds corny, I have this thing, “Never complain, never explain.” I just can’t be bothered explaining myself. If you don’t like the show there are definitely 800 other more boring people that you can go see.
Do you think of yourself as a female comedian or just a comedian?
Comedian. I would say 99 percent of my stuff can be done by a guy. It’s just funny. Some female comics talk about boring things.
What keeps you going?
I don’t know because last December, about a year ago, I talked to my husband about quitting. I wasn’t excited about anything anymore. It was getting boring because it was the same thing. Then I remembered that I wanted to write a Broadway show about my life and different things. I remembered that Billy Crystal had an amazing one-man show, and I contacted his writer. So, we’ve started working on this show that’s going to be on Broadway next fall. I think just the thing that keeps you going is doing something better and different. If I wanted to do the same thing all my life, I probably would have just retired because it’s boring. But now that I’m working on the Broadway show, the stand-up comedy has more life in it, the regular comedy has more life, because it’s just a different thing. It’s good. You have to work on more than one thing, I think that’s pretty much what it is for me.