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Queen of Mean Lisa Lampanelli playing Sudbury 'for the dough'

No one is safe in the insult comic's show, especially not Trump
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Known as the Queen of Mean, comedian Lisa Lampanelli headlines the LOL Sudbury comedy festival March 26 at the Fraser Auditorium. Supplied photo.

"Dude, I'm so excited for the next four years!" says Lisa Lampanelli by phone from Los Angeles.

Known as the Queen of Mean — a self-coined moniker the 55-year-old comedian calls her badge of honour — Lampanelli is referring to the presidency of Donald J. Trump, with whom she's "fortunately" had a lot of personal experience.

"I was going to say 'unfortunately', but really it's 'fortunately' because I now get to do so many jokes about him," she laughs.

Lampanelli, who headlines this year's LOL Sudbury comedy festival with a show at the Fraser Auditorium March 26, has been a part of two much-publicized roasts of the reality-star-turned-commander-in-chief, and was a contestant on the fifth edition of Celebrity Apprentice.

While she says Trump's election to arguably the highest office in the world is "clearly a horrible thing," it's a good time to be a comedian.

"After the election, all my gay friends and female friends were crying when he won, and I thought 'I'm going to pretend to be sad,' but really, I love it," she says. "Our purpose as comics is to point out crazy stuff and comment on it. He's perfect for that."

Trump has become a big part of her act.

"I've taken my Trump roast to the extreme because I figure I could just keep adding to this every week with all the crazy things that are happening," she says.

Lampanelli loves playing to Canadian audiences, calling them the most polite people she knows, but, admittedly, had never heard of Sudbury until the folks at LOL Sudbury came calling.

"I remember my manager sending me the date for this show and she said 'I've never heard of this town, but the money's good'," Lampanelli says. "All you've got to tell me is the money's good and I'm there. What am I, stupid? People say to me like 'Why are you playing Desmoines?' as if I want to be culturally stimulated, like I want to see the sights. No, dude. I want the dough!

"I'd go to Africa if I knew I was going to make money."

Lampanelli says her show will feature her classic signature — making fun of people — from minorities, to homosexuals, to audience members, and, of course, Trump.

"There will be a lot of making fun of our government, which I think you people will love because your country has the upper hand right now," she says. "Dude, like I'm sorry we all love you so much right now, but you're the better country right now."

Lampanelli started her career in comedy later than most. It wasn't until her early 30s that she gathered the courage to enroll in a six-week comedy class in Connecticut, her home state at the time.

Gradually, she started to hone her trademark comedic insults in her daily interactions.

"I slowly started to make fun of people and they wouldn't get mad," she says. "And then I'd get emails from people saying 'Make fun of me, me and my gay friends are sitting in the front row' or 'My black husband and I are coming to the show tonight. Please make fun of us.' And I thought, wow they're really getting what I'm trying to put across."

For Lampanelli, it's all about intention. She sees her edgy material as a weapon for inclusion. No one is immune from her attacks on stage and, ultimately, she calls herself a "connector of people.”

"I make fun of the people I love and I kind of like to make fun of everybody," she says. "With comedy, I connect people together like 'Wow, we're all the same,' and Lisa's making fun of herself and me, so that connects us. And I think the audience senses that because if they didn't, they wouldn't keep coming back.

"I think a black person would rather have someone say 'Hey, look at that black person over there' rather than 'keep that African American man out of my neighbourhood.'"

Believe it or not, Lampanelli's first career was as a journalist. 

Reporters have a reputation for having a dark sense of humour and a newsroom can sometimes take on the feel of a comedy club, but Lampanelli decided early on that she wasn't going to be the next Tom Wolfe or Bob Woodward.

"I was winding down the journalism knowing that I would be good enough at it but I'd never be one of the greats," she says. "I'd never do really great investigative journalism. And I thought, this isn't meant to be."

In her daily life, Lampanelli likes to poke occasional fun at her friends and the people she meets. But at the end of the day, her stage persona is just that — an act.

"I always hear back from people — whether it's on Twitter, or just people at a party — saying 'Oh, she was so nice. She didn't make fun of me at all.' And I think, no way," she says. "I get paid to do that. Just being the real me is a lot more fun off-stage. Yeah, we'll have some fun and laughs, and if there's one thing I can't resist is if a guy says 'Here's my phone. Can you call my wife and call her the c-word?' I'll totally do it. That's fun.

"But in normal life, it's cool to just be myself."

Outside of comedy, Lampanelli has become known for her philanthropic work, particularly in the LGBT community. She says her activism stems from a feeling of having never really fit in herself. She had few friends in high school and college "was a disaster."

"I felt like I just didn't fit," she says. "And that's why I'm gravitating towards all these groups of people who don't quite fit yet. I mean, I'm not gay … yet. Who knows what'll happen when I'm 70? I might just decide to if I don't find the right guy. 

"But, we don't really fit into the kind of cookie-cutter sorority, fraternity lifestyle. Let me connect with those people."

Comedy hasn't always been an easy profession for women. It's seen as a bit of a "boys club." While Lampanelli acknowledges that, it hasn't really been her experience.

"I've always felt that I was one of the lucky ones because it was easier to get noticed," she says. "There's like 50 funny straight white guys on the bill that night and then there's like two funny women and I'm of course going to be the funnier one. 

"It's like, 'Who's this? She's doing edgy stuff' instead of these poor white guys who are probably still slogging it out somewhere."

Lampanelli's act has progressed over the years. She finds herself becoming more introspective and revealing in her material.

"I've learned to be honest and truthful with people during my act because I find the response so much better," she says. "Talking about my weight loss, my weight struggles, my divorce, my true-life experience with Trump, you know, behind-the-scenes stuff."

To further that end, she's now worked a completely unscripted Q and A into the end of her act, where she invites members of the audience to ask any questions they want. It adds a freshness to the performance because, as Lampanelli says, "I have no idea what they're going to ask."

Lampanelli's Sunday night show starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Fraser Auditorium (Laurentian University campus). Tickets are $55 plus H.S.T. and are available online at www.lolsudbury.com, by calling the LOL Sudbury box office at (705) 688-1234, by visiting in-person at 40 Larch Street, Unit 103, or at the venue one hour prior to the start of the show.

Fans will be treated to Lampanelli's classic, sometimes shocking, brand of insult comedy and, of course, lots of Trump.

"For some reason, since I roasted him a couple of times, he probably thinks we're friends and doesn't tweet angrily at me," she laughs. "So I get to keep saying all this crazy stuff and don't get into a war with him.

"Hopefully that'll be the case for the next four years. Hey, as long as I keep getting away with it, I'll keep doing it."


Callam Rodya

About the Author: Callam Rodya

Callam Rodya is a New Media Reporter at Sudbury.com working on camera and behind the scenes to bring you all of today's top stories.
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