Lights on: Comedian Lisa Lampanelli on losing weight and winning herself

By : Aaron Alper
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Insult Comic Lisa Lampanelli, will be performing in Orlando at the Hard Rock on January 20 and Clearwater at the Capitol Theatre on January 21 and spoke with the Watermark to discuss her new play Stuffed, how weight loss has made her a better both as a person and a comic, and shows that “Comedy’s Loveable Queen of Mean” is actually, deep down, really very nice.

Watermark: Hello, Lisa, it’s such an honor.
Lisa Lampanelli: Oh my God, for me it is! I get to talk to another gay! I got on a phone with a straightie this morning and all I did was think about you going, “Where are the gays? I can’t stand these straight people.”

I was listening to you on Howard Stern the other day, and you were saying the straighties have been attacking you.
Well, yes they have. It’s never a gay guy who says, “Don’t make a gay a joke.” It’s always some straight women who lost her best friend to AIDS, and I am like, “You’re probably fat so it doesn’t matter.”

So I just read your new play Stuffed got extended for another week. You must be so excited.
I am! Please ignore my badly behaved dog in the background.

That is so funny you say that. I just adopted one yesterday and that is him in the background.
Aw! My little bitch is an adoptee, so he needs attention every second even though he’s six year old. He’s gay too, by the way. I got him all the clothes and I make him pee like a girl. It’s the cutest thing ever. Anyway, it got extended and yes, I am so excited. I have been through so many years with the food crap and I just needed to say something about it. There’s so much built towards hate with being fat; if you’re fat that means you’re lazy, or you could be doing better-there’s a lot of complex issues that go into food whether it be anorexia or compulsive overeating. I thought, “OK. We’re doing a play about it. It’s going to be funny but also touching and we’re going to straddle that fine line between giving people a laugh and helping them understand the pain in the ass it really is.”

It truly is. I am one of those people. I actually lost 150 pounds myself. I went from being 400lbs to being a personal trainer so I understand the journey and I find it fascinating that you say you’re surprised to find that a lot of your audiences now are men.I know! I thought it was a show for women and gay men. Then the last few performances, and maybe it’s because I have kind of a straight guy following, but they’re coming out and listening and thinking, “I have to tell this to my mother, my daughter, my sister, my wife.” You know when it’s like you try to reach one audience and another just happens? It’s kinda cool. I know the readers of your magazine understand the struggle.

Yes. They say it’s a play for women but even still there is a stigma with straight men where you can’t talk about weight because feminine issue.
Oh, yeah. I agree. I think a lot of these straight guys will say they’re trying to understand women more but it will end up having them go, “Wow. I’ve been feeling bad about myself all these years too.” I always said whoever responds to it responds to it, but I am just glad it’s resonating with people. I’m going to be honest with you: I haven’t done one performance where people said they were disappointed or bored.

This is going to sound kiss-ass, but your autobiography Chocolate, Please! really helped me, especially the chapters with the expensive retreats and OA meetings and what the privileged people get with that. This seems like an organic growth. Did you anticipate you were going to become more, for lack of a better word, serious?
What happened was I was told by a really great writer Alan Zweibel, who helped Billy Crystal write 700 Sundays to not be funny, that the funny will come. You have to put the truth in first. If it was just some frivolous show about what we like to eat or all the crazy diets, that’s fine, but I don’t you will leave the theater feeling less alone than when you came in. His advice was to write the struggle in a serious way. You know what I think happened? I think I got more confident and thought “I can let it loose more.”

Especially when there are no cameras on you.
There is nothing that comes into my mind I won’t say. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but the audience seems to like it.

I can see you becoming the insult comic/weight loss guru.
Thank you for saying that. I think the weight got a wall out of the way. Then I started adopting dogs. Then I let more friends in, more family, even just letting someone hug you. It’s the things you don’t think will be huge that end up being that. I feel like I can be myself more than I had been before. And it’s a bitch to keep off.

Oh yeah.
Every single day, ugh, I got to write down what I eat, I gotta run, I have ask why I am eating emotionally.It’s just constant. But I am trying to fight those demons and hopefully winning.

It’s like an addiction but it’s a drug that you need to live.
It’s a really complex relationship, and there is one story in the play about the girl who is anorexic who has the voice that tells you look horrible, that you’re not good enough … I don’t remember losing all the weight and thinking, “Look at me, I am gorgeous.” It still haunts you, and you have to say, “I’m enough,” which is hard every day when you’re out in the world. Oh my God, I will literally look at myself day to day and think “Did I gain 20 pounds overnight or am I just seeing something?” Body dysmorphia, even when you’re not anorexic, is a real struggle.

So what is the plan for the play?
Well, that it got extended is a really good sign. I intend to open it next year in a permanent place off-Broadway and having it run like the Vagina Monologues with a rotating cast of celebrities doing it. And now the stand-up is even more fun because it feels like an escape from the play. I can do the play, and then dip into comedy and do whatever I want!

You successful comedians are road dogs. I couldn’t do it.
You know what’s funny? I love being home more than anything because, I think it was Dave Grohl who said this, once your house starts getting nicer than the hotels you want to stay home. I wish people could come to my house and I could do a show there. But I have nothing to complain about when it comes to travel. There are touring comics who have to play clubs and be in towns they don’t like for a week-we kinda fly in nice, stay in a nice place, do a show in a big place, and then leave, say, “Lisa, never complain.” If I ever am complaining, somebody needs to smack me.

Tickets for Lisa’s shows are available at InsultComic.com/schedule.

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