She’s lost over 100lbs. since having weight-loss surgery in 2012, but stand-up comedian and self-described “Queen of Mean” Lisa Lampanelli still has a big, fat attitude and likes to flaunt it on stage. Currently on her Leaner Meaner tour, Lampanelli, 53, will swing by the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on February 21. During an interview with me, she talked about what it’s like to be skinny, if she thinks she will ever lose her edge, and having a show possibly hit Broadway.
The last time I interviewed you was in February 2013 and you had already lost a lot of weight. For this tour, it looks like you’ve repackaged your image and style, too. Would you consider this a rebranding of sorts?
No, I’ve never been calculating in what I do. I’ve never thought, “Oh, I think I’m going to reinvent myself.” I lost the weight and now I get to dress better and wear better clothes and have fun with it.
Explain the hair.
The hair was basically just me getting mad at having to get blowouts all the time and having a fight with my ex-husband who only liked long hair. One day I got in a little bitch mood and went and cut it all off.
You’ve always struck me as somebody with a thick skin, but in past interviews you’ve said you wanted to lose weight because you didn’t want to be the butt of the joke anymore. Were those jokes upsetting?
Well, when it comes to the [Comedy Central] roasts, those were not hurtful because most of them are usually jokes that are well written. But nobody likes to know there’s something they can fix about themselves, but are powerless to fix it unless they take drastic measures. If someone has a big nose, for instance, it probably hurts them to hear that. I don’t think it was the main reason I got surgery. I did it because I wanted to live longer and be healthy and have a lot more energy.
What have you learn about the thin culture now that you’re a part of it?
I learned that people still find things to pick on you about. I talk to thin women and sometimes they aren’t even happy in a size zero or a size two. That’s crazy to me because I used to be a size 24. I’m thrilled to death to be in single digits. Nobody seems to be happy where they are.
What kind of response have you received from your overweight fans, especially those who felt a connection to you because they saw you as someone they could identify with?
They still do identify with me. A lot of them ask me for advice now. They know that I’ve been there and had to struggle. They know how hard it is to be overweight. It’s not easy when you walk down the aisle of an airplane and everybody looks at you and thinks, “I hope that person isn’t sitting next to me.” That hurts your feelings. I think they can still identify with me after 32 years of struggle.
Does getting leaner really mean you’ve become meaner?
I think on stage it’s the same. I haven’t lost any of my edge. I mean, I do like to earn a living! Off stage I’m nicer than ever because I’m happier with myself. There’s a one-person show I’m developing that is not insult comedy. But I’m never giving that part up. If anything I’ll get even edgier as I get older like Joan Rivers and Don Rickles. I don’t think I’ll ever change even if I become a born-again Christian.
Is that one-woman show going to Broadway?
I got two Broadway offers I just couldn’t do because of scheduling, but I think that’s where it’s headed. It felt really nice when they asked me to do it. It was like getting asked to the prom by the quarterback.
How is it different from your insult comedy?
Well, I’m addicted to the laugh so there is still going to be eight laughs per minute. But it’s more storytelling. There are about four or five stories I tell that are more meaningful and emotional. You can sneak some of those moments in if the show is funny enough.
Do you think you could’ve done a show like that 10 years ago?
No. I think you work up to whatever you’re ready for. In five years who knows what I’ll be ready to do. I had to work up to this. I had to be brave enough to do this and that just came recently.
You’ve done a handful of Comedy Central roasts over the years. What do you think about them roasting Justin Bieber in March?
He’d be a great subject. Comedy Central is a business, so they want somebody who people are interested in – somebody people either love or hate. You’re going to get every teenage girl who still loves him to watch. You’re going to get every person on the planet who hates him to watch. It’s a great idea. There’s a lot to make fun of. He was a joke before he was badly behaved, so now it’s even better.
You’ll be in San Antonio the night before the Academy Awards. What did you think about the fact that all the nominees in the acting categories where white this year?
Well, I could joke around and say that they had “12 Years a Slave” last year so that should hold them over for a while, but I won’t. You know who was awesome was that Asian guy who played Kim Jong-un [in “The Interview”]. I want someone to say, “Enough of these black people complaining! How about getting some Asian complaints?”
Comedians have won Oscars in the past. Even Monique won a few years ago. Do you think you might have some of those dramatic chops to exercise some day?
Probably not. I mean, I think comedians are great actors. Most of them are better at dramatic acting than they are at comedic acting. If you’re a great standup, you’ve got a lot of angst inside. That translates really well to drama. You know, maybe someday. I have no interest in it right now. Maybe if I got a call saying that I got the role as Miss Hannigan in “Annie” I would do it. That actually sounds like fun.