She’s the “Queen of Mean,” a term of affection for one of the most successful insult comedians since Don Rickles practically invented the term over 40 years ago.
Known for her hilarious and politically incorrect viewpoint and uproarious jabs, Lisa Lampanelli conquered all as a comic, selling out iconic venues like Radio City Music Hall and appearing in her own television specials. Then she faced an unexpected problem—there wasn’t any ground left to cover.
“I had done it all,” Lampanelli says in a phone interview with the Bohemian. “Comedy-wise, it was like, ‘What else is there?’ I was going to retire.”
After seeing Carrie Fisher’s one-woman show exploring personal issues with addiction, Lampanelli was inspired to turn her humor inward. “I thought, ‘That’s some story.’ I had stories like that, history that a lot of other people go through.” And with that, Lampanelli’s new theatrical production,Fat Girl Interrupted, was conceived.
Intimately set and intensely personal, Fat Girl Interrupted is a complete departure from Lampanelli’s well-known standup work. The show is currently touring as a developmental piece before its eventual Broadway debut. Lampanelli returns March 7 and 8 to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, where she recorded her last HBO special.
The road to this rich and revealing show began several years back, when Lampanelli had a fortuitous lunch meeting with prolific comedy writer Alan Zweibel (Saturday Night Live,
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show). “It was at a Friars Club, one of those big round tables,” recounts Lampanelli. “As a total joke, I said to him we should do a show called Co-Dependence: The Musical. We kind of laughed about it, but he said, ‘If you’re serious, I would work with you. You’ve got a one-woman show in you.'”
Propelled by Zweibel’s encouragement, Lampanelli turned her lifelong issues with food, men and body image into a show that is by turns funny and poignant.
At the request of her agent, Lampanelli met with Broadway director John Rando, a Tony Award winner for his direction of the satirical farce Urinetown:
The Musical. “We shared an agent, so at first I thought this guy’s just going to be some douchebag they’re trying to set me up with. But he’s the nicest, most capable guy in the world. Brilliant. I call him the gayest straight man I know, because he’s so caring and sensitive. It was the easiest decision I ever made.”
The topics of the show are universal, Lampanelli says. “It’s something that doesn’t end till the day we die. I’m just trying to say, ‘Come on, don’t give up.'” If this is all sounding a little too Tony Robbins, fear not—Lampanelli is a professional comedian, after all. The Celebrity Apprentice bit is worth the ticket price alone, and the whole show runs with a comedic streak throughout.