Last Things First, Episode #1: Lisa Lampanelli
Welcome to Last Things First. This is the show that asks comedians about the historic lasts and firsts in their lives as their comedy careers have blossomed -- from young people with dreams to adult people living those dreams. Or still dreaming. Or still dreaming. Questions both big and small are asked and answered. It's hopefully both amusing and illuminating.
Today's guest is Lisa Lampanelli, well-known to audiences around the world for her dirty, dirty mouth, hurling insults while also promoting a very progressive agenda. You've seen her on several televised roasts for The Friars Club, Comedy Central and Howard Stern. In 2009, she published her memoir -- Chocolate, Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat and Freaks. And in 2012, she competed on the fifth season of Celebrity Apprentice seeking the approval of Donald Trump while raising money for charity. She has four previous hourlong comedy specials which debuted on Comedy Central and HBO -- her fifth, Back to the Drawing Board, premiered June 26, 2015, on EPIX.
In a wide-ranging conversation with The Comic's Comic for the first episode of my new podcast, Last Things First, Lisa Lampanelli said she wished she hadn't turned down The Comedy Central Roast of Joan Rivers in 2009 because she was working on other projects at the time.
"I probably should have taken that opportunity, because she's a real hero to all comics, so that was probably shortsighted, but clearly the chance to meet her would have been worth it all," Lampanelli told The Comic's Comic.
She certainly remains grateful for participating in her first roast -- The Friars Club Roast of Chevy Chase in 2002, which gave her not only her first TV credit but also her biggest break. And she still shows up regularly at The Friars Club in New York City, whether it's for a big gig or just for a meal and conversation with fellow Friars members. "It's my first choice of where to go to dinner in the city," she said.
Lampanelli recalled leaving journalism behind for comedy, and how her worst gig ever was her first paid gig, at a sportswriters benefit honoring hockey legend Gordie Howe. "I had no business doing it, other than my brother worked in the sports department at The Hartford Courant," she said (editor's note: fun fact, that's The Comic's Comic's hometown newspaper, and also where I interned the summer before my senior year of college). "I had only been onstage three times. Knowing that, I should have turned it down, because you really have to be great at an event like that -- 500 people in a room on a Sunday afternoon, you have to be a real pro. And I went up and just ate it. I tanked so bad that 25 years later, I still have not listened to the tape."
"Don't do anything that is so out of your league and beyond. Just kind of know your place and do what you do, and stretch a little bit, but don't go so outside your comfort zone that you just get a terrible reputation."
She did, of course, find her place and her point of view as an insult comedian for a new generation. Lampanelli explained how she found that style worked best for her onstage, how she learned to deal with hecklers -- both onstage and off, most notably with the Westboro Baptist Church -- and riding a fine line where nothing is out of bounds for her onstage. We also joked about the last time she ate food on the toilet, how she decided to undergo weight-loss surgery, whether she attends her high-school reunions, and moving forward with her plans for an off-Broadway show -- which she initially pursued because she'd considered retiring from stand-up!
Lampanelli also shares some great advice, whether you're an aspiring comedian or not, and no, it didn't come from Trump.
Lampanelli's newest stand-up special, "Back to the Drawing Board," on EPIX, is her most personal hour yet. Taped at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, she describes her weight loss through surgery and her divorce from "Jimmy Big Balls."
Here are a couple of clips:
Listen to Episode #1 of The Comic's Comic Presents Last Things First, with guest Lisa Lampanelli.