Lisa Lampanelli is a remarkable solo. Now retired from stand-up comedy, Lisa has reinvented herself from being the “Queen of Mean” (famous for roasting celebrities) to the “Queen of Meaning.” Peter McGraw talks to Lisa about her climb up the comedy mountain–from clubs to theaters to Radio City Music hall–and her retirement from stand-up in order to sit down and set aside her anger to help people. The episode was taped as part of the Solo Show on Fireside.
Listen to Episode #101 here:
The Queen Of Meaning – Lisa Lampanelli
This episode features a remarkable solo, Lisa Lampanelli, a stand-up comedian who became famous for roasting celebrities. She has reinvented herself from the “Queen of Mean” to the “Queen of Meaning.” We discussed how Lisa climbed the comedy mountain from clubs to theaters, to Radio City Music Hall, before retiring from standup to sit down and set aside her anger in order to help people.
I taped this episode as part of the Solo Show on Fireside, and as part of that Q&A, I captured some bonus material. What is a failure that Lisa has learned from? You can access bonus material in the private Solo community. Sign up at PeterMcgraw.org/solo. You can also check out the new website and as always, please rate, review, subscribe, and tell your remarkable single friends and family. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Let’s get started.
We’re joined by a remarkable solo, Lisa Lampanelli. For more than 30 years, Lisa toured the world as a standup comedian. She is best known for her skills roasting celebrities, such as David Hasselhoff, William Shatner and Pamela Anderson. Now retired, the “Queen of Mean” has tried her hand at life coaching and has launched a more fitting project, a podcast, Losers With A Dream, where she advises and occasionally roasts her co-hosts, Beau McDowell and Nick Scopoletti. Two fledgling Millennial comedians, as they talk about their feelings and their struggles. Welcome, Lisa.
I just un-muted myself. I took the opportunity to be technically savvy so that you can all hear my dulcet tones. How are you, Peter?
That is the first time I’ve ever been described that way. Thank you.
We are born for radio/podcasting/anything off-camera.
I’m thrilled to have you here. I am a long-time follower of your work. I spent many years studying comedy before turning my attention to de-stigmatizing single living and celebrating remarkable solos like yourself. Frankly, I’m more interested in your post-retirement life than your pre-retirement life.
That’s what I like to concentrate on because I always crack up when someone will start to interview me and go, “How’d you start comedy?” That’s been online for several years. You can read that stuff, but this stuff about how it’s very interesting to go from being high profile or even highly busy to barely doing anything. How much of a struggle can that be? It’s not as easy as people think.
I think a lot of people are unprepared for retirement. They don’t have a plan for it, and you write that you have gone from standing to sitting.
It’s wild to go, “What am I supposed to put into my life every day that brings me joy but doesn’t have the illusion of chasing something?” When we’re in our 20, 30, 40, even teens in some people, we are always chasing something. What’s the next thing? I’m going, “What do I do now?” That’s hard when you’re used to medicating with busyness as a lot of us when we have big careers or even small careers. We medicate with keeping ourselves busy and looking in that calendar and going, “Let me distract from my feelings by running around.” I did that for so many years and I’m like, “This is uncomfortable.” Clearly, I’m making the steps towards that.
Even setting aside this achievement orientation that people often have, especially connected to their careers and focusing on other things. I find, in many ways, it feels like a reversal. Good comedy and roasts are often built on reversals. If I may, an armchair psychologist for a moment, make an observation, and then I’d love to hear your reaction that you’re a bit of a paradox, I think, Lisa. You made your name being mean in a sense, but you also call yourself now as someone who has a savior complex, who seems focused on helping people. Has that always been the case? You had a stage persona and then a backstage persona. Where does the savior complex come from?
That’s interesting that you even bring it up because I’m working with a shrink who deals with trauma, and I never thank God, I had any trauma with a capital T, but I had many, as we all do, a million small traumas. One of the things that have gotten unearth was that I thought I could save my family by staying thin. As irrational as it sounds, when you dig deep, you’re like, “Mommy had all her hopes on me for being the thin one or the one who made it.”
Even if it wasn’t said, it was implied. It’s whatever we pick up as kids. I think I was always trying to save my family. When I was working with this therapist, he was like, whose picture comes to your mind now? Interestingly enough, it was one of the co-hosts of my podcast. It wasn’t both. It was one of them and I’m thinking, “Why him?” I’m like, “It’s because his mom died when he was six.” It’s all connected.
I always had the savior thing and the way that manifested in comedy was I was trying to save them by what Jim Carrey calls. He calls comedians freers of other people’s concerns. You free them over their concerns. When you’re on stage, they don’t think about their problems. I think that’s what I tried to do subconsciously for many years.
I was like, “Now, I could do it in a more overt way.” Through my podcast, Losers With A Dream, I can be like, “Here’s how to help yourself but we have humor with it too.” I don’t think it’s very healthy to have a savior complex. I’m trying to get out of it as much as I can and get more balanced. I do it on the podcast and then you don’t have to save anyone else.
I’ve listened, and you’re in your element with these guys. It’s a wonderful dynamic that the three of you have. It’s incredibly authentic, fun and feisty, not surprisingly. You tried your head as a life coach beforehand and that didn’t seem to work.
I am not someone who likes to go on a journey with people. I like to tell people what they’re doing wrong and have them fix it. That’s the worst quality in a therapist, life coach or anyone. I was taking this three-year coaching certificate program. After half a year, I was like, “This isn’t for me because I’m getting frustrated with these people and it’s none of my business to do that.”
No one has ever dragged me on a journey, therapist, coach or whatever. I’m going, “This isn’t the right thing.” The good thing about that coaching program was I got a bunch of tools that at least I’m able to use with these guys and with myself. I use them in small doses, but then we have humor too. I think what I tried to do was I over-corrected. How we do it is we date someone who’s dumb and then we date someone who is a genius. We date someone who’s fat and then we date someone who’s thin. We’re like, “Maybe the opposite isn’t exactly what I should be looking for.” I over-corrected, became too serious and now I’m like, “I can combine both.”
What is an example of one of these tactics you learned in life coaching school?
The exact exercises, like it’s boring in a journey and a lot of Byron Katie’s stuff about, is that story the truth about the story you’re telling yourself? Is it true? How would you act if that story wasn’t true? There are a lot of coaching exercises and we cut to the chase quickly in the podcast because it’s an hour, but it’s good to know those things because you go, “At least, I’m not yelling at these guys saying, ‘Change.’” I don’t think that’s healthy and I enjoyed yelling for a while on stage. I don’t think that’s what I’m supposed to do anymore.
I could see how you want to find that in-between. I love a good reinvention. I think that one of the things that prevent that oftentimes is people climb their mountain, get good at something and then play it safe. They keep doing the same thing over and over again. I had read in one of your interviews. I think you had mentioned how some comedians were envious of your decision to retire.
I was shocked. The only reason I knew that was that this documentary got made right before the pandemic. It was called Hysterical on FX and Nikki Glaser when they showed the clip of me saying on Howard Stern, retiring publicly, and they cut to an interview with Nikki. She’s like, “She got out. I hope I have the self-esteem to do that someday.” I was so moved because I think a lot of us get on that treadmill of like, “We got to keep going.” I did it for many years.
It’s like when you’re married or have a time partner and you’re like, “I invested three years of my life. Can I start over?” People forget you do have a choice. I know that it’s not easy. I know that I come from a privileged position of being someone who’s good at saving money and who doesn’t mind downsizing to one small house instead of four places to live. I come from a spot of privilege, but I think at least if people want to change a little, you can make a little change and every year inch towards that not being a stuck thing.
Your decision to do it on Howard Stern to do it publicly and broadcast it widely, I have to assume, was well thought out and that you wanted it to be big.
I wanted it to be where I couldn’t go back because we all have a tendency to let ourselves off the hook sometimes. Even now, we’re doing a couple of live podcast tapings at different clubs to see if we liked doing it. Someone was like, “I thought you retired.” I’m like, “No, this is us sitting down doing a podcast live. This isn’t us doing stand-up. Believe me, I’d rather eat a gun than do stand up again.”
I think it was a good idea, and also it was Stern because I knew Howard likes me. I knew I’ve been on and I knew he’d take it seriously and wouldn’t make fun of it or say, “You’ll be back,” or any of that crap because he struggles with the idea of retirement himself. Luckily, everybody seemed to hear that show and Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz and Wendy Williams called me. It got a lot of traction me going on these shows and talking about why I was getting out.
One of the other benefits of Stern is that he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions and he doesn’t give a puff interview.
He has become the best interviewer of our time. It’s nice that I was given that opportunity. I was shocked when they said, “Yes.” It was great because it was like, “You guys come on and we’ll do your last roast ever.” It was so much fun because I got to do that one last run and I was like, “I never have to do that again.”
After leaving that studio, you felt liberated.
I felt liberated when I decided to retire. I was like, “When you know, you know.”
How long have you been thinking about retirement? Did you start planning for it? What did that process look like?
It was subconsciously in there from the night I did Radio City, and I’ve told this story a lot. I came off stage at Radio City, and it was a big night for me. I remember the promoter, meaning nothing bad about it said, “Next Madison Square Garden.” Instead of having that effect of like, “Yeah.” It was like, “It’s never going to be enough.”
I’m ever going to be able to outrun myself. It’s all bullshit. Achievement means nothing. If I don’t work on myself internally, I’ll never be happy. That’s when the little seed got planted, but it took about ten years for me to be like, “I’m not enjoying this as much as I used to.” I remember calling my business manager two years before I retired and I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate the lifestyle. I don’t hate the stage. I hate that life.” He goes, “If you’re willing to downsize, you can save for two more years and you can be out.” I was like, “Done.”
My parents raised us to save, to live small and it felt so good. It was like freeing as F, but I did keep it secret until I saved and got out. What sucks is I still look for books about retirement and all that’s available seems is books about the financial part. It’s never about the emotional parts. People don’t know what it’s like to go from my identity as an insurance salesman, as a comic, as a whatever I am, postal worker, they don’t know. Your identity is wrapped up in your job and when you get out, you are at sea. It’s a very tough transition and it has taken several years now. It’s finally starting to feel balanced day by day. I fell back and then I got to rebalance.
Did you have to give up some rituals and habits that you had around comedy in order to start to free yourself and to change that identity? Did you get up in the morning and write every day? One of the things about comic life is, “I need to be at the club at X time.” Otherwise, you often have a very free day, and you create a structure to enhance your ability to make good comedy. Did you have those things in place and have to relearn them?
I was a theater comic, so I no longer for years have been walking into clubs and all that. I felt that was like, “What do I need to hit every night with this stuff?” I didn’t like that life. I hated it. I go and fly to the theater, fly into the town, check-in at the hotel, do that. I hated being away from home, my parents, family and friends. I was like, “Ugh.”
No, I couldn’t have been happier. I had no ritualistic bullshit. I was like, “All of it, done.” I always said, “I know what I’m done.” I know when I’m done with a house and relationship. I don’t go back and forth. I wait to make the decision until it’s like, “Thank you, God.” The decision is done and the walking away is great, but then you’re like, “What now? How to not clutter up my life with more busyness to distract from having a real-life again.”
Let’s talk about one of those episodes where you made a decision to move on, that was your divorce in 2015. You said that you suffered from both anger and boredom in that relationship.
I guarantee you, I was so angry with myself, and I don’t say picking badly as a slur to Jimmy because we’re still friends. I introduced him to his current wife and I went to the wedding. We’re friends. I’m like, “What is wrong with me that I keep picking friends to marry.” I go, “We were friends.” Everything was romantic in the beginning, but I go fast. I go in hard and I’m like, “Man.” We’re bored with each other.
I’m constantly sending him to like, “I have to work on a roast. Why don’t you go to Canyon Ranch for a month?” It’s not marriage. It was a friendship but then it’s like, “Shouldn’t we be with people or by ourselves that make us feel like we’re whole and we’re doing what we’re supposed to in life?” I knew he wanted someone who loves to cook and be Italian. Do this and go to concerts. I’m like, “Kill me.”
I’m happy he found somebody because I am not the marrying and girlfriend kind. I’m content and peaceful by myself. I can’t even imagine sucking someone into this world under false pretenses because I don’t want someone around ever. Part of that means I’m emotionally unavailable, but 50% is like, “Gratitude for being allowed to be by myself.”
Lisa, one thing I can tell you is you’re not alone. A Pew Center study asked single people about what their dating and meeting goals were. Fifty percent of American adults singles are not interested in dating either casually or seriously at the moment. It’s something no one talks about. There is a lot of stigma around not wanting it, not doing it well or wanting something unconventional.
I like to cite that statistic because what I like to say is it’s normal and appropriate to want to date. It’s normal and appropriate to not want to date. Not enough people have a license to say, “I’m not willing to compromise what I like to do and who I am in order to do this thing that I think everyone else is doing but are not.”
Michael Ian Black, I had met him casually and I asked him why I kept going after a sit-com idea like selling sitcoms because I sold three. I go, “Why do I keep going after that if I don’t want it?” He goes, “You’re living a dream, but it’s somebody else’s dream.” I think the dating and the romance part and I was a serial monogamist for way too long. From 13, when I had my first little boyfriend in high school to 40, I didn’t have a break in between. I was like, “This is total co-dependence for me.” I said, “Let me take a few years and not do this.”
What happened was I had the biggest compliment in the world from my sister-in-law a few years ago and she said, “I’d never seen anyone so good at being single as you are.” It’s because I realized the love of family, friends, activities, the podcasts, the dogs and the little house that feels warm, that’s enough right now. I’m not saying, “Never.”
I’m joking but I’m not when I’m like the best accessory a woman can have is a dead husband because you prove you’re cute enough to get somebody but you don’t have to live with them. Again, that applies to the dead wife too but I didn’t want to sit around waiting for Jimmy to die. It wasn’t fair to him or me. I wake up every day going, “I don’t want to change anything.” I think that’s fine, but society does make you wonder if there’s something wrong with you and that you’re emotionally not available. I will say, “I’m sure there’s part of it that’s that and that can be looked at when it’s appropriate.”
You might have found your rival in a comfortable single in me and many of my readers. You’re going to be a welcome member of the Solo community. I like this term, unapologetically unattached. You epitomize that.
I used to get asked a lot because I’d be on Jay Leno or people who are funny like Howard and everything. They go, “Don’t you even want to have sex or whatever?” I’d be like, “Honestly, women are lucky because we hit menopause at a certain age, and we don’t want to have sex anymore.” I go, “It’s saving me from even thinking about that.” I don’t know how anyone else gets around that whole thing. I’m lucky because if you ask me on a list of the top 200 things I want to do, it wouldn’t even occur to me to date or go out with anyone. I think that’s okay.
It’s more than okay. It’s completely normal and appropriate. The range of sexual behavior and romantic behavior is much broader than most people ever understand. For example, I did a previous Solo episode on asexuality, and our best estimate and I think this is a low estimate, is that 1 in 100 people are asexual. That is that they have no interest in sex. They might even find it aversive and this might be something they’re born and developed into.
They may have had experiences that have led to this, but I think that number is way higher, especially when you take into account the fact that you have, as you mentioned. I think this is especially the case with older women, who’ve done their thing, so to speak. Maybe not have always had the best experiences, maybe associate sex with having children and creating family more than pleasure or they frankly have other better things to do than hang out and date other old men. It’s like, “I’ve done that, enough.”
I was almost going to joke and say, “If I could eat your saliva, I’d probably do it,” but I don’t even think I would because I always joke around about sex. I always go, “Sex to me was always like Christmas morning.” It was like, “I have it once a year and it left me with a big mess to clean up.” I don’t remember ever having the best experiences of my life and I’m like, “Every Valentine’s day, I get a UTI and a pinched nerve in my neck.” I don’t need it.
I’m sure there is are a lot of unhealthy attitudes of mine being raised Catholic. I’m not blaming that, but having a very repressed mother and father. I’m sure there’s some of that in there. Again, I don’t count on, “I’ll never do this again.” Somebody said to me once, “Whatever’s occurred to you to make happen, you’ve made happen.” If that occurs to you that’s something you want to have happened, you’ll make it happen. I don’t believe in manifesting. I don’t think you see it, you’ll believe it and you can become it. I think if I know, I want it, I’d go after it.
I have no doubt, Lisa. When I look at your career and especially look at your post-retirement life, you’re no less ambitious. You’re on a growth path more so now than I think in some ways you were prior to retirement where you were doing the same thing, doing it well, living a mostly good life but clearly you identified, “I don’t want to get on planes. I don’t want to sleep in hotel rooms.” I think it’s wonderful that you freed yourself. I could see why Nikki Glaser would be envious of it because you’re living a remarkable life and recognizing that there is more than one way to live a remarkable life.
A big revelation came when some woman was interviewing me for her Master’s thesis about comedy and this is when I was still doing it, but not very happily. She said something, “What are your ten biggest accomplishments?” I listed them all. She’s like, “None of those are about your career.” It’s off the top of my head. The ten things fell out of my mouth like, “I finally cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for my folks.” “I had my brother and sister with me to this place or whatever.” I’m like, “Oh my God.” I’m listing accomplishments, the real stuff, and I don’t care about this achievement shit. That was my way of medicating myself, getting attention, proving myself worthy, and there’s nothing better than having nothing to prove.
If I may, for a moment, do a quick lesson on wellbeing that might help the readers understand this interesting transition you’re in. There are these four ways to live a good life. One is a life of pleasure, happiness, joy, laughter, good food and aesthetics. We know people who like that life. There’s the life of, as you already mentioned, some purpose. Now that might be achievement focus, “I want to build something. I want to be famous. I want to win the Nobel Prize. I want to stand on the stage at Madison Square Garden.
It might be meaning-based, that is, “I want to do something bigger than myself. I want to cure cancer. I want to create a family. I want to feed the poor.” It might be lastly engagement based that is, “I want to do creative pursuits. I want to make stuff and become fully immersed in the creative artistic problem-solving process.
A lot of comics from my experience have one foot in the engagement world. They’d love making jokes and that artistic process and the other one in the achievement world like, “I want to get big, get famous and do this well.” What I have seen and please correct me if you disagree is that you have shifted your purpose from achievement to meaning.
I see that in your podcast and pursuit of life coaching, even though you recognize it wasn’t the right fit for you. You’ve been able to do this because one of the nice things about comedians is they tend to be honest in terms of how they see the world. You have translated that honesty into honesty about yourself.
It’s funny with the meaning part because when I retired, I went on Elvis Duran Show, and he coined the phrase that goes, “You went from the Queen of Mean to the Queen of Meaning.” I was like, “I’m stealing that.” We’re very friendly. I was like, “He gets it and sees it.” I have to say, though, I think the word purpose is thrown around way too much and puts way too much pressure on people. It’s bullshit. Having purpose with a small P is as valid if not more than purpose with a big P and people drive themselves, including me in the past insane over, “I don’t have that big purpose. I’m not doing anything and enough. I don’t have the big P. What’s my P?”
They’re chasing this thing that doesn’t exist instead of doing everything with meaning and purpose. Let’s say I’m doing your show. Suppose you were new. You had no readers and I’m doing this because I’m doing you a favor. That’s not purposed with a P. That’s purpose with a small P of going, “I’m going to help this guy because people before me helped me when I was little.
What’s great is that you can go to Starbucks and do it with purpose. You can fix dinner for your dog with a purpose. We’re infusing it in instead of chasing the big P. People get tripped up on that big P purpose and the self-help industry has loved that. Doing every book in the world to take our money about finding your purpose. We don’t have a purpose. Guess what we have? To live purposely.
The world tells you, “You should be pursuing partnerships.” You were saying the world’s telling you, “You should be pursuing purpose.” What you should be doing is finding the thing that works for you.
I said to the guys when we started our podcast. I was like, “If we get no readers, that’s okay, or ten readers because they’re going to get something out of it.” They have different goals because they haven’t been famous yet. They don’t know that it is the answer to nothing. They have to find that out on their own journey, but my purpose is everybody who reads, maybe feels a little better, maybe feels less alone. I’m thankful I accomplished enough. Jim Carrey said, “Everyone should be rich and famous for a week to see that it doesn’t solve anything. These guys are going to have to see it for themselves.
I want to backtrack for a moment. You had talked about there are a lot of resources by which to prepare financially for retirement. There are not as many for preparing your identity for retirement. Let’s talk about those two things first. Let’s talk about the financial stuff because I think that’s important, especially when you’re solo. Solos have the ability to live small but they have the challenge of having to do it on their own.
In some ways, you have to be more judicious with your finances as a solo than as a partner person because you don’t have that hedge. You don’t have that other person to rely on if you lose your job and so on. When you started to think about your financial freedom, what are some of the things that you did and how different is your life now post-retirement than before?
I was lucky enough that I always had very moral and good business managers because they were vetted by people. I never had to guess about, “Can this guy be trusted to give me good advice?” Everybody should probably get a referral. I don’t get some guy out of the phone book. What I was raised as was, “You never have credit card debt.” You just don’t.
You never buy a car unless it’s cash and even if it’s a junker. Drive around in a $600 Nissan or whatever until you can afford the car, but pay cash. My parents always had that old-fashioned mentality because they were raised in the depression. Luckily, that stuck with me and I never lived above my means. My means were pretty damn big for a while, but nothing ever was, “That’s beyond.” It was always, “You can afford this.”
You have to also be willing to take the ego out of it. Let’s say you’re in a five-bedroom home. You have a normal life. You and your husband earn a couple of $100,000 a year and you want to retire. It’s like, “Can our ego withstand moving to a two-bedroom apartment?” You have to be able to be okay with that. When I got out, I was like, “I got to sell one house. I got to buy my parent’s house because I always wanted to live here where I grew up and get rid of apartments and another house.
Eventually, you get to the point that it’s not tied to your identity to be like, “I’m the chick who owns all these shoes and all these bags.” You start working on what has meaning and those things never made me happy. I don’t think they’d make anybody happy, to be honest with you. They’re all Band-Aids for what ails us with lack of connection. Suze Orman had that right all along well. She’s an old school and the chick who told us that all along.
You’re echoing a previous show that I had with my financial person, Money Amy, and we talked about the steps to financial freedom. The credit card stuff was top of the list and it’s important to do. As I said, I like a good re-invention. You’ve also changed your look. The Lisa Lampanelli that I used to see on the Comedy Central Roasts looks like a different person than the Lisa I see now. How did that evolve? Was that part of the retirement play?
What had happened was after Celebrity Apprentice, I was like, “This struggle with weight and food has got to end.” It still hasn’t. It never does end. You’re always one meal away from going off the deep end, but it’s a daily practice. I was like, “I’ve done every diet exercise program in the world.” There wasn’t anything I hadn’t tried. I was like, “Okay.”
At the time, my husband was like, “We have to talk about weight loss surgery and get rid of this because we want to live longer.” Luckily, I was able to keep most of the weight off even through the pandemic, and that was pre-retirement but by a couple of years. I think a lot of it was going, “We hit age 50, we got to start getting our S together.
That’s stuck for me, the daily struggle about, “How are we going to eat now? Let’s make sure we do our best because we can only do our best.” Somebody brought up to me how that old Lisa with the dresses, pair and everything, it was a drag in a way. It was dressing up and it was a character because it’s more shocking when words that are crazy come out of the mouth of someone who looks like Beaver’s mother from the ’50s. I, unfortunately, think I turned back the clock so much that now I dress like a nineteen-year-old, but I’m like, “So what?” I lost the weight. I might as well have some fun with it.
I never thought about that contrast of Leave it to Beaver, June Cleaver roasting Hasselhoff. That’s an interesting contrast.
It’s a complete accident because one day I do a lot of urban shows. When you have a Black audience, White comics don’t usually go up, but I was badass and I wasn’t famous yet. I was like, “Black hosts used to love that I could kill with a Black audience. It’s hard.” It’s a different animal and I loved it because I was like, “That makes me special.” I’m still proud of that because I can connect with everybody.
I remember one day I showed up at a show. I was running in for my audition where I had to dress conservatively, and I noticed it was funnier because I was dressed conservatively. It goes, “I’m rolling with this.” I ended up doing the ultra-conservative outfits. It’s very cool how you notice things and evolve.
That’s such a classic comedian thing to do is to notice how a phrasing, an attitude, or an outfit can enhance the comedy, and then lean more into it because the laughs are number one. Now you’re wearing the clothes that you feel most comfortable in. Is that fair to say?
I am going through all the slides in the old days if people don’t know. When you took photos, you would get slides, not pictures. You’d need a projector. I’m going to do a slide show for my nieces and nephews on Christmas. I saw a picture of myself. I think I was probably seventeen and I was in a Marshall Tucker Band t-shirt. I had a perm, but it was cute. I was like, “I look so much still like that chick.” I was like, “That was the real me before everything got messed up.” Before, I had to go to college, away from my family and do all these achievements. I was like, “I reverted in a good way.” I felt cute.
Regression is not necessarily bad. It depends on what you’re regressing to.
The only part of comedy I remember loving unconditionally was the first three years that was open mic-ing. Teaming with other comics and going, “Let’s write jokes.” That’s why I did my podcast because of the two guys on my show. We met because we were writing jokes and helping each other. I’m like, “Isn’t it funny how we can take one part of our career that was the beginning because it felt the best, and now I’m doing it again?” Regressing isn’t a bad thing. It’s something that we go, “I remember the good parts and I recreated it.”
This fits this moniker, the Queen of Meaning is how much of an ally you are for the LGBTQ community. Where’s the evolution of that allyship for you?
I probably started back when I was protested by the Westboro Baptist Church. This horrible organization that protests against anyone with a gay following, or they did these horrible things that I won’t go into to the gay community. I had done a show. I knew they were protesting me and I said that I would donate $1,000 for every protester who showed up. I would give that to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in their name to screw them over. That felt great because we were like, “$50,000 in your face, mean gay haters.”
When I went on Celebrity Apprentice, I had earned $130,000 for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I volunteered a bit at their headquarters in the city. I’ve been on the AIDS Walk, Gay Pride, floats and things like that. I probably, in the last few years, have dropped the ball. Now, I do some things for The Black Fairy Godmother. I’m doing more stuff with the protesting for Black Lives Matter. I shifted a little unintentionally, but I hope to still reach people who come to me for my voice. It’s something that I try to do on a daily basis as opposed to hearing some big statements.
I want to finish by asking you a question about this podcast, Losers With A Dream, because it fits this moniker, the Queen of Meaning. These two Millennials, these Losers With The Dream, Beau and Nick, how would you describe your relationship with them? Is it a little bit maternal? Is it like we’re friends and allies? It sounds like it’s like a mix of a variety of things.
I’m included with that Losers With A Dream. I’m a loser. We’re all losers. We all have some dreams that didn’t come true or that we want to come true. I’m as much of a cup as them. It’s inclusive of the three of us and at first, I thought it was going to be podcast buddies, and I read them the riot act and coached them.
It evolved into this weird friendship where I liked them. They’re in the favorites on my phone. Me and Beau had a big talk about his relationship, this and that. I’m like, “How did we end up friends?” I’m shocked because they’re 30. They’re guys and straight. I was always friends with women and gay men. I’m like, “This is cool.” I feel like I’ve evolved going, “I can include other people.” Are they going to have life wisdom I do? No, but they are equals in the sense that they’ve lived some trauma like deaths at an early age or addiction.
I’m like, “I guess they’re not patients. They’re peers.” I had a shrink once who said, “Everybody in your life is either a patient or a peer. I’m like, “They’re peers now. It’s weird.” I like it. We did an episode on fear of loss and that came up because I was so scared to lose them as friends if the podcast doesn’t work. I’m like, “Wow.” Fear of loss keeps us from putting both feet in like a relationship, a career or whatever. I’m like, “I’m not going to hold back,” but there’s that scary thing of us losing what we built in any respect. I liked them. It pains me to say that I like Beau and Nick.
I’m on the other side of 50. I think having young friends and peers is incredibly important in terms of staying in touch and even being able to revisit different stages in your life. I’m a big believer in diversity in the same way that you are, and that could be sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, but also age is one that I think is often overlooked. I want older friends and I want younger friends to connect with a wide array of people.
I do find the people that annoy me most are my age. I’ve said it, and I’m sure I’m being completely aged, but I found a lot of people my age to be close-minded. To not be woke and to be stuck in their attitudes of like, “The most important thing is what I pay in taxes.” No, it’s not, asshole. It’s that people are dying.
I think when the whole Black Lives Matter movement was so huge, I was like, “How come everyone I like is 30 to 40 or possibly younger.” It’s because they’re open-minded. I’m sure there are people our age that is cool. I find a lot of the people I hang out with are under 50 and I’m like, “Whatever it takes to keep me open-minded.”
Lisa, you have a youthful soul, which is very clear to me. This has been a great pleasure to be able to get to know you. You live an unapologetic life, whether it be as a solo or not. I find that to be truly inspirational, and I feel very fortunate to have a chance to chat with you.
Thanks for having me.
- Lisa Lampanelli
- Losers With A Dream
- Hysterical on FX
- Howard Stern – Lisa Lampanelli Tells Howard She’s Retiring From Comedy To Become A Life Coach
- Asexuality – Past Episode
- Money Amy – Past Episode
- Gay Men’s Health Crisis
- The Black Fairy Godmother
About Lisa Lampanelli
For more than 30 years, Lisa Lampanelli toured the world as a stand-up comedian. She is best known for her skills roasting celebrities, such as David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, and Pamela Anderson. Now retired, the “Queen of Mean,” tried her hand at life coaching and has recently launched a more fitting project, a podcast, Losers with a Dream, where she advises (and occasionally roasts) her co-hosts, Beau McDowell and Nick Scopoletti, two fledgling millennial comedians as they talk about their feelings and struggles.
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