Lisa Lampanelli made her name in the comedy world by making fun of people. That’s all fine and dandy, and it’s not something she’s going to stop doing (you’ve been warned), but her stand-up act has undergone a recent transformation that she considers purposeful and resonant. Now she’s incorporating more of what she doesn’t like about herself. She runs through her struggles in a funny way that really affects and connects her audience. Lampanelli explains in this video interview how in comedy, as with any form of storytelling, it really makes a difference when you incorporate frank and honest personal testimonies. Not only does it make you more endearing, but also it sends an important message to those who share your struggles: “You are not alone.” Lisa’s fifth comedy special, Back to the Drawing Board, premiered Friday, June 26, 2015 on EPIX.
Lisa Lampanelli: I found in the last year I decided I wanted to connect with people more by showing them who I really was instead of consistently going after the audience as an insult comic. I still do insult comedy. I love it. But I've been asked for so many years, "Hey what's the deal with the weight-loss? What's the deal with your personal life? What's the deal with the divorce? What's the deal with like these supposed, like, spiritual retreat to go on?" Because I'll throw little things out about it. And I go people really want to know what makes us tick. People might like to know about our struggles too. So I've decided to talk a lot more about those things and in my new special and probably my specials from now on, I'm just going to talk more about what I've been through as far as an evolution in the last few years and also show people that they're not alone in their struggles too. Because I think that super powerful is going — I struggled for 32 years with my weight and I had no other choice but to get this surgery and get weight loss that way, that extreme. So I think people go oh I'm not alone; I'm not the only one. And that feels good. So that's how I'm challenging myself lately and I think that's enough of a challenge because it's like wow I'm really exposing what's wrong with me. I found that ever since I decided to open up a little more and show people who I am without being heavy-handed and without sort of banging a message home of like, "Hey I'm going to help you through my struggles." Just by being funny about them and bringing them to light, I think it's not a coincidence that the minute I started doing that I started getting standing ovations again. I had stopped getting standing O's about two years ago and I was like I wonder why. Like I'm still super funny. But I think people were like okay, you know, that's cool. We love Lisa. That's fine. But there's something about opening up a little without them even kind of tangibly being able to figure out how that they started just jumping up at the like revelations. And I okay, this is working for them; it's working for me; and it makes me feel like I have a purpose more as a human being. So I kind of love that. So I think it's really resonating.
I feel I learned honesty from Howard Stern. Howard Stern was always, even in the old days, out there talking honestly about his life, honestly about his small penis size or whatever he makes fun of about himself, his looks, et cetera, and I just go I'm just going to be honest about what I hate about myself. I'm going to be honest about my foibles and how idiotic I can be. And I think that's really important for me as a comic. I don't know if it's necessarily important for all comics, but it adds a layer that I think the audience resonates with you and says, "Ooh I want to get to know them better. Oh I want to hang out with them after." I want to leave a show having the audience saying, "Oh she's the type of person I can be friends with." So that's kind of a nice goal to have, even though I'd never be friends with those losers. I mean come on they're paying to see me. But, I mean, I want to just have that feeling of wow we're all on the same page.