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EXCLUSIVE: Lisa Lampanelli on 'Back to the Drawing Board' EPIX Special, Women in Comedy, Caitlyn Jenner and Her All-Time, Favorite Insult

By Thomas Swan t.swan@classicalite.com on Jun 26, 2015 02:33 AM EDT

How do you prepare for an interview with an insult comic? Do you find the thickest hard hat and flak jacket available and, well, just hope for the best? More importantly, how should you prep to interview the ultimate insult comic, the "Queen of Mean" herself, Lisa Lampanelli?

Turns out, ya just chat.

To wit, Lampanelli and I talked about process, her views on comedy, women in comedy and basic life stuff, in general. There is no better observationist than a comedian, and while Lisa's much more laid back--and, for the record, a lot nicer than I expected--she remains a keen gauge on what is funny.

And, even better, what's not.

Lisa's EPIX Channel special, Lisa Lampanelli: Back To the Drawing Board, premieres Friday, June 26 at 10:00 p.m. EST.

CLASSICALITE: For starters, what is the hardest thing about doing live comedy?

LISA LAMPANELLI: It's really hard to complain about anything when you are doing something you love. The travel does wear on you, but it such a small thing to complain. If you would've asked me a year ago, I would've bitched and moaned about a lot of things. I've learned a lot in a year. I've learned to be grateful because a lot of people have it worse.

CL: In your standup, you've talked about going through anger management As thee insult comic, is it difficult to manage anger because it's so intrinsic to what you do?

LL: No, because you learn to limit your anger to the stage. If something crappy happens to you, you just write it down and tell yourself you have to remember. I think channeling your anger is important.

CL: How structured is your act? I'd assume lots of improv and ad-libbing?

LL: Tons and tons because I deal with an audience. A lot of what they say to me, and what I say back, depends on the composition of the crowd. That dictates the material. Every show, I'll do a lot of jokes I am working on at the time, but there is no particular order--especially my opening line. I love working without a net, hoping the audience goes with me.

CL: It's harder, though, no?

LL: Not for me, because that's what I do. Some comics think it's harder because they are reliant on their material. It would be difficult for me to stick to a script because I would get bored.

CL: And what happens if you do start with a bum line, one that thuds?

LL: I find the audience is so conditioned to hear edgy, crazy material that I usually love those moments. Even if a joke bombs or doesn't come out well, I know I'm funny enough, after all these years, to get them back. I've been doing this for a quarter of a century. I'd better have the ability to get them back.

CL: Women in comedy--what's the hardest thing for a female comic to overcome?

LL: I don't think there is anything in general, nothing that any other comic doesn't face. I don't think women have it harder. I think, these days, women have it easier because there are so few of them that are really good. It's a lot easier for female comics to stand out. So, I've been lucky in a way.

CL: Why aren't there as many female comics?

LL: I don't know. I just think there are more white men out there who maybe take more chances. Maybe there are guys out there who feel they don't have to divide their time between other commitments. For instance, maybe a woman comic wants to have kids or raise a family. I'm glad there haven't been many great ones because I was able to stand out a little more.

CL: Ultimately, can women be funny?

LL: Obviously, or I wouldn't be getting standing ovations every night. Look at Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin. I'd put those jokes and those women up against any guy comic. I don't think it's a man versus woman thing. Any comic can be known despite race, gender or sexual orientation. They just have to work hard, and the audience has to find something in the comic that resonates with them

CL: OK, so who's your favorite comic?

LL: I don't watch much standup, really, ever. I do always tend towards the edgier stuff. Guys like Jim Norton, Dave Attell. Louis CK's show is, like, an obsession for me.

CL: What's the funniest bit you've heard that you wish you'd said?

LL: I loved Artie Lange's joke about me at one of the roasts. It was, literally, the funniest thing I've heard about myself, so I wish I had thought of that. It was Artie at his fattest, most gray and horrible looking. He said, "If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, 'Hey, aren't you Lisa Lampanelli?'" I just loved that one so much. It's one of the few jokes that has stuck in my mind over the years.

CL: Your recent one about how Bruce Caitlyn Jenner got to be on the cover of Vanity Fair after his sex change, but you didn't, that's pretty funny.

LL: Yeah, someone tweeted that to me. If somebody makes a joke about me that is funny, I love it. I don't know why that is. If someone says something stupid, I ignore it. If it's funny, I am all over it.

CL: What inspired you to take the plunge in comedy full-time, that you could sustain a career?

LL: Well, my first open mic, I did well. I saw some straight guys in the back high-five after a punchline. That gave me something that I could keep going. I kept getting positive feedback. I just kept going.

CL: Was it hard explaining your job, much less your routines, to your parents?

LL: My parents were used to me jumping around from job to job. They just kinda gave up. "She's going to do whatever she wants. We might as well support her." They came to see me at Radio City. They went to every Tonight Show and were there for every roast. They got behind it, saw I was making good money and wasn't someone they had to worry about.

CL: Who do you lean on when you want to know if something is, or is not, funny?

LL: The audience, basically. I go out and just try it. I really don't run jokes by anyone. If I do need help, there are three comics I really trust. I really don't pressure myself too hard for punchlines.

CL: Finally, how do you prepare for a performance, like, say, Back to the Drawing Board? Are you super focused, or is it much more casual?

LL: Really super casual. I glance over notes about what I want to cover, and that's about it.

Don't forget, Lisa Lampanelli's EPIX special airs tonight at 10 p.m. Check your local listings, Classicalites, and definitely do some live-tweeting. #DrawingBoard, indeed.

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, Classicalite Q&A, Lisa Lampanelli, EPIX, Back to the Drawing Board, Caitlyn Jenner, Artie Lange, Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Louis CK

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